ESPN, Bleacher Report Ranks Clemson 11th In Early Polls | Charlotte Observer

By Alexis Cubit

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) throws a pass during the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) throws a pass during the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Depending on which of the way-too-early polls you look at, Clemson will either be back contending for a national championship in 2022 or still needing some work.

ESPN and Bleacher Report ranked the Tigers just outside of the top 10 at the No. 11 spot in their respective early polls. The Athletic has the squad eighth, while 247Sports put it at No. 6.

In the Action Network way-too-early poll, Clemson ranked fifth and then peaked at No. 4 in each of the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated early rankings.

The preseason polls won’t come out for another nine months, but the last time Clemson wasn’t ranked in the top 10 was when the Associated Press and USA Today polls ranked the Tigers 12th to start the 2015 campaign.

The Tigers, who finished 14th in the final AP poll, are coming into the new year after a slip in 2021 that saw their ACC championship and College Football Playoff appearance streaks end at six years. They did, however, manage to keep their home winning streak alive at 33 games and won double-digit games for the 11th season in a row.

Despite Clemson’s defense ranking among the top 10 in multiple categories — including red zone defense (second) and total defense (eighth) — the Tigers’ offense ended the year ranking 87th in third-down conversion percentage (.371), 82nd in scoring offense (26.3 points per game) and 100th in total offense (359.2 yards per game).

Rising junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei experienced some growing pains while having to work with a wide receiver group that was never completely healthy. The only receiver to not miss a game with an injury or COVID-19 protocol was fifth-year senior Will Swinney. The Tigers also lost two receivers to the transfer portal in Ajou Ajou and Frank Ladson while redshirt junior Justyn Ross opted to enter the NFL Draft once the regular season ended.

To help bolster the offense, Clemson brings in quarterback Cade Klubnik, wide receivers Antonio Williams and Adam Randall in addition to Collin Sadler, who can help an offensive line that got hit the hardest by injuries this season.

Clemson’s defense will lose a key piece in defensive end Xavier Thomas, but fellow end K.J. Henry announced his plans to stay for another year. The defensive line will also return Bryan Bresee, who missed the bulk of the year after tearing his ACL against N.C. State in September. While the Tigers lose both of their starting cornerbacks — Andrew Booth and Mario Goodrich — they bring back Sheridan Jones, who played behind Booth, and signed two more in Toriano Pride and Jeadyn Lukus. Both are ranked as top three players in their respective states.

Source : https://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/college/article257215332.html

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