Take Two: Is Clemson now an annual national power?
Take Two returns this week as a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.
Clemson won its first national championship since 1981 last season, largely on the backs of quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Wayne Gallman, wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Jordan Leggett.
All of them are off to the NFL.
So does that mean the Tigers return to being an ACC contender but not really a national championship player every year, as Florida State once again dominates the conference? Or has Clemson coach Dabo Swinney risen to the level of reloading and not rebuilding?
There is plenty of talent on offense even though quarterback is a question mark with receivers Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cornell Powell and others ready to emerge as the next superstars. Kelly Bryant is expected to start at quarterback and no one really knows what Clemson will get from him.
The defense should be a strength, especially up front where the Tigers should be insanely good, perhaps showcasing the best front four in college football.
FIRST TAKE: Larry Williams, TigerIllustrated.com
“It's totally fair to think there will be a drop-off on offense after the loss of so many foundational players. The Tigers were an amazing 11-2 the last two years in games decided by eight points or less, and a huge reason was the tremendously clutch play of guys who are no longer here.
"I do think, though, that if you are great up front you can sustain elite status. Clemson is most certainly in that category on the defensive line, and the offensive line could rank among the best in college football as well. And it's not like this program has a shortage of lavishly talented skill players to replace the ones who left.
"You do wonder, though, what happens if they're in as many close games as they've been the last two years and need the cold-blooded offensive execution they got from Watson and Co.” – Williams
SECOND TAKE: Mike Farrell, Rivals.com
“This year they could drop to second in the ACC but that doesn’t mean they’re not a national power. When you look at the ACC, it’s Clemson and Florida State and then a huge drop-off to everyone else. If that’s the case that means they’ll always be in that playoff discussion.
"They have enough talent and they’ve recruited well enough to set themselves up in the future where they will be a national power similar to Ohio State, similar to Florida State, those programs that are always in the hunt for the playoffs but will have a year here or there where they won’t make the playoffs.
"They’re a national power. They’ll take a step back this year because of all the talent they lost, especially at quarterback, but they’ll be back.” – Farrell