We've discussed two offensive lineman (Gore and Mac Lain), a tight end (Leggett), a linebacker (Steward), a safety (Kearse), and now two cornerbacks (Tankersley and Alexander). That breakdown is fitting as it lines up nicely with areas of concern, the offensive line and defensive secondary. While you could make a case for a guy like Wayne Gallman to be listed, I'm confident enough in Clemson's deep stable of running backs that at least one will step up, even if it is not him. I also considered Cole Stoudt for this X-facor list, but I believe his success will be in large part dictated by the offensive line. Additionally, I am confident in Stoudt and believe Watson will be ready within a few weeks to step in if needed (which I don't expect to be the case).
Also, you'll notice I didn't include any receivers or defensive linemen. Although some elite wide receivers departed, and guys like Charone Peake or Artavis Scott were good candidates, there's enough depth at the position to leave them off the list as well. The defensive line is simply so strong, that if one falters there are two more there ready to be All-ACC. So now we conclude this list with arguably the most exciting player on the list - and surely the toughest to write about.
Alexander, a five-star (ESPN) lockdown corner, was the signing day surprise for Clemson last season. With a reported 4.40 40-yard dash out of high school and a top four overall ranking by ESPN, there was plenty of reason for excitement.
Mackensie Alexander was expected to immediately compete for playing time, but a pulled groin and further aggravations of the injury delayed his return until eventually he had surgery to repair the issue and took a medical redshirt. Now that Bashaud Breeland was drafted by the Washington Redskins, Darius Robinson was signed by the Buffalo Bills (and just released), and Garry Peters is suspended from the opener, Clemson needs Alexander to play a major role in the secondary that much more.
He is listed as a starter opposite Cordrea Tankersley on the summer depth chart. The Tigers need the redshirt freshman to come through in his first dose of NCAA football action.
Clemson X-Factors: Joe Gore
Clemson X-Factors: Cordrea Tankersley
Clemson X-Factors: Eric Mac Lain
Clemson X-Factors: Jordan Leggett
Clemson X-Factors: Tony Steward
Clemson X-Factors: Jayron Kearse