Part I: Reasons for Worry
There may be some growing pains at corner.
Star CB Mackensie Alexander left the Clemson Tigers and was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Vikings (great Mac interview). Fortunately, the Tigers still have CB Cordrea Tankersley - who led the team with five interceptions. After that though there isn't much proven depth at cornerback.
Adrian Baker, a third-year Tiger, was the front-runner for the CB spot opposite Tankersley until he tore his ACL. The staff hopes he can return sometime in September, but that seems somewhat aggressive. Marcus Edmonds, Ryan Carter, Amir Trapp, and Mark Fields will work to fill the void. Mark Fields is the one Tiger fans may most want to see on the field. He was a four-star recruit from Charlotte, NC and supposedly has the most upside. Marcus Edmonds is currently listed as the starter opposite Tankersley.
Clemson does not have three national championship QBs on the roster like the 2014 Buckeyes did.
While this is true of most teams, and likely even most good teams, it's still enough to make your stomach turn. The Tigers have some excellent QBs coming into the program with Zerrick Cooper in the class of 2016 and Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice in the class of 2017. The Tigers should find a top flight QB out of that bunch if not from on the back-up QBs already on campus (Tucker Israel and Kelly Bryant). Still though, next year Kelly Bryant and Nick Schuessler will be the primary back-ups. Bryant still has a long way to go on reading progressions while Schuessler is not a dynamic athlete. Tucker Israel could sneak into the mix, but to date he seems behind the other two and Zerrick Cooper is likely to redshirt.
"Kickoffs and kickoff returns are two focal points for improvement."
At the Atlanta Prowl & Growl Meeting, Dabo reacted to my question about improving special teams by first exclaiming that it wasn't the reason we lost the national championship. Once that matter was settled though, he acknowledged that kickoff coverage was "atrocious" and also explained some of the issues with the coverage in the Louisville game. He said this will be a focus point for improvement. They will likely need to improve in this area if they are to win a national championship.
Last year the Tigers beat Notre Dame, Florida State, and Georgia Tech in Death Valley. Now their tough games are on the road!
Clemson's recent record at Georgia Tech is well documented and won't be further discussed. The Tigers have lost four straight at Tallahassee. A trip to Auburn to start the season won't be a breeze either.
The expectations are higher than ever, and that's saying a lot because this is Clemson.
It's quite possible that the 2016 Tigers win 11 regular season games and earn a trip to a major bowl game, but after last year's ride, that may not be good enough for their backers. Let's not forget to enjoy the ride.
We'll also publish the companion piece to article, which gives five reasons to be excited and optimistic. I challenge you to take to the comment section below and offer some thoughts as to what you expect to see listed in that article.