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Best Team to Not Win It All: 2015 Clemson Football - Preseason

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The 2015 team came into the season with sky high expectations and a few big questions.

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

You voted the 2015 Clemson football team as the best team in Clemson sports history not to win it all, and now I’m going to give y’all a few articles on the 2015 team.

The preseason seems like a logical place to start, because the 2015 team entered the season with high expectations coupled with some glaring questions marks. The 2014 team ended the season on a high note, destroying Oklahoma 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Final 2014 AP Ranking: 15

Preseason 2015 Ranking: 12

Starters to Replace from 2014: Offense

LT: Isaiah Battle

WR: Adam Humphries

The offense came back fairly intact from 2014. Unexpectedly losing Battle in the off-season to the supplemental draft was a blow to an already thin offensive line. Losing a reliable receiver like Humphries hurt some, but the Clemson depth chart at wide receiver was already stacked with replacement options.

The biggest question coming into 2015 for the Tigers was the health of Deshaun Watson. The precocious freshman put on a performance for the ages on one leg to break the vile “streak” and then shut it down for the bowl game to have his ACL reconstructed. The 2015 season rested on Watson’s accelerated rehab schedule.

2015 Starters: Offense

(Note: This is the preseason depth chart, not the regular season depth chart.)

QB: Deshaun Watson - So

RB: Wayne Gallman - So

LT: Mitch Hyatt - Fr

LG: Eric Mac Lain - Sr

C: Ryan Norton - Sr

RG: Tyrone Crowder - So

RT: Joe Gore - Sr

TE: Jordan Leggett - Jr

WR: Artavis Scott - So

WR: Mike Williams - Jr

WR: Charone Peake - Sr

The preseason depth chart was interesting. It featured elite talent at the skill positions, but like most teams in this era of Clemson football, the offensive line was the question coming into the season. After losing Battle, everything hinged on Mitch Hyatt’s ability to come in and start at left tackle as a true freshman. That’s a huge ask, and while Hyatt was technically advanced, his ability to physically handle the position was a huge question.

Preseason, it looked like the 2015 season was going to be dependent on Watson getting and staying healthy and the offensive line’s ability to protect Watson.

Starters to Replace from 2014: Defense

SDE: Corey Crawford

WDE: Vic Beasley

3DT: Grady Jarrett

1DT: Josh Watson

MLB: Stephone Anthony

WLB: Tony Steward

BCB: Garry Peters

FS: Robert Smith

I had forgotten how much Clemson lost off the 2014 defense. Venables had to replace 8 of his 11 starters from the #1 ranked defensive unit, including program changing players like Beasley, Jarrett, and Anthony.

This was a monumental task.

Clemson recruiting was just starting to take off, but there wasn’t the 4*/5* stacked depth chart we see today. Brent was going to have to plug some big holes using some untested players.

2015 Starters: Defense

WDE: Shaq Lawson - Jr

3DT: Carlos Watkins - Jr

1DT: Scott Pagano - So

SDE: Kevin Dodd - Jr

WLB: Ben Boulware - Jr

MLB: B.J. Goodson - Sr

SLB: Travis Blanks - Sr

FCB: Mackenzie Alexander - So

BCB: Condrea Tankersly - Jr

SS: Jayron Kearse - Jr

FS: T.J. Green - Jr

Having Lawson and Watkins on the roster eased the blow of losing Beasley and Jarrett, but Pagano and Dodd both came into the season with big question marks. DJ Reader would have been the presumptive starter beside Watkins, but he stepped away from football for the first half of the season to handle a family tragedy.

Goodson was another question going into the season. The first 3 years (4 counting his redshirt) were spent on special teams and a spot reserve. Blanks was coming off a knee injury, making his health coming into the season a question. Having Boulware anchor this unit was an obvious plus, but some healthy skepticism in the preseason was deserved.

The secondary, on paper, was the strength of the defense coming into the season. Alexander and Kearse starred in 2014. Tankersley saw plenty of action as the 3rd corner and had impressive physical traits for a defensive back. T.J. Green, a converted wide out with little game experience at safety, replacing Robert Smith was the unknown factor on the back end of the Clemson defense.

AP 2015 Preseason AP Poll

  1. Ohio State (unanimous)
  2. TCU
  3. Alabama
  4. Baylor
  5. Michigan State
  6. Auburn
  7. Oregon
  8. USC
  9. Georgia
  10. Florida State
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Clemson
  13. UCLA
  14. LSU
  15. Arizona State
  16. Georgia Tech
  17. Ole Miss
  18. Arkansas
  19. Oklahoma
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Stanford
  22. Arizona
  23. Boise State
  24. Missouri
  25. Tennessee

The Tigers started the season outside of the top 10. There were still questions about Clemson’s ability to consistently win. “Clemsoning” was still very much considered alive outside these parts. Throw in a retooled defense and lingering questions about Watson’s health, and the Tigers were expected to be a good, but not great team.

Clemson fans were in for a pleasant surprise.