Not many fan bases would be upset with a bowl win to close out a 10-3 record, earning their school an 11th consecutive season with ten or more wins. But disappointment is the only word to describe how the Clemson Tigers fans viewed the 2021 season. Pittsburgh ended Clemson’s run of six straight ACC football championships, and the Tigers found themselves outside of the playoff for only the second time in tournament history.
Can Clemson return to the top of the ACC and the college football world this season? If the Tigers are going to reclaim their spot in the CFP, Clemson will do so with two new coordinators and an offense that must show improvement to succeed in 2022.
Previewing the Clemson Tigers Offense
Clemson will have a new play-caller roaming the sidelines for the first time in seven years. The Tigers will rely on new offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter to turn around an offense that finished last in the ACC in passing yards per game. Streeter will also be charged with reviving the stagnant Tigers offense in the red zone as Clemson finished the season 95th in scoring in 2021.
The tools to ramp up the offense are abundant for Streeter. They are starting with returning quarterback DJ Uiagalelei who last season showed flashes of brilliance but underwhelmed in the starting role. DJ Uiagalelei finished with more interceptions (10) than TD passes (9) for the Tigers. On the sideline this season is Cade Klubnik, the top quarterback prospect for the 2021 class, should DJ Uiagalelei fail to impress in 2022.
The Clemson skill positions are stockpiled with talent this season. The three top running backs from 2021 all return with Will Shipley, Kobe Pace, and Phil Mafah capable of breaking off big plays for the Tigers. Clemson also features three experienced receivers – WRs Beaux Collins, Joseph Ngata, and TE Davis Allen – with varying explosive play-making abilities.
Previewing the Clemson Tigers Defense
The defense was not a problem for the 2021 Clemson Tigers, ranking first in the ACC and eighth nationally. Head coach Dabo Swinney promoted Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn to co-defensive coordinator positions after Brent Venables left for Oklahoma. Despite the new leadership for Clemson, Tiger fans will expect to see much of the same from this year’s defense.
Headlining the defense is what Dabo Sweeney calls an NFL-caliber front seven. Sweeney boasted as many as seven of his current Tigers defensive linemen could be drafted in 2023. This talented group of linemen is led by defensive end Myles Murphy and tackles Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis.
Behind the defensive line, Clemson has talented but unproven players at key positions this season. Trenton Simpson is expected to lead the group of Tiger linebackers in 2022 after recording 64 tackles, including 12 TFL and six sacks, last season. At cornerback, a pair of talented veteran players, Sheridan Jones and Nate Wiggins, look to replace both starters from the 2021’s Tigers defense.
September 24: Wake Forest (Away)
October 1: NC State (Home)
October 15: Florida State (Away)
November 5: Notre Dame (Away)
November 19: Miami (Home)
Win-Loss Projections: 12-0 (CFP Contender)
Even with the question mark surrounding DJ Uiagalelei at quarterback, this Clemson team is too talented at every other position not to compete for a national title. The Tigers will be odds-on favorites in all but one game entering the season (currently, Clemson is an underdog for the November 5 game at Notre Dame) but should run the table for another undefeated season. NC State is perhaps their toughest conference opponent, and the Tigers host the Wolfpack in Death Valley this year. Fans should expect to see Clemson announced as one of the four teams selected for the CFP in 2022.