The college football world was shocked Monday Night after the Clemson Tigers dismantled the Alabama Crimson Tide, 44-16, in the National Championship to finish the season a perfect 15-0. The Tigers put on a dominant performance on both sides of the ball for all four quarters on their way to their second championship in three seasons.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) January 8, 2019
The Tigers are just hours removed from winning their third title in program history. However, it’s not too soon to look out how the new kings of college football will pan out next season. With an abundance of talent returning, one can assume head coach Dabo Swinney will be able to bring his Tigers back to the College Football Playoff for a fifth straight season.
Returning Star Power
If sports fan across the world weren’t familiar with Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence before Monday’s National Championship, they certainly are now. The freshman sensation put on a show in Levi’s Stadium.
Lawrence completed 20 passes for 347 yards and three scores which earned him offensive MVP honors. He may be known for his long-flowing hair, but make no mistake about it, the Cartersville, Georgia native is one of the top passers in the country and should be household name in college football for the next few years.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) January 8, 2019
The legend of Trevor Lawrence already started when he stepped foot on Clemson’s campus in 2018. Ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit per 247Sports composite rankings, there was plenty of buzz around Lawrence before he even threw his first pass as a Tiger. Lawrence didn’t start the season as the Tigers starting quarterback, as the spot belonged to Kelly Bryant. But four weeks into the season, Swinney made the switch to Lawrence. That lead to the eventual transfer of Bryant, but may be the reason the Tigers are now on top of college football.
Lawrence finished his freshman campaign with an impressive 30-4 touchdown to interception ratio and a passer rating of 157.6
Now, Lawrence will return for his second season at Clemson as one of the marquee names among the college football landscape. Lawrence’s performance Monday night should likely put his name into the early sweepstakes for the 2019 Heisman, as the buzz around the talented quarterback continues.
Lawrence won’t be the lone big-time performer returning to the Tigers offense in 2019, with many skill players returning.
Joining Lawrence for another season in the Clemson backfield will be running back Travis Etienne. He too had a strong National Championship performance, punching in two scores on the ground along with 86 yards. The sophomore led the Tigers in rushing, finishing the 2018 season with 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns. Etienne is a proven runner who is more than capable of hitting the big play. Like Lawrence, Etienne too could also receive some early Heisman buzz returning as one of the nation’s top running backs.
There will also be no shortage of pass-catching options returning for the Tigers. Freshman receiver Justyn Ross broke out in both playoff games for the Tigers. Ross caught six passes for 153 yards and a score in the championship game to keep up his play making form. Ross finished both College Football Playoff games with 301 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
JUSTYN ROSS IS A GROWN MAN pic.twitter.com/658c9uspno
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 8, 2019
One the other side of Ross will stand receiver Tee Higgins, who will be returning for his junior season. Higgins and Lawrence formed a quick connection during the season as Higgins finished 2018 with 936 yards and 12 touchdowns, the most on the team.
Defensively, the Tigers will now rely on freshman defensive end Xavier Thomas to be their pass-rusher of the future. And the Tigers secondary will be led by A.J Terrell, who will be returning for his junior season. Terrell made the first big play Monday Night with a pick-six three minutes into the game to open the scoring for the Tigers.
What’s Clemson Losing
Like most premier programs in the country, the Tigers lose an abundance of talent at the end of each season. This years national championship squad is no different. One of the strengths of Clemson’s championship team was their defensive line. The Tigers will have to field an almost whole new group next season. Across the line, the Tigers will be without Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen is expected to make the jump to the NFL. Mullen is rated as one of the top defensive backs that are draft eligible.
Offensively, the Tigers will be without receiver Hunter Renfrow next season. Renfrow has been one of the Tigers most reliable players during his career and was the Tigers go-to-guy in third down situations. The Tigers will also lose key offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt.
Clemson will lose 27 seniors, which is a large chunk of the current roster. However, the Tigers will be bringing in the currently sixth ranked recruiting class for 2019 according to the 247Sports composite.