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Veteran Leadership Key for Clemson’s Championship Hopes

One thing that Vegas takes into account when making odds on National Championships is the quality and quantity of the returning starters. With a good offensive line and returning starters, you are almost guaranteed to win a lot of games. So it should come as no surprise that my three impact players for the Clemson football team are two seniors and a redshirt junior. 

Starting on the offensive side of the ball, Clemson will be welcoming back redshirt junior Mike Williams. Williams suffered a neck fracture after being pushed into a goalpost in an early season game against Wofford in 2015. Williams was forced to miss nearly the entire season for recovery. 

Clemson was thin at the wide receiver position last year in terms of experience. Although Clemson’s offense racked up a lot of yards, they were missing a big play vertical threat. Freshman Deon Cain emerged as the deep threat later on in the season, but he showed his youthfulness off the field with the mistake he made before the Orange Bowl, when he was suspended for failing a drug test. 

Williams brings veteran leadership at the receiver position and has big play ability. In 2014, Williams had 1,030 receiving yards and averaged 18.1 yards per catch. His chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson is undeniable and his talent has him projected as a first rounder by many pundits. If he can return to the player he was before his injury this offense will be historically great. 

In the words of the late great coach Bear Bryant, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” Clemson only returns three starters on

defense, and two of those three starters will be pivotal for Clemson’s success. 

Senior linebacker Ben Boulware has accomplished a lot in his three years at Clemson. His impact will be felt on the field, but what will be the difference maker will be his leadership on and off the field. 

Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables looks at Boulware as an extension of himself. That’s exactly what he will need to do: make sure guys are in the right spots, know the plays, help them with their assignments

and communicate with the younger guys on the defensive side of the ball. The pre-season first-team All-American’s leadership will be crucial to Clemson’s success on defense.

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley is another key player on the defensive side of the ball. Tankersley had the decision to leave early for the NFL Draft, but ultimately decided to come back for another year. This was great news because Clemson would have been extremely thin at a positon that they do not have much depth at to begin with. 

Tankersley was targeted earlier on in the season largely due to the fact that quarterbacks refused to throw on Mackensie Alexander’s side. 

However, the Renwick-Flanders Most Improved player on defense had five interceptions and nine passes defended. This year he will have the honor of defending the opposing teams’ number one wide receiver. 

He only faces one receiver with a thousand yards from last year and that is Louisville’s James Quick, so this shouldn’t be too hard of a transition. One of the bigger issues is that he will need to stay healthy. Tankersley cannot afford to miss any time because of the depth issues at cornerback. 

He doesn’t have to be Mackensie Alexander reincarnated, he just has to play his game and everything will be fine. 

If Clemson want to hold up the National Championship at the end of the season, these three upperclassmen will be key.

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