Despite Major Departures, Clemson's Offense 'Not Going to Shy Away from Anything'
Gone are four key members of that unit that were so vital to everything Dabo Swinney and company have accomplished over the last three seasons; former All-American quarterback and three-year starter Tajh Boyd is now with the New York Jets, monster wide receiver Sammy Watkins was drafted No. 4 overall by the Buffalo Bills, deep threat Martavis Bryant is a Pittsburgh Steeler, and 1,000-yard rusher Roderick McDowell graduated with a degree in sociology.
“It’s a huge loss losing those guys. I was fortunate enough to play with them for three years,” senior wide receiver Adam Humphries told FanIQ Wednesday morning. “They were great players and leaders. We really need some of the older guys like (Cole Stoudt), Sam Cooper, and (Ryan Norton) to step up as leaders and take control of the offense.”
With Clemson facing arguably its most difficult turnover in school history – forced to replace its top passer, rusher and two receivers – there is some expected regression.
Or is there?
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is back for his fourth season calling the shots, and the Tigers should keep the same up-tempo mentality that has served them well in recent years.
“We’re going to take the same approach. We’re going to be aggressive, keep a fast tempo, run the ball, throw the ball deep and keep everything balanced,” said Humphries, who has 97 receptions for 893 yards and three touchdowns in his three years with Clemson. “We’re not going to shy away from anything.”
Stoudt has earned the starting quarterback job after a strong spring, and proved that he had a firm grasp on the offense in clean up duty over the last three years (72.2 completion percentage and eight touchdowns to just one interception). Humphries, Mike Williams and a talented group of freshmen should keep the passing game explosive with plenty of big-play potential, and a running back committee will keep things balanced.
“I’m not going to sit back and say I’m Sammy Watkins’ replacement,” said Humphries of his new role as a full-time starter with much more responsibility. “But I can take away things that I learned from (he and Bryant) and do the best that I can do and create momentum for this team and make big catches.
“We have a lot of other playmakers that can do the same, too,” he added. “Overall, we have a lot more competitive depth than we have had in the past and I’m excited to see that unravel. …I have no worries. We can still make plays down the field with (Boyd, Watkins, Bryant, and McDowell) gone.”
Assuming that Clemson to replicate or improve upon its offensive numbers from 2013 would be absurd, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that it can still be one of the most dangerous threats in the ACC.
As long as Stoudt continues to progress and mold into a true leader – much like Boyd had to do when Kyle Parker moved on following the 2010 season – and both the offensive line and skill positions develop into their new roles, the Tigers will again vie for a conference championship.
“We have to earn it this summer, and so far we’re doing a good job of that. We’re going to continue to work all summer long and develop leadership,” said Humphries. “We have to come out and win those two first big games, and I think that (will determine) how our season will play out.”
Clemson opens on the road at Georgia on August 30, and will then host South Carolina State before taking on the defending national champion Florida State in Tallahassee.
*All quotes were obtained first hand.
Tyler Waddell is the College Football Blog Manager for FanIQ. Follow him on Twitter.