It's never too early to look ahead, so here are the All Clemson staff's way-too-early predictions for the Tigers in the 2022 season:
Zach Lentz: The Tigers will be back in the playoffs.
The Tigers suffered from an inept offense for the majority of the 2021 season—either on the O-line or quarterback or injuries to receivers. But all of that will change with the Tigers fully exploring the portal and incoming freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik, who I fully expect to be QB1 by the fourth game of the season (we will get into the reasons why later). An offense that has a fresh identity, behind Brandon Streeter and Kyle Richardson, will take the pressure off the defense, which should be as good as ever. Look for a season similar to the 2015 one, in which the Tigers slowly climb the rankings, as they maul their way through the ACC on their way to another conference championship and ultimately a return to the playoff.
Jason Priester: Clemson will have one of the best OL's of the Dabo Swinney era.
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Clemson's offensive line failed to live up to expectations in 2021. The inexperience in spots and then the injuries proved too much to overcome. Next season should be different. The Tigers have more talent than they've ever had under Swinney and at some point that has to translate to the field of p[ay. With Thomas Austin now in charge of the group and with blue-chip talents the likes of Tristan Leigh, Dietrick Pennington, Ryan Linthicum and Marcus Tate all now having a season under their belts, Clemson should have the kind of quality depth they've not had the past two seasons. The kind that can springboard the team back to the top of the ACC standings and into the College Football Playoff.
Brad Senkiw: Clemson will resemble 2021 Georgia more than 2020 Clemson in 2022.
The best way for the Tigers to get back to the playoff is simple: copy Georgia. The Bulldogs don't run a dynamic, yard-churning offense, but they are quite effective and rely on a star-studded defense, which is why they're in the national championship game. Clemson tried to be Clemson in 2021 and it didn't work. The passing game was atrocious and the staff couldn't figure anything out for the first four or five games. Sure, injuries hurt, but depth won't be great in 2022 with a lack of scholarship players on the roster. So the Tigers will turn to what worked in 2021: the run. Clemson will use a powerful rushing attack led by the three-headed monster of Will Shipley, Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah, who helped the team rank 56th nationally in yards per carry in 2021. Creativity will be key when the Tigers do pass but don't expect an air-it-out attack like they had with Trevor Lawrence. This will be a simplistic, efficient offense that'll be more effective because it'll know what it is in 2022. That doesn't mean they'll win like 2021 Georgia, though.
Will Vandervort: The offense will be a top 10 unit in 2022
Granted, Clemson's offense was ugly in 2021. But a lot of the Tigers' struggles in 2021 was due to injuries. Yes, D.J. Uiagalelei struggled last season, but to be fair, he started to show some progression before he injured his knee in the Louisville game. After that, he injured the index finger in his throwing hand, which limited him more. The offensive line, which was already inexperienced to begin with, was also banged up throughout the year, which caused a lot of issues. The wide receivers were a M.A.S.H. unit at best and the running back situation was not figured out until halfway through the season. Uiagalelei, OT Jordan McFadden and OT Walker Parks are the only three players on offense to start every game in 2021. Also, competition at quarterback, with Cade Klubnik enrolling this week, should help as well. Freshmen Dacari and Beaux Collins showed promise at wide receiver while having a healthy E.J. Williams gives Swinney confidence the passing game will be better. Remember, it can't be any worse. With Brandon Streeter already showing some creativity in the passing game and in the run game, plus with everyone a year older, wiser and healthier, Clemson's offense will get back to where it was under Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
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