Clemson Football: 5 Tigers Facing the Most Pressure in 2014

Zach Gilliland@@ZachGilliland93Featured ColumnistJune 13, 2014

Clemson Football: 5 Tigers Facing the Most Pressure in 2014

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    The Clemson Tigers entered the 2013 season with sky-high expectations, and with those expectations came an enormous amount of pressure to perform well.

    This season has a different feel to it; some folks around college football don’t expect the same from Clemson this year because of what they lost from last year’s roster.

    Even though expectations aren’t as high, these five players will feel the pressure in 2014.

5. Mackensie Alexander

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    Mackensie Alexander is on this list because of what fans are expecting from him this fall. He hasn’t played a down of college football but will be expected to have an immediate impact this fall because of his potential.

    ESPN pegged the talented cornerback as the No. 4 overall player in the country. The 5-star chose the Tigers on national signing day, energizing a fanbase in need of a shutdown cornerback.

    Clemson’s two-deep summer depth chart listed him as one of the starting cornerbacks, so he obviously impressed the coaches in spring practice.

    It will be interesting to see how Alexander handles the pressure of being a freshman who is expected to make plays this fall. While he does have high hopes from fans, there are seniors who have more pressure to perform well.

4. Tony Steward

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    Tony Steward became one of Clemson’s biggest recruiting signees in recent memory when he inked with the Tigers in 2011. ESPN’s No. 9 overall prospect was supposed to become a big-time playmaker in the years to come.

    After tearing his ACL, he has been a solid contributor on special teams but hasn’t been the 5-star that most Tiger fans expected him to be.

    That all can change this season as he will look to have his breakout year in his final year. Taking over for Spencer Shuey at outside linebacker, Steward will have pressure to perform well and prove that he’s worthy of the 5-star ranking he received coming out of high school.

    While he replaces Shuey, who had a great career at Clemson, a couple of other seniors have even bigger shoes to fill.

3. Charone Peake/Adam Humphries

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    I combined both Charone Peake and Adam Humphries on this slide because it’s unclear at this point which one will be the go-to receiver.

    Both of the talented pass-catchers could break out and emerge as the No. 1 receiver this summer.

    Peake was highly recruited, and most fans’ dreams of him having a breakout year last season were cut short by an ACL injury early in the season. Humphries has been reliable in his time at Clemson but could go from third option to option No. 1 this fall.

    Both will have the pressure of replacing Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, who opted to enter the NFL draft after their junior seasons.

    Tigers fans won’t expect Peake and Humphries to be the next Watkins, but one of the pair will have to step up and fill the role of the No. 1 receiver, something neither has done yet in his time at Clemson.

2. Cole Stoudt

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    It should be pretty clear why Cole Stoudt is No. 2 on the list. He has the responsibility of filling Tajh Boyd’s shoes and continuing what Boyd and Chad Morris started three years ago.

    The Morris era at Clemson has only seen one quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how Stoudt fits into the system. He performed well in the spring game and looked comfortable running the offense.

    With Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Rod McDowell and Martavis Bryant gone from the offense, Clemson fans will turn to Stoudt to be the playmaker and catalyst of the fast-paced attack.

    He has the pressure of leading the offense, but there’s a defensive player who has more at stake than any of the others on this list.

1. Vic Beasley

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    Vic Beasley is No. 1 on the list for the pressure he'll feel for returning to school, not the pressure he will receive from fans to play well.

    He will, of course, be expected to be the leader of the defense, but at the same time money talks louder than words and opinions.

    He elected to return to school for his senior season after many expected him to be a high draft pick in the recent NFL draft.

    I'm not implying that he won’t be a high draft pick in next year’s draft, but he is under the pressure of possibly having a down year or suffering an injury. The defensive end ends up at No. 1 on this list because if he performs poorly this fall, it could result in a major loss of money.