Clemson Football: Ranking Tigers' Top 10 Players Heading into 2014 Season

Zach Gilliland@@ZachGilliland93Featured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

Clemson Football: Ranking Tigers' Top 10 Players Heading into 2014 Season

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    Clemson lost some star power this offseason with the departures of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and others. This year’s squad consists of a lot of talent, but there are question marks because of the lack of experience at some positions.

    We looked at Clemson’s talent this year and ranked the top 10 players on head coach Dabo Swinney’s squad. It should be noted that players who haven’t seen the field yet, such as Deshaun Watson and Mackensie Alexander, were left off the list. It’s tough to judge their spot on player rankings when all they have is potential at this point.

    Let’s take a look at the rankings.

Honorable Mentions

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    Mike Williams

    This guy has a lot of potential at 6’4”, but he just missed the rankings. He played well last season but didn’t see a ton of playing time in the big games. That will definitely change this season, as he is expected to be one of the main targets for Cole Stoudt. He could be in the discussion as a top-10 player on Clemson, but he will have to prove it on the field this fall.

     

    Deshaun Watson

    Watson may be the most anticipated freshman I have seen at Clemson. The only reason he is left off the list is because he hasn’t proved anything on the field yet. He has done well in fall camp so far, and he will have a role on this year’s team, but it’s hard to fit him into the top 10 when he hasn’t played yet.

     

    Mackensie Alexander

    Alexander is another anticipated freshman that hasn't proved anything on the field just yet. There’s no doubt he could be one of the best 10 players on this team—maybe even top fivebut we will have to wait until the season starts for that answer.

     

    Shaq Lawson

    It was down to Corey Crawford or Lawson for a spot on the list, and I chose Crawford because of his experience. Lawson had a great freshman campaign last season with four sacks, but he will need to show that he can play well again this season.

10. Corey Crawford

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    Being somewhat overshadowed by Vic Beasley’s dominance, Crawford has quietly built a solid career at Clemson. The senior defensive end has 128 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in his time with the Tigers.

    He will be one of the many senior leaders on Clemson’s defense and is one of the top players on this team. Remember that he is suspended for the Georgia game because of a violation of team rules, but expect Crawford to play a big role on this defense when he returns.

9. Travis Blanks

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    Blanks is a talented player who needs to have a big junior season. His numbers saw a slight decline last year from his freshman season, but expect Blanks to be back to form in 2014.

    After making the move to safety last season, he will be back at nickelback in 2014, where he found success during his freshman season. If he is able to perform after his injury and also win the starting position, this season could be a big one for Blanks.

    He ends up on the bottom half of the list because of his struggles at times last season. Moving closer to the line of the scrimmage should result in better play this season, but there is still a little uncertainty at this point.

8. Jordan Leggett

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    Leggett is a player who has only shown glimpses of his potential at this point. Although Sam Cooper will likely be the starter at tight end because of his ability as a blocker, it’s hard to overlook Leggett’s athleticism.

    The 6’5”, 250-pound tight end should be a huge part of what the Tigers do in the passing game this season. He showed that in the spring game, catching seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.

    It can’t be understated how much talent this guy has, and that talent is why he is one of the top players on the team.

7. Jayron Kearse

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    Kearse was a very good surprise for Clemson fans a year ago. The surprising part isn’t how well he performed, but how soon he was able to contribute. As a true freshman, Kearse totaled 55 tackles and was tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

    His 6’4” frame allows him to make plays that other defensive backs may not be able to make. He should be one of the better defensive players in the ACC this season and deserves to be on this list.

6. Charone Peake

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    Peake was likely on his way to a breakout season in 2013, but an ACL injury cut that short. He had five receptions for 58 yards in last year’s season opener against Georgia, and it appeared that he would be a big part of the offense.

    With Watkins and Martavis Bryant gone, Clemson is searching for a No. 1 wide receiver target. Adam Humphries, Peake and Williams are all candidates for that role.

    Peake is lower than Adam Humphries on this list because he hasn’t done as much on paper. Humphries is also a big part of what the Tigers do in the punt return game.

5. Adam Humphries

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    While he may not be the biggest or fastest of the receivers, this is the guy I’m throwing to on third down. He had 41 receptions for 483 yards and two touchdowns last season, which is pretty good considering the other talent the Tigers had at the position.

    He is a consistent pass-catcher and deserves to be regarded as one of the best players on this team. Expect him to make big plays for Clemson this season.

4. Cole Stoudt

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    Even though Stoudt is entering his first season as the starter, the senior has put together good numbers on paper. He is 86-of-119 passing for 742 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. In 2013, he completed 79.7 percent of his passes and had a 166.7 pass efficiency rating.

    I realize he didn’t play a ton of quality snaps, but those numbers should lead to optimism for 2014. He has looked in command of the offense through camp so far.

    Clemson fans realize he is one of the best players on the team, but it will take a solid season for the rest of the nation to realize it too.

3. Grady Jarrett

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    Each year it seems like Jarrett gets better and better. Last year was his best season, as he totaled 83 tackles and 14 quarterback pressures.

    He is one of the top players on the defense and should be a huge force in the run game. With another big season, Jarrett could put himself in the discussion to be selected in the top three rounds of the NFL draft.

2. Stephone Anthony

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    Anthony really emerged in 2013 for the Tigers, totaling a team-high 131 tackles last season. He has the chance to be the Tigers’ best player in 2014 and is the leader of the defense.

    He has been named to the Bednarik Award watch list for this year and should have another big season as a senior.

1. Vic Beasley

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    Beasley is the best player on Clemson, likely without much of an argument from anyone. He chose to return to Clemson for his senior season after putting up huge numbers last year. The All-ACC defensive end had 23 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in 2013, along with four forced fumbles.

    He needs only eight sacks to break Clemson’s career sack record (28), which is held by Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams.