The Clemson Tigers are coming off of one of the biggest wins in recent history, coming back from an early deficit and adversity to defeat the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta last night. After losing offensive standout Sammy Watkins on the second play of the game, Clemson battled back to put themselves in a position to kick a last second field goal to defeat LSU, 25-24, in one of the more exciting and memorable games of the bowl season.
The question is, will some of their key players return for their senior season and give the Tigers a chance to play for their first national championship since 1981?
Following last night’s big win, Clemson did something that had not been done at the school since they won the national championship, which was win 11 games in a season. Clemson finished the 2012 season with a record of 11-2, with the only blemishes coming at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles and South Carolina Gamecocks. Both of those teams also won double digit games in 2012, with a chance to win one more in their bowl games on New Year’s Day.
But 2013 could be even more special for the Tigers, provided many of their young stars decide to return for another season. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins may be the biggest question marks. Both are juniors, and both had fantastic seasons, setting school records along the way. While neither would likely go in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, they may still decide to test the waters and declare for the draft early.
Watkins will certainly be returning, as he is only a sophomore. Boyd and Hopkins could return and help keep the offense explosive. While Clemson will lose top running back Andre Ellington, who is a senior and a top running back prospect for April’s draft, but they will likely insert Roderick McDowell into the backfield next season. Judging by last night’s performance, McDowell may be a pleasant surprise for the Tigers next season.
Clemson has the opportunity to have something very special in 2013. Dabo Swinney will be losing Ellington and tight end Brandon Ford and a few other key players to seniority, regardless of what their draft position will be in April. But if the players who still have another season of eligibility all decide to return for one more season, it could be a special one in Death Valley.