It’s a good day, my friends. It’s a good day.
I woke up this morning and not too long afterwards I checked my phone and saw the official 2020 ACC football schedule. This afternoon, Aug. 6, Clemson opens up 2020 fall football camp and afterwards we’ll get to hear from Coach Swinney (Via Zoom). Tomorrow, select players will also have an opportunity to speak to the media following practice.
(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)
Although it is a closed practice until further notice, it just feels good to know the guys are getting back to work. We also know when the revised season opener is which will have Clemson traveling to Wake Forest on Sept. 12. The highly anticipated showdown with Notre Dame will remain on Nov. 7, as it was originally scheduled, giving the ACC a true blockbuster conference game the first weekend of November. That game could be a top-five showdown if both enter the contest unscathed.
So many questions still remain surrounding the 2020 football season though and that list will likely grow rather than shrink over the next month. All that aside, let’s make the most of it while we can. For now, we have live college football just roughly a month away from today!
Heading into Clemson’s fall camp, here are my five things to watch:
1. Offensive Line
Clemson’s only returner up front is Jackson Carman and he’ll be asked to lead the way for a unit that must replace four starters from the 2019 season this fall. Clemson’s offensive line was a strength for the Tigers last season and Dabo and Co. will need to get that figured out to help the offense reach its full potential. Having tight end Braden Galloway back in the fold will be very beneficial for an extra body when needed. Jordan McFadden, Cade Stewart and Will Putnam will all see significantly more playing time to fill the voids of John Simpson, Tremayne Anchrum, Sean Pollard and Gage Cervenka.
2. Wide Recievers
Not sure the last time we entered a season without a true veteran weapon in Clemson WR core. It appears this year that top returner role belongs to Amari Rodgers who made a miraculous return last season after suffering an ACL tear in the spring. But with the loss of Tee Higgins to the NFL draft and with Justyn Ross sidelined for the year due to a June surgery for a congenital fusion in his spine, Clemson will look to other–albeit talented and capable–inexperienced guys to step up in 2020 such as Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata. Again, getting Galloway back and the mismatch he will pose for defenses could be a game changer for the offense and open up the middle of the field as well.
3. Holes to fill on defense
Clemson is shaping up to have another salty defensive line and with the experience and talent of last season tied with another year of instruction from Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables, the group should take a big step forward this fall. That will be crucial considering the loss of “Mr. Versatile” Isaiah Simmons, safety K’Von Wallace and safety Tanner Muse. James Skalski returns at linebacker to carry the leadership role of that unit while Fiesta Bowl closer Nolan Turner returns this year eyeing a bigger role. Not to mention the rise of Derion Kendrick who converted to corner back from wide receiver. Mike Jones Jr. is one to keep tabs on to make up some of the workload Simmons leaves behind at linebacker.
4. Offensive Backfield
If Clemson gets the offensive line working like a well-oiled machine quickly, the Clemson offense could once again be very dangerous. With the potential No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, back under center beside perhaps the first running back off the 2021 NFL draft board in senior Travis Etienne along with backups like Lyn-J Dixon, veteran and team leader Darien Rencher and newcomer Demarkcus Bowman on the roster, Clemson’s backfield is locked and loaded.
5. Health and Safety
Most importantly, I’ll be be watching the health and safety of players, coaches, trainers and anyone working closely with the football team this season. With all the Covid-19 chaos and health safety protocols put into place and the extra stress it will have on everyone, the overall mental and physical well-being of players and coaches will be something to watch.
Injuries are always something to keep an eye on as fall camp opens and with camp being closed to media for now, it’ll be harder to keep tabs on who is out and the reason behind it like we’ve grown accustomed to. Here’s to keeping everyone as safe as possible for as long as possible. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp told the media he anticipates the SEC will test players weekly on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays and I suspect the other Power 5 leagues will do something similar.
Now the timetable on those test is what will be worth watching. I would imagine that those Friday test would be early in the morning to allow for time for results. Could we be in for a train wreck of “game time decisions” pending a Covid-19 test for players, especially for these noon kick offs? It’s definitely something to think about.