Sports

Can Clemson offense be best in college football history?

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson leads the way for a deep and talented Tigers offense.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson leads the way for a deep and talented Tigers offense. tdominick@thestate.com

The Clemson offense has its sights set on having a historic 2016 season -- not just in Clemson history but in college football history.

The record for most points scored in a season is 723 by Florida State in 2013. The record for most points per game for a season is 56 by Army in 1944. The record for most total yards of offense per game in a season is 624.91 by Houston in 1989.

Reaching one or possibly all of those marks will be tough for the Tigers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try.

“We want to be the best ever… The best ever in college football,” Clemson center and offensive leader Jay Guillermo said. “That was one thing that we set out for, even last year we wanted to be the best ever… I think we set a standard last year of what we can do, and we’ve got guys coming back that are older, a little more mature.”

Clemson had one of the most prolific offenses in the country in 2015, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson. It amassed 577 points for an average of 38.5 per game and totaled nearly 515 yards of offense per game.

The Tigers set the school record for points in a season and yards per game in a season last year and just missed the record for points per game in a season, which stands at 41 from 2012.

“We were very proud of what we did last year and still are very proud of what we did last year, but it was last year,” Guillermo said. “We feel like once again we have the potential to be better than we were last year. We worked hard. We worked really hard.”

On paper Guillermo is right that the Tigers should be even better offensively in 2016.

Clemson put up those impressive numbers in 2015 with a sophomore quarterback and sophomore running back, and the Tigers return five of their top six receivers.

“I think we’ve got a lot of experience coming back, and I think we have the potential to be very good offensively. I don’t think that’s a big shocking statement,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said.

Clemson also returns Mike Williams, who was one of the best receivers in the country two seasons ago before missing all but one series of last year after suffering a neck injury in the opener.

“We have a lot of guys that their past performance indicates that they know what to do, have the ability to do it on the big stage and in big moments. That’s exciting, but we’ve got to go do it,” Swinney said. “I think this group has the chance to be as good as we’ve ever had on paper, but we’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

The offensive line lost two starters but is not expected to miss a beat, and Guillermo said the unit should be improved from a season ago.

Clemson rushed for 223 yards per game in 2015 and allowed 18 sacks on the year.

“We want to have 250 rushing on the ground every game, and we want to have five less sacks than we had last year,” Guillermo said.

Clemson is strong at tight end with Mackey Award finalist Jordan Leggett back for his senior season, and Swinney mentioned on several occasions during preseason camp that he feels Clemson is as deep at tight end as any position on the team.

“I think this offense is going to do something that’s very unheard of here,” Leggett said.

At placekicker the Tigers return Greg Huegel, who went 27-for-32 on field goals and made 56 of 61 extra points to lead Clemson in points scored with 137.

Add it all up and you can see why Clemson is eying a historic year, but the Tigers also know it means nothing until they go out and prove how good they are.

“Potential is potential. It doesn’t matter at all until you go and put it on the field and put it on film,” Guillermo said. “I think we set ourselves up really well with how we worked in the offseason, how we practiced, how we prepared to have a successful season. It’s just really all about going out and executing our plan and doing the things that we have to do.”

Clemson’s weapons

A look at some of the Tigers’ offensive stars:

Deshaun Watson

QB led ACC last season in passing yards (4,104), passing TDs (35) and was among the top rushers.

Greg Huegel

Kicker from Blythewood High led the ACC this past season with 138 points scored.

Wayne Gallman

RB was second in the ACC last season with 1,527 yards rushing. Only FSU’s Dalvin Cook had more.

Artavis Scott

WR was among best in ACC last year with 901 yards. He’ll get help from the returning Mike Williams.

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