Clemson’s first test of the 2016 campaign is out of the way following the Tigers’ 19-13 win at Auburn last Saturday. With a game’s worth of film to study and rough edges to smooth over, Dabo Swinney’s team will now shift its attention to its upcoming showdown against Troy this weekend.
The matchup will give Clemson an opportunity to answer any questions lingering after Week 1. As the Tigers prepare for the contest against the Trojans, here are three areas to watch:
There weren’t any questions about the starting spot in the offseason after Wayne Gallman’s record-breaking sophomore year, but the backup spot appeared to be up in the air among several talented backs. Adam Choice was the only other running back to log a rushing attempt against Auburn, but if Clemson pulls away early against Troy, others at the position will gain touches.
Junior Tyshon Dye, sophomore C.J. Fuller and freshman Tavien Feaster are among the others competing for touches. As the veteran, Dye could very well be next in line after Gallman and Choice, but Feaster is an intriguing player to watch as a former five-star recruit and the program’s running back of the future.
It’s hard to predict how a player will respond in his first game back from a serious neck injury, but Williams quickly proved to be one of the best players on the field against Auburn. The junior wideout hauled in nine receptions for 174 yards, and his performance would have been even more impressive had he not dropped what would have been a touchdown grab in the second half.
It’s not like Williams has never shined before. In 2014, he caught 57 balls for 1,030 yards and six scores. What’s scary, though, is he averaged 25.1 yards per catch that season when Watson was the one throwing to him. If both players stay healthy this fall, a full season of that tandem will be a nightmare for opposing coordinators.
This weekend will give a glimpse at whether or not that duo will continue to dominate. While Troy pounded Austin Peay of the FCS ranks last weekend, holding the Governors to 124 yards in the passing game, the Trojans allowed 7.2 yards per pass attempt in 2015. Williams will have a shot to blow up the box score as long as he’s in the game.
Losing three of last year’s starters didn’t appear to be an issue for Clemson last weekend — it limited Auburn to 2.1 yards per rush and registered four sacks. Not only did the starters hold their own, but true freshman defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence lived up to his lofty billing by logging seven tackles, including a sack.
Defensive end Austin Bryant could potentially return from a broken foot later this month, meaning now is the time for others to show what they can do with increased playing time. In the opener, sophomore Christian Wilkins and redshirt freshman Clelin Ferrell started on the edges while senior Carlos Watkins and junior Scott Pagano held down the first-team spots on the interior.