Ground game a huge key to Clemson's success this fall

Larry Williams & Paul Strelow, Tigerillustrated.com Staff
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How we assess Clemson’s running game and its importance among the question marks for the team going into the season ...

This is, in our view, one of the biggest keys to the season if not the biggest.

Clemson averaged 169 rushing yards a game last year and won the national title. Almost by rule, teams that contend for and win national titles average at least 220 yards a game on the ground.

There's no mystery at all as to how the Tigers were able to overcome a lack of a dominant running game. The presence of one of the most dominant dual-threat weapons in college football history tends to make warts elsewhere appear microscopic.

Well, without Deshaun Watson (not to mention the Mike Williams monster) the Tigers are going to need a more forceful, dependable running game. That just seems like a given. Where the offense relied so much on wizardry, expertise and downright cold-blooded execution to extend so many drives the last two seasons, in 2017 the Tigers will need to lean on the running game to produce high-percentage down-and-distance situations while also setting up advantageous opportunities in the play-action passing game.

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The good news is, this offensive line seems to be developing into precisely the kind of outfit that can produce such an imposing running game. The more I watch of John Simpson's freshman season in a reserve role, the more I think the kid is going to be a star sooner rather than later. What a blend of power and athleticism.

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