ESPN's Steele: "Don't fall asleep on Clemson"


by - Staff Writer -
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ESPN analyst Phil Steele says Clemson's strength on defense anchors them as a contender.

ESPN college football analyst Phil Steele says Clemson could end up a favorite in every game this season.

Steele counts the Tigers' personnel losses from the title run as being overvalued.

"I think they're (Clemson) being a little underrated going into the year," Steele said on the Paul Finebaum Show recently. "When most folks break down a team, they look at the quarterback, running back and receivers ... (People say) 'This team is in rebuilding mode.'

"When I look at Clemson, I see a team that's had only three and four returning starters on defense the last two years and yet they've been dominant. This year they have seven starters back on 'D.' I feel like they have the top defensive line in the country. Linebackers and DBs are there.

"Also the offensive line is very strong, No. 5, I rated them (the O-line) in the country. Their running back Tavien Feaster can top Gallman's stats. Talking to offensive coordinator Jeff Scott last year, he's really high on this receiving corps."

Steele's lengthy college football preview magazine pegs Clemson No. 8 preseason, with 2016-17 opponents Alabama No. 1, Ohio State No. 2 and Florida State No. 3. He says week two opponent Auburn has the best shot to topple Alabama in the regular season, expecting a "very good year" for the SEC Tigers.

Steele forecasts Clemson's fate resting in the quarterback situation, but he feels the schedule lines up well.

"Who's going to replace Watson is the big question," Steele said, "but they get Florida State at home. They get Auburn at home. They may be favored in every game this season by the time the season ends up.

"Don't fall asleep on Clemson despite the losses of the skill players."

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