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Brad Senkiw | Anderson Independent Mail | July 18, 2016

Clemson football: 5 questions for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers ahead of ACC Kickoff

  Expectations for Dabo Swinney, Deshaun Watson and the Tigers will be high after their success in 2015.

College football's talking season for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney kicks off Tuesday at his annual media golf outing.

Swinney and all of his assistant coaches will be on hand at The Reserve at Lake Keowee to discuss last year's success, how to do it again in 2016 and plenty more topics.

On Friday, Swinney takes junior quarterback Deshaun Watson and senior linebacker Ben Boulware to the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina, for more talk about his team with national and regional media members.

This all means the start of a new season isn't far off, and with fall camp just two weeks away and the 2016 opener set for Sept. 3 at Auburn, here are five questions Clemson will be asked about this summer:

Has the team gotten over the loss to Alabama in the championship game?

This got asked plenty during the spring. Typically, the answer was no.

Swinney was over the emotional letdown, but he wasn't about to forget how close Clemson came and what it needs to improve on (i.e., special teams) to win the big trophy. The players said they would use getting that close to motivate them during summer workouts.

With no football in the present, media reports usually focus on the past and future, so Swinney will still get many questions about 2015.

Can Clemson handle the hype?

This team will be ranked in the top 10 when the official preseason polls roll out. It'll probably even fall into the top five. It could even land the top spot.

Watson is odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

Obviously, these Tigers aren't coming into the 2016 season flying under anybody's radar after last year's 14-1 run to the national championship game. It's a lot to handle for a team with 63 underclassmen.

Clemson had solid leadership that helped keep everyone focused last year, and with some of those players having moved on, the Tigers are looking for new leaders to emerge.

How do the Tigers top last year?

The easy answer is win the national championship. Doing it is much harder. But Swinney laid out a plan last year to get to the final game, motivating his team in the preseason with a speech about having to print tickets for 15 games.

Clemson accomplished that goal, and last year proved his process for preparing a team, and his players buying into it, works.

On paper, the schedule isn't as daunting.

How good is this offense?

Last season's unit averaged 514.5 yards and 38.5 points per game. With eight starters returning, including one of the top QBs in the country, Clemson could be even better and more efficient.

Wayne Gallman, a 1,500-yard rusher last year, is back. Artavis Scott and Mike Williams help make up one of the best receiving units in the country. The offensive line is looking to build off last season's momentum, and there are more skill players than Clemson knows what to do with.

The local and national media will play up this angle and try to figure out where the 2016 offense might end up ranking among the all-time best.

Can the defense again avoid a distinct drop off?

This was by far the most asked question last summer, when the Tigers had just three starters returning from the No. 1-ranked unit in 2014. They overcame it to produce a top-10 defense in 2015, and got tired of talking about it along the way.

Swinney, his staff, and players will spend a lot of time between now and the first game trying to explain how this year's again talented, but unproven, group can keep coordinator Brent Venables' magic going.

This article was written by Brad Senkiw from Anderson Independent Mail, S.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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