Clemson ranked No. 1 in ESPN 'Way-Too-Early' 2021 ranking


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Uiagalelei carries high expectations in 2021. (ACC photo)
Uiagalelei carries high expectations in 2021. (ACC photo)

Clemson has at least one vote for 2021's preseason No. 1 in the post- Trevor Lawrence era of Tiger football currently.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach placed Clemson in the pole position in his 'way-too-early' ranking late Monday with reigning champ Alabama No. 2 then Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State.

"The good news is Clemson has a more-than-capable quarterback in waiting: freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, who threw for 781 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the two games when Lawrence was sidelined because of COVID-19," Schlabach writes. "Star wide receiver Justyn Ross might be back from a neck injury, along with Joseph Ngata. There isn't an obvious successor at tailback, so that will be a focus in the spring. Three starting offensive linemen are expected back.

"The defense was pretty young in 2020 and should only get better; six of its 14 leading tacklers were sophomores, and freshmen Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee and Trenton Simpson might have been the best players on that unit. Clemson has the clearest path to the CFP, especially with Notre Dame heading back out of the ACC. The Tigers open the season against Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the winner will be No. 1 in the polls after Week 1."

His call was even before Derion Kendrick announced he was returning for his senior year to further boost the defensive side of things.

Elsewhere in the ACC, UNC is No. 7 and Miami is No. 25.

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