There’s far less experience on the defensive side. The leader will be senior linebacker Ben Boulware. He’ll have help on the front line from senior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. Defensive end Austin Bryant might be ready to become the next great Clemson pass rusher after backing up Shaq Lawson last season. The biggest concern might be the secondary, where cornerback Mackensie Alexander will be hard to replace.
Key number: 8.4. Watson's 8.4-yard average per pass attempt best speaks to his consistency and productivity. If he can improve on that number, watch out.
2016 schedule: Sept. 3 at Auburn; Sept. 10 vs. Troy; Sept. 17 vs. South Carolina State; Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech; Oct. 1 vs. Louisville; Oct. 7 at Boston College; Oct. 15 vs. North Carolina State; Oct. 29 at Florida State; Nov. 5 vs. Syracuse; Nov. 12 vs. Pittsburgh; Nov. 19 at Wake Forest; Nov. 26 vs. South Carolina.
For the most part, the schedule sets up favorably. The toughest test, against the Seminoles in Tallahassee, is preceded by a timely idle week, and the date with Louisville, which threw an early scare into the Tigers a year ago, is at home.
Why this is a top-10 team: If all the key contributors stay healthy, there's little reason to expect anything less than another run at the ACC title for these hungry Tigers.