Clemson Football

Athlon Sports: Eight Tigers named preseason All-Americans

June 23, 2019

Eight Clemson Tigers were named to Athlon Sports’ preseason All-American teams on Wednesday.

The eight players selected are the second-most by any team in the country. Only Alabama, which has nine players listed, has more. The next closest team behind Clemson is Georgia, which has five.

The SEC leads the way with 26 selections to the All-America teams. The Big Ten has 21, followed by the ACC with 18.

Rising junior Travis Etienne is a first-team running back ahead of Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Boston College’s AJ Dillon, while Trevor Lawrence is a second-team quarterback behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

When Lawrence was the full-time starter at quarterback Clemson averaged 45.5 points per game last season, scoring 501 points the final eleven games. The Tigers’ 44-16 win in the National Championship was their 13th win of the year by 20 points or more, the most by any team in a single season since the turn of the century.

Wide Receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are both on the second-team behind Jerry Jeudy from Alabama and Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State.

© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross celebrate during Clemson’s 44-16 win over Alabama in the 2019 National Championship Game.

Clemson’s talented wideout duo combined for 105 receptions for 1936 yards and 21 touchdowns. Those numbers compare favorably to the combined stats in 2012 season when Deandre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins had their best combined season as a junior and a sophomore respectively. During that season, the NFL stars combined for 139 receptions for 2,113 yards and 21 touchdowns through the air. 

That duo also put up 154 receptions for 2,197 yards and 17 touchdowns when Watkins was a freshman and Hopkins was in his sophomore season.

  Receptions Yards YDs/Catch TDs
Tee Higgins 59 936 15.9 12
Justyn Ross 46 1,000 21.7 9

Also appearing on the second-team is offensive lineman John Simpson. Simpson started all 15 games in 2018 and played almost 900 snaps. 

© Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Thomas looks to improve on his impressive freshman year with a tremendous increase in snaps.

On the defensive side, sophomore Xavier Thomas on the defensive line and redshirt junior Isaiah Simmons at linebacker are both on the second-team. Both players bring back experience from 2018 and could be two leaders Clemson relies heavily on as the defense replaces key pieces.

Thomas showed flashes during limited opportunities playing behind Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. As a freshman, Thomas racked up 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks, including a bone-crushing hit on Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey.

Early last season, Thomas was more than willing to give the credit to the upperclassmen like Ferrell when asked about the influence they had on his improvement.

"I would say Clelin, he's had the most (influence). He's been taking me to watch film together. There have been times on the weekends that we come here and get work done, working properly about how to play the four-high technique things like that. So I think I learned the most from him."

Junior cornerback AJ Terrell is listed as a fourth-team All American. Terrell started all 15 games in his first year as a starter and was third-team All-ACC.

Check out the full list of Athlon Sports’ All-America teams here.

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Athlon Sports: Eight Tigers named preseason All-Americans

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