Clemson has big challenge this spring
The biggest question the defending national champion Clemson Tigers face this spring is who will replace leader Deshaun Watson at quarterback?
According to oddsmakers from online sports book BetDSI, Clemson is 20/1 to repeat as national champions, which puts the Tigers behind several teams in terms of title odds for next season. For comparison, Alabama, the team Clemson beat in last year's championship, is favored at 9/2 while Ohio State, another team the Tigers beat in the playoffs last year, has the next-best odds to win it all at 13/2.
USC also has better odds than Clemson at 15/2, while Florida State is 17/2 and Oklahoma is 10/1. Michigan, meanwhile, is the only other team that has better odds than Clemson to win the national championship next year at 15/1, while LSU, Louisville and Penn State have the same 20/1 odds that the Tigers do.
As previously mentioned, the biggest question Clemson faces this spring is which inexperienced signal-caller will replace Watson under center. Watson threw for 4,593 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2016, plus rushed for 626 yards with nine additional touchdowns and a total QBR of 84.9. The candidates to replace Watson are Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson.
While it will be virtually impossible to replace Watson's production, Clemson has recruited well at the position over the past few years. Brant backed up Watson the last two seasons and will get the first crack at the starting job in spring. Bryant is a strong runner, but Cooper and Johnson both have above-average arms and could be a better fit for the Tigers' passing game. Johnson is an early enrollee, is the top pocket-passing quarterback, and was the No. 21 overall player in the 2017 recruiting class, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him make ground with Bryant this spring and potential start at some point in the fall.