CLEMSON — Six games into the season, the No. 4-ranked Clemson football team is right where it wants to be at the midseason point.
The Tigers are unbeaten as they enjoy a weekend off (bye week) and prepare for the second half of the season. It hasn't been pretty at times and there has been some drama, but the Tigers are in position to make their fourth straight run into the College Football Playoff.
Here's a midseason report card for the Tigers:
Where to start? As is common knowledge by now, Clemson's quarterback situation became a national story the day Trevor Lawrence stepped on campus as an early enrollee in January. The buzz was that the freshman would challenge starting QB Kelly Bryant. By the fifth game of the season, Lawrence was the starter and Bryant was gone.
Lawrence has shown flashes of brilliance, but he's also had moments in which he looked like a true freshman. The Tigers are not among the top 50 passing offenses, and they have very little depth behind backup Chase Brice.
With Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon, Clemson has a loaded backfield. Coach Dabo Swinney recently said there are many college football teams that would love to have just one of his top four running backs. There are still improvements to be made, though, as Etienne's pass protection is still not where coaches want it to be and Dixon is still settling in as a true freshman, learning where he is supposed to be.
Feaster was injured last week against Wake Forest, so the Tigers will certainly look to get him back for next week's game against N.C. State.
There might not be another group of receivers that Jeff Scott has coached deeper than his current lineup. Clemson has gotten meaningful contributions from Hunter Renfrow, Amari Rodgers, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Diondre Overton. Lawrence to Higgins and Lawrence to Ross in particular seem to be Clemson's most lethal combination, but there is still work to be done.
When it comes to receiving yards per game, not a single Clemson player is ranked in the nation's top 100.
Clemson's offensive line has been inconsistent. On paper, the Tigers have all the parts — All-American left tackle Mitch Hyatt, encouraging newcomer left guard John Simpson, returning center Justin Falcinelli, returning right guard Sean Pollard and returning right tackle Tremayne Anchrum.
But Pollard has been in a battle with Cade Stewart for his starting job and Clemson ranks just No. 51 in the country for sacks allowed. Not all of them are on the line, but this unit has some growing to do from a consistency standpoint.
Clemson's front four were on every preseason magazine. Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell comprise what was dubbed the best defensive front in college football. The four of them have been as advertised and have gotten meaningful contributions from Albert Huggins and freshamn Xavier Thomas, too.
Led by Kendall Joseph, this group has looked satisfactory. Tre Lamar is back in the mix as a starter again and Clemson coaches have liked the way safety-turned-linebacker Isaiah Simmons has transitioned. Simmons has freaky speed that coaches love to use, but he still has some work to do in terms of understanding the position and becoming a more complete linebacker.
Clemson's backups, including J.D. and Judah Davis, alongside Jalen Williams, are all veterans in the program and the Tigers can rotate a mix of players with little to no dropoff.
Clemson coaches were worried about depth at this position before the season started. Behind Trayvon Mullen, Mark Fields and A.J. Terrell, the experience drops off noticeably. Clemson was lit up for 430 passing yards by Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond.
Tanner Muse does get credit for a solid game against Wake Forest with an interception at the safety position and K'Von Wallace continues to perform consistently. But at corner, Clemson is still looking to build depth with freshmen Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich. The Tigers need their top three corners to stay healthy.
Swinney wants part of his team's identity to revolve around special teams, which has been a mixed bag at times. Amari Rodgers dropped multiple punts against Syracuse, but otherwise has been solid in the return game.
Freshman kicker B.T. Potter has been excellent with kickoffs in terms of field position, but redshirt senior Greg Huegel has missed three field goals. Punter Will Spiers ranks ninth in the ACC with an average of 39.88 yards per punt.
Clemson's staff handled its quarterback situation smoothly and successfully. With an emphatic 60-point win against Wake Forest, Clemson proved what it can look like when it is hitting on all cylinders. Swinney never likes to be satisfied or content, which is why he probably would not want an outright "A" here. There is still too much to clean up.
The Tigers are on track to win the ACC Atlantic Division again, particularly given that after N.C. State the competition thins out. They almost certainly, though, will have to stay undefeated for a College Football Playoff berth.