Clemson vs Florida State (copy)

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (42) are two of Clemson's most important leaders heading into this season. File/Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

CLEMSON — For more than eight months, Clemson has waited for what is coming Saturday.

At last, the Clemson football team can get back onto the field after dropping a Sugar Bowl matchup to Alabama in dramatic fashion in January. At last the deepest team of Dabo Swinney's career can start to prove whether it is worthy of the glamorous headlines it has received all summer.

And at last, freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence will play in the first collegiate game of his career.

There is a lot to unpack from this 2018 Clemson football team, one that has no shortage of storylines headed into a season that will be considered a disappointment if competing for a national championship is not in the cards.

That initiative starts Saturday with Furman, a team Clemson is expected to handle with no issues.

Here are four key factors for Clemson in Saturday afternoon's season debut at Death Valley.

Furman's efficiency

Furman's offense should be no problem for Clemson's esteemed defense under coordinator Brent Venables, but Furman coach Clay Hendrix likes to play fast, which dates back to his Air Force Academy days. Last season, Furman led the Southern Conference in the following categories: scoring offense, touchdowns scored, total offensive plays, total offensive yards, average yards per play, total touchdowns and passing efficiency, among others.

Tigers' quarterback play

Furman's passing defense was just sixth best in the Southern Conference a season ago. That's good for Clemson, which is going to use Saturday to evaluate its quarterbacks on a different level now that they will actually be live against a different opponent.

Kelly Bryant, the senior incumbent, will start the game and will be followed by Lawrence. Lawrence, known for his arm, could have a field day if the Paladins are no match for his ball placement. This would also be a perfect game for Bryant to prove he has improved with his own deep balls, as he says he has.

Kicking game

Clemson redshirt senior Greg Huegel has won his starting kicking job back, but will only be doing field goals and extra points. Kickoff duties belong to freshman B.T. Potter. How will Potter handle the big stage and is Huegel going to be able to live up to his decorated past?

The trenches

Furman led the Southern Conference last year in the trenches as the Paladins' defense had the most sacks of anyone in the league and the Paladins' offense relinquished the fewest. Clemson's defensive line speaks for itself with 100 percent of the starters returning. But Clemson's offensive line? They're out for some redemption after a lackluster performance against Alabama.


Clemson 56, Furman 7

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.

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