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ESPN Names Clemson's Biggest Concern For 2019

clemson head coach dabo swinney celebrates during national title

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers looks on during warm ups prior to the CFP National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Clemson Tigers enter 2019 as the defending national champions, coming off a 15-0 season, with an elite freshman quarterback and one of the top recruiting staffs in the nation. But ESPN believes it would be a mistake to think of Clemson as a flawless team as they begin their title defense this season.

According to ESPN writer David M. Hale, Clemson's biggest obstacle heading into 2019 will be finding replacements and leaders for a plethora of superstar defenders that are leaving school.

Specifically, Hale pointed to the team losing five of their top six pass rushers from 2018, who have either declared for the NFL early or have otherwise graduated, as a big obstacle to overcome.

For any other team, the turnover on defense would be a huge red flag. For Clemson, it's more of a minor inconvenience. Yes, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant are all moving on to the NFL, along with Tre Lamar, Kendall Joseph and Trayvon Mullen.

Hale added that while the Tigers likely have the players capable of stepping up to the plate physically, the team will need to identify its new defensive leaders.

The talent remains stout. The leadership will need to be developed this spring.

Ferrell, Bryant, Wilkins, Joseph, and Lamar combined for 32 sacks and 70 tackles for loss in 2018.

The Tigers may be one of the betting favorites for the 2019 national championship, but head coach Dabo Swinney will certainly want to identify the team's new leaders quickly.