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Most Important Player: Clemson

4/24/2012

Our series continues today with the Tigers, who return a conference record-setting quarterback. Of course, he is not eligible for this distinction, so we turn our attention elsewhere.

For a look at Boston College from Monday, click here.

Clemson: center Dalton Freeman

2011 stats: It's tough to measure an offensive lineman by numbers, but Freeman's credentials make that a little easier in this case. He has 143 career knockdowns and 2,402 snaps under his belt, having started 36 of 40 games the past three seasons. He is on pace to beat the school record for starts by an offensive lineman (48).

What he means to the Tigers: We know, we know. Sammy Watkins is the superstar of this team. Heck, we even said a short while ago that he will be the superstar of this conference. We stand by that, as Watkins' star power and big-play capability may be unmatched in the ACC. But we're not talking about the best or flashiest player. We're talking about the most important. Take Freeman off this team and who knows what happens. He was first-team All-ACC last season, finishing as a finalist for the Rimington Award, which is given to the nation's top center. He is one of only two returning starters on the offensive line, this coming off a season in which the Tigers set school records for points, touchdowns, total offense and passing offense. Watkins and the rest of Clemson's skill players don't get the chance to produce the way they did last year if Freeman and the rest of the line don't provide a solid foundation up front. That will be more challenging this season with three new starters, but Freeman will provide a calming presence, which, as we saw last year, increases the chances for more big plays from Clemson's offense.