2007 RECORD: 9-4; ACC: 5-3
Won Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Auburn 23-20 (OT)
LOCATION: Clemson, South Carolina
STADIUM: Clemson Memorial Stadium (93,553)
HEAD COACH: Tommy Bowden
OVERALL: 87-46 (11 seasons)
AT CLEMSON: 69-42 (9 seasons)
This is the year…the Tigers will win the ACC championship, their first since Florida St. joined the conference…some even believe they can make a run at the national championship. Have you heard this before? Yes, the Tigers have been an underachieving bunch, but this is their best team in the Bowden era, make no mistake about that. This season is all about winning a conference title—nothing less will satisfy the rabid Clemson fans.
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Rob Spence (11th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Barry Richardson, Chris McDuffie, Christian Capote
Clemson has skill position players galore. With Darren McFadden and Felix Jones now playing on Sundays, the best running back tandem on Saturdays can be found in the state of South Carolina, at least when Clemson is at home. James Davis is an effective runner who has a nose for the end zone and C.J. Spiller could be the most explosive back in the nation, capable of scoring any time he touches the football. When they decide the opposition has had enough of “Thunder and Lightning”, the Tigers can turn to senior QB Cullen Harper, an accurate passer who makes good decisions and can stretch the field. At his disposal, he has a number one target in Aaron Kelly, a solid possession receiver in Tyler Grisham and a big play guy in Jacoby Ford. The one potential pitfall, and it’s a biggie—they must replace four of starters along the offensive line.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) RB C.J. Spiller (JR), 2) RB James Davis (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Vic Koenning (4th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Phillip Merling, Nick Watkins, Tramaine Billie, Courtney Vincent
The strength of the Tigers defense is their secondary, where there are high expectations for senior SS Michael Hamlin and junior CB Chris Chancellor, a pair of top caliber athletes. They are also solid up front with Ricky Sapp, who is set to follow in the footsteps of Gaines Adams and Phillip Merling as an All-ACC end. Dorrell Scott is a solid defensive tackle, but they will miss Rashaad Jackson who recently had knee surgery and will be out until mid-season at least. The wild card is true freshman DE Da’Quan Bowers, who many believe could be the best defensive newcomer in the nation. Another youngster with a chance to play early and often is LB Stanley Hunter, who could break the starting rotation at the MIKE position. Linebacker is a position where they need several players to step up. They should be able to get to the quarterback and stop the pass, but must prove they can stop the run if they are going to be an elite squad.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) SS Michael Hamlin (SR), 2) DE Ricky Sapp (JR)
Are they for real? We may find out very soon, as they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in a neutral site game in week one. That game could be a precursor for the season to come—either fulfilling potential, or potential disappointment. They could be favored in all of their conference games, but none of their road trips in ACC country is a gimmie. They visit Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida St. and Virginia—all four went bowling in 2007. They should be extra wary of their trip to Winston Salem as the Deacs are dangerous and a possible ACC Atlantic spoiler.
The Offensive Line: It appears that (LG) Jamarcus Grant, (RG) Barry Humphries, (LT) Corey Lambert and (RT) Chris Hairston will join returning (C) Thomas Austin along the offensive line. How they go…the Tigers will go. No matter what, with Harper at the helm throwing to Kelly and Ford and handing off to Davis and Spiller, these Tigers will put up points. However, to reach their full potential, the offensive line will have to open holes for their explosive backs and protect their pocket passing quarterback. If they win the battle on the line of scrimmage, they will win the ACC.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
There is too much talent for the Tigers not to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast Conference. There is no reason why this isn’t Tommy Bowden’s year—they will have the most talent on the field in every game they play this season leading up to the bowl game, including a potential trip to the ACC Championship. Exhale Clemson fans, put your worries and trepidations aside and enjoy the ride all the way to BCS land.
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images
Thursday, August 21, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; ACC: 5-3