Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
Clemson had the ACC's best offense
last season, but it didn't get nearly enough from the passing
game. Expect more of the same. The 1-2 rushing punch of James
Davis and C.J. Spiller is among the best in the country, and
while the line loses four starters, there's enough experience
and talent up front to pave the way for a big rushing year. The
receiving corps has potential, but a quarterback has to emerge
to consistently produce. Cullen Harper has the job to start the
year, but superstar recruit Willy Korn will likely take over at
the first opportunity. No matter who's under center, and despite
all the bells, whistles and formations of the Rob Spence
offense, it'll be all about the running game.
Passing: Cullen Harper
14-20, 155 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Davis
203 carries, 1,187 yds, 17 TD
Receiving: Aaron Kelly
30 catches, 355 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB James Davis and
sophomore RB C.J. Spiller
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Cullen Harper and/or freshman QB Willy Korn
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Barry Humphries
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Barry Richardson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) Richardson,
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Going into the year, 6-4, 215-pound junior Cullen Harper
will be the starter. A tall passer with a good command of the
offense, Harper's a safe choice who could make the passing game
more productive and more dangerous. He's a pro-style passer who
has seen a little bit of time completing 15 of 22 career passes
for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He's not going to run too
much, but he's not a block of granite.
Projected Top Reserves: It's not a question of if,
but when 6-2, 200-pound true freshman Willie Korn takes
over the starting job. After getting to school early this
spring, the superstar recruit got his feet wet and did just
enough to keep the quarterback competition open going into the
fall. The high school numbers are astounding: 795 of 1,181 for
10,716 yards with 125 touchdowns and 25 interceptions with 53
scoring passes last year.
6-4, 205-pound junior Tribble Reese will battle with
redshirt freshman Michael Wade for the number three job.
Beyond a fantastic name, Reese is a smart passer with good size
and nice running ability. The 6-1, 200-pound Wade is a brilliant
student who was a star of the scout team last season.
Watch Out For ... Harper to be tougher to knock out
of the starting job than many might think. Everyone's assuming
Korn will be the main man, but Harper isn't bad. At the end of
the day, no one wants to go with a true freshman quarterback,
even one as good as Korn.
Strength: Korn's potential. Harper can throw the
ball a bit better than Will Proctor, last year's starter, but
Korn has the potential to make the offense special. On sheer
talent, if Korn quickly develops, he's a franchise player.
Weakness: Experience. Korn has seen time in a few
spring practices and Harper has seen mop-up duty, for the most
part. The starting job is going to be unsettled for a while.
Outlook: This could be a problem. If Harper is
merely average, everyone will be screaming for Korn. If Korn
gets the starting job and Clemson doesn't win and is out of the
ACC title race, many will wonder if a veteran could've taken the
team over the top. If nothing else, there will be an upgrade at
the position after an efficient, but unspectacular year from
Proctor. This is the team's X factor.
Projected Starter: While Clemson will once again split the
workload among the star backs, 5-11, 205-pound junior James
Davis will likely be the starter. He led the team with 1,187
yards and 17 touchdowns averaging 5.8 yards per carry, but he
saw hit production slow down over the second half of the season
after ripping up Georgia Tech for 216 yards. Able to do a little
of everything well, he can run inside or out, and he can catch
more than he showed last year. Can he handle not getting the
ball 25 times a game? He scored 11 times in the first five
games, but didn't get in the end zone over the final four.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 190-pound sophomore
C.J. Spiller would be the starter and a 1,500-yard back
for about 100 other teams, but at Clemson, he has to serve as a
home-run hitting sidekick next to Davis. The superstar recruit
lived up to the hype and more with five 100-yard games including
309 yards and three scores over a two game stretch against NC
State and South Carolina to end the regular season. Not only did
he run for 938 yards and ten scores, averaging 7.3 yards per
carry, but he was fourth on the team with 19 catches for 210
yards and two scores.
Sophomore Ray Ray McElrathbey will add a little bit of
depth and an emergency policy. He spent most of last year in the
secondary and on special teams before moving to receiver. On a
national scale, he's known for getting custody of his younger
brother, to go along with his schoolwork and responsibilities on
When the Tigers use a fullback, 6-1, 245-pound junior Alex
Pearson will step in. He won't get any carries and is used
purely as a smashmouth blocker, but he'll get a few catches here
and there making four grabs for 27 yards and two scores. The
former linebacker is ridiculously strong and a perfect fit for
Watch Out For ... the offense to revolve around the
two stars yet again. Clemson was fifth in the nation in rushing,
and it'll do everything possible to get the ball in the hands of
Spiller and Davis and out of the hands of the quarterback.
Strength: Production and talent. Outside of
Arkansas, there isn't a better 1-2 rushing tandem in America.
Both runners will see time at the next level.
Weakness: The divas. Spiller and Davis both talk a
nice game as far as being happy to share the time and the
workload, but they each need the spotlight. Spiller is all but
certain to make mistakes from time for time with his head in
Florida, where he has a new baby, while Davis will have to live
with giving up carries on a regular basis.
Outlook: All appears to be fine ... for now. With
two star backs each capable of winning All-America honors, it'll
be tough to get them all the work they might like. Offensive
coordinator Rob Spence will get them both on the field at the
same time as much as possible to provide several different looks
and more options get them the ball. These two will carry the
Projected Starters: Is Aaron Kelly
ready to be a number one receiver? Chansi Stuckey was the main
man last season, and Kelly was second with 30 catches for 355
yards and three touchdowns. At 6-5 and 180 pounds, he's a tall,
talented athlete who struggled to make much of an impact over
the second half of the year before finishing with six catches
for 66 yards and a score against Kentucky. He doesn't need to be
a home run hitter, but he has to be a go-to target.
The Tigers need a big-play threat, and that's exactly what 5-9,
180-pound sophomore Jacoby Ford is. One of the ACC's
fastest players and a star sprinter on the track team, he needs
to start stretching the field more after catching just 15 passes
for 187 yards and two scores. He's a next-level caliber kick and
5-11, 180-pound junior Tyler Grisham was third on the
team with 25 catches for 264 yards and three scores. He came on
over the second half of the season and should be an effective
part of the rotation. A good route runner with nice hands, he
might not be the team's number one target, but he'll be an
effective complementary target.
Back at tight end is 6-5, 260-pound junior Akeem Robinson,
who didn't catch a pass but was a big blocker. Originally
considered for the line, either one, he's grown into a strong,
steady blocker who acts like a third tackle. He has the
athleticism, and the smarts, to become a good receiver.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 230-pound junior
Rendrick Taylor is too good to keep off the field even
though he only caught 12 passes for 152 yards and a score. Arm
injuries have been a problem, missing time two years ago with a
wrist injury and missed half of last year with a broken arm.
With tight end size and next-level athleticism, he can jump out
of the stadium, he's a matchup nightmare. It's not a stretch to
call him the team's best all-around athlete.
It might be asking too much for true freshman Xavier Dye
to be ready to play a big role right off the bat, but he's too
good to not be in the mix. At 6-4 and 195 pounds, he has the
size, and he has the talent and upside to potentially become a
starter this year. He'll start out behind Kelly.
When the offense needs a receiving tight end, 6-5, 230-pound
sophomore Michael Palmer will likely be the main man (if
Robinson doesn't expand his role). Palmer caught five passes for
30 yards in a limited role, and while he's not in the same zip
code as Robinson as a blocker, he's good enough to start.
Watch Out For ... Taylor. The only thing missing from
his game is health. He might not start right away, but he's the
X factor who could make a decent corps special.
Strength: Speed and athleticism. From Ford's
world-class speed to Taylor's athleticism to the size and skill
of Kelly, there's plenty of receivers with the right measurables
Weakness: Production. Blame the quarterbacks and
blame the offense, but there hasn't been enough pop from the
Tiger targets. Losing a number one like Stuckey hurts.
Outlook: The Clemson receivers are better than the
stats might show. The quarterbacking wasn't consistent last
year, and the ground game was the attack. It was next to
impossible for the receivers to get into any sort of a flow, and
now they need to be a bigger part of the offense. The talent is
there. Now it has to come through.
Projected Starters: The line returns just one starter, but he's
a good one. 6-7, 320-pound senior Barry Richardson likely
would've been a top 50 NFL draft pick if he had left early, and he
should be one of the first tackles taken next year. His claim
to fame has been a
near shutdown performance of NC State's Mario Williams in 2005, and he
was even better last year earning first-team All-ACC honors. He'll start
again at left tackle with 32 straight starts under his belt, and he'll
be the one the offense works behind.
Next to Richardson at left guard will be 6-5, 330-pound senior Chris
McDuffie, who started the last five games of last year in place of
an injured Roman Fry. A dominant run blocker, he's a bruiser who can
play either side. While he's not Richardson, he's tremendously physical.
Taking over for Dustin Fry in the middle will be 6-3, 280-pound
sophomore Barry Humphries, the only non senior starting in the
front five. While he's not huge, he's one of the team's stronger players
with the potential to grow into an all-star. Once he gets a little
experience, he should be dominant.
The battles are on the right side. While it wasn't a stunner that 6-4,
295-pound senior Christian Capote took over for Marion Dukes at
right tackle, it was a shock that he played so well. He was a good
reserve last season, and while he's far smaller than Dukes, is
experienced enough to stem in and be productive.
At the moment, 6-6, 300-pound senior Brandon Pilgrim
will take over at right guard. A spot starter and long time
reserve, he's a veteran who can play tackle or guard. Good
enough to have pushed for the starting job early last season,
and he's expected to be solid, at least in a rotation.
Projected Top Reserves: Pilgrim is in a fight with
6-4, 305-pound sophomore Thomas Austin for the right
guard job. Able to play center if needed, Austin is one of the
line's most versatile players and could move around throughout
the year to see a little more time. He'll be a starter, likely
at guard, next year, if he doesn't win the gig this season.
For now, 6-3, 305-pound junior Bobby Hutchinson will
start out behind McDuffie at left guard, but he could move to
center and push Humphries this fall. He doesn't have Humphries'
upside in the middle, but he could grow into a 2008 starting
role at guard if he's able to see a little more time.
Sophomore Cory Lambert is a future starter. He's 6-6, 300
pounds and tremendously talented, but he doesn't have any real
experience. A star recruit a few years ago, he'll push for time
at right tackle behind Christian Capote.
Watch Out For ... Humphries in the middle. Center is
the biggest concern with the least amount of experience
returning, but Humphries has the talent to grow into the role
over the next three years and become a great one.
Strength: The left side. Richardson should be on
everyone's All-America short list, while McDuffie could become
an all-star now that he has the full-time job. This could be the
best left side in the ACC.
Weakness: Overall depth. With four starters gone,
just finding the right mix among the starters is hard enough
without looking for quality backups. A rash of injuries could
prove devastating to the season.
Outlook: Losing four starters might appear to be
devastating, but the situation isn't all that bad with several
experienced seniors ready to step into bigger roles. Richardson
is a tremendous anchor to work around, and everything else
should fall into place. The pass protection will come around in
time, but the front five should dominate in the running game