2007 Clemson Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 20, 2007

Preview 2007 Clemson Tigers Offense

Clemson Tigers

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Clemson Preview | 2007 Clemson Defense Preview
2007 Clemson Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Clemson Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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, 3) Spiller
Strength of the offense: Running back
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback experience


Projected Starters: 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.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

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 the team.

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 the job.

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 team.
Rating: 10


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 punt returner.

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 to shine.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

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 early on.
Rating: 7


Related Stories
2007 Clemson Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 20, 2007
2007 Clemson Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 20, 2007
2007 Clemson Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 20, 2007

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