2010 Clemson Preview
Clemson QB Kyle Parker
Clemson got to the ACC Championship last year, but does it have the talent and the right mix to win it this season? If QB Kyle Parker is under center, and not an outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, the Tigers have a shot at doing big things. Check out the CFN 2010 Clemson Preview.
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By Richard Cirminiello
After winning a program-first Atlantic Division and finishing in the Top 25, Clemson has its sights fixed on its first ACC championship since 1991.
Head coach: Dabo Swinney
Third year: 13-8
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Clemson Players
1. SS DeAndre McDaniel, Sr.
2. DE Da'Quan Bowers, Jr.
3. LT Chris Hairston, Sr.
4. DT Jarvis Jenkins, Jr., Sr.
5. QB Kyle Parker, Soph.
6. LB Brandon Maye, Jr.
7. CB Marcus Gilchrist, Sr.
8. FS Rashard Hall, Soph.
9. RB Andre Ellington, Soph.
10. RB Jamie Harper, Jr.
Sept. 4 North Texas
Sept. 11 Presbyterian
Sept. 18 at Auburn
Sept. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 Miami
Oct. 9 at North Carolina
Oct. 16 Maryland
Oct. 23 Georgia Tech
Oct. 30 at Boston College
Nov. 6 NC State
Nov. 13 at Florida State
Nov. 20 at Wake Forest
Nov. 27 South Carolina
In a little over a year under head coach Dabo Swinney, the Tigers have played relatively well, shedding the tag of poor finishers that emerged under Tommy Bowden. In 2009, for instance, Clemson stumbled out of the gate to a 2-3 start, but rallied with a redshirt freshman behind center to go 9-5, win the division, and defeat Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. Although it's hardly time to get content, it was a pronounced step in the right direction for a program that had been stuck in neutral for years.
The Tigers enter 2010 confident, talented, and focused on bringing a long-awaited championship to Death Valley. Like everyone in the country, there are challenges, but none that appears insurmountable at this time. Yes, C.J. Spiller needs to be replaced in the running game, but Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper are up to the challenge. More consistency is needed from the young quarterbacks, but their upside is off the charts.
Lose two corners? Replace them with two experienced seniors, one who had 107 tackles as a safety a year ago. The point is that as long as Clemson continues to recruit so well, it's going to be a main player in the conference title chase. It'll also help immensely that the program is rock solid in the trenches, boasting one of the best combinations of offensive and defensive lines in the league and a handful of future pros.
Swinney has a little wind at his back heading into the upcoming season. If he can seize it and plug a few key holes, Clemson has as good a chance as anyone of once again playing for the ACC crown in December.
What to watch for on offense: Today's edition of James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The Tigers' version of thunder and lightning is about to be reprised by Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington, budding stars just itching for their chance to shine. Of course there's only one Spiller, but do not sleep on either of his replacements. Ellington gave a glimpse of the future, darting and juking his way to 491 yards rushing and four scores on only 68 carries. Harper is a 230-pound downhill runner with good speed. Put the two together and Clemson has a quiet storm brewing in the backfield.
What to watch for on defense: The safeties. In DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall, there aren't many better tandems in the country. Both are big, athletic, and have the ball skills of wide receivers, which will help a secondary regrouping from the graduations of starting corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor. So good are McDaniel and Hall that they combined for 14 interceptions a season ago, and will discourage opposing receivers from even venturing into their area of the field.
This team will be far better if … it can solve its problems in the kicking game. It might sound like a minor deal, but for a school that dropped four of its five games by no more than five points, this is big stuff. As a duo, Richard Jackson and Spencer Benton combined to miss 11 field goals and five extra points. That's 38 points that, if placed strategically, could have flipped one or two of those defeats into victories. The Tigers will play a lot of tight games this year as well, so it's up to Jackson and Benton to improve their accuracy.
The Schedule: For the most part, it's a
not-that-bad slate that gives the Tigers an honest
shot at a second straight Atlantic title. Getting
Georgia Tech and Miami from the Coastal hurts, but
both games are at Death Valley. The biggest problem
will be the key games in the Atlantic with battles
against Boston College and Florida State, the only
two teams with realistic shots at winning the title,
on the road. The non-conference slate has a good
balance of cupcake and tests with North Texas and
Presbyterian offsetting a road trip to Auburn and
the season-ender against South Carolina. The key to
the season will be surviving the stretch of at
Auburn, Miami, and at North Carolina before
mid-October, but there are two weeks off before
dealing with the Canes.
Best Offensive Player: Senior LT Chris Hairston. This might not be the sexiest choice for a school that harbored C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, but it's the correct one. At 6-7 and 325 pounds, Hairston has literally grown into one of the nation's top left tackles. An All-ACC second team choice a year ago, he's capable of blossoming into an All-American caliber blocker and a popular destination for NFL scouts if he continues to mature as the Tigers' blindside protector.
Best Defensive Player: Senior SS DeAndre McDaniel. He's a former linebacker turned safety, with the coverage and ball skills of a cornerback. Now, that is versatility. McDaniel exceeded all expectations in his debut at strong safety, making 102 stops, five tackles for loss, two sacks, and an ACC-best eight interceptions. At 6-1 and 215 pounds, he's a do-it-all defensive back, who'll defend the run and the pass with equal skill.
Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Da'Quan Bowers. At 6-4 and 280 pounds, the former uber-recruit has an almost tantalizing blend of size, strength, and acceleration in a granite frame. Injuries and a slow start, however, have prevented him from maximizing his potential over the first two years. He's been good, but if he can begin to dominate, it'll help throw a life line to a back seven that'll be transitioning in the first half of the season.
The season will be a success if ... the Tigers are right back in the ACC championship game in December. Is anyone markedly better in the Atlantic Division? No. This is going to come down to a three-team race to Charlotte involving Clemson, Boston College, and Florida State. While the Tigers must go on the road for both of those pivotal games, if they can split, they'll have a realistic shot being repeat divisional champs.
Key game: Nov. 13 at Florida State. The deciding game for the Atlantic Division crown? It could be. These two schools have played some great games in recent years, and this season should be no different. The Tigers have taken four of the last five in this growing rivalry, but winning in Tallahassee has never been easy for them.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Clemson 36 – Opponents 19
- Average yards per carry: Clemson 4.8 – Opponents 3.5
- Second quarter scoring: Clemson 154 - Opponents 80
- 2010 Clemson Preview |
2010 Clemson Defense |
Clemson Depth Chart
- Clemson Previews