Saturday, August 11, 2007
2006 Results: 8-5 overall, 5-3 ACC (T2nd Atlantic Division); lost to Kentucky 28-20 in the Music City Bowl
Offense: Just five starters are back from last year's bipolar unit (43.5 ppg in the first 8 games, 17.4 ppg in the last 5). With the departure of we-hardly-knew-ye Will Proctor, the Tigers break in a new starting QB for the second straight year, this time either Jr. Cullen Harper or true-Fr. Willy Korn. The best backfield in the ACC - if not the nation - is back with a vengeance, in TBs James Davis (1219 rushing yards, 17 TDs in '06) and CJ Spiller (960 rushing yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 10 TDs last year). Last year's top wideout, Chansi Stuckey, has departed leaving Aaron Kelly (30 catches, 355 yards in '06) as the top returning receiver. The rest of the receiving corps has sparse game experience. The OL returns just one full time starter in All-ACC LT Barry Richardson. At a quick glance, this certainly appears to be a shell of last year's manic-depressive attack.
Defense: At first, the loss of #4 NFL draft pick Gaines Adams looms large, but upon closer inspection, it appears as if this defense could be better than last year's unit (#3 ACC, #13 nationally). Depending on which depth chart you look at, two or three starters are back on the line, with the entire two-deep having solid game experience. The LB corps returns two starters from '06 (Nick Watkins, Antonio Clay) and one from '05 (Tramaine Billie, injured last year). The secondary has both safeties back, while the corner spots are manned by sometime-starter Chris Chancellor and candidate for the all-name-team Crezdon Butler (3 picks as a backup last year).
Special teams: Kicking and punting duties are in the hands of Richard Jackson and Jimmy Maners, who collectively have zero game experience. Jacoby Ford and CJ Spiller are back to split time on both kickoff and punt returns.
Coaching: Tommy Bowden returns for a 9th season as Clemson head coach, still waiting for that one breakthrough year, and firmly back on that proverbial hot-seat. Aside from his best season in 2000 (9-3 overall, 6-2 ACC), Bowden has four 4-4 finishes and three 5-3 marks in ACC play. The end result each season is maddeningly consistent (anywhere from 7-9 wins, and 4-6 losses), but the journey is not - sluggish starts and fast finishes in '03, '04 & '05, hot starts and late season fades in '01 & '06. Bowden's Clemson trek is similar to Tom O'Brien's at Boston College (7 to 9 wins per year, no conference titles), but a tad more dramatic what with the Tigers' penchant for impressive wins (Georgia Tech '06, Miami '04, Florida State and Tennessee '03) and monumental duds (Kentucky '06, Duke '04, Wake Forest '03). BC ran out of patience with O'Brien (and he with them) at 10 years....you'd think Clemson wouldn't be nearly as accommodating to Bowden, given their resources, tradition and rabid fanbase. Switching gears, OC Rob Spence and DC Vic Koenning are back, each in his third season here, which is the longest Bowden has kept both coordinator positions stable during his time at Clemson. The rest of the coaching staff returns as well, save for new RB coach Andre Powell.
For What It's Worth: The Tigers led the ACC in average home attendance in 2006 (81,506)....Six different programs (Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest) have won or shared an ACC crown since Clemson won their last in 1991....the Tigers have a winning record against seven of their eleven ACC brethren; only Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami have the historical advantage over Clemson, while the Boston College series is deadlocked....something of peculiar interest that I was unaware of before researching and writing this preview: Dwight Clark, he of "The Catch" fame, played at Clemson
Schedule Analysis: Pretty run of the mill. The opener with Florida State in Bowden Bowl IX notwithstanding, the first four games as a whole are the easiest, while the middle four and final four each have their share of pitfalls and breathers. It's as good a slate as any to make a run for the division crown in the uncertain ACC-Atlantic.
Projected Wins- Louisiana-Monroe, Furman, @NC State, Central Michigan, @Duke, Wake Forest
Projected Losses- @Georgia Tech, @South Carolina
Toss-Ups- Florida State, Virginia Tech, @Maryland, Boston College
For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Tiger Insight: Sporting Gnomes, Danny Ford Is God
Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:
Look away, Georgia Tech fans. I mean it.