Clemson is coming off of its first conference championship since 1991. Even though Coach Swinney led the Tigers and ACC Championship, Clemson still has to shake off ugly loses to South Carolina and West Virginia. The schedule is manageable for the Clemson and the Tigers will be in the hunt for the conference title again. The offense, defense, and special teams are broken down and predictions are given below.
On offense Clemson the has talent and depth at the skill positions to compete with anyone in the country. Add in Chad Morris' high powered offense and Clemson will have one of the highest scoring offenses in the country. Sammy Watkins is one of the top playmakers in the country and Clemson will try to get the ball in his hands many different ways. QB Tajh Boyd is coming off a slow finish to end the 2011 and hopes to rebound to the player he was in the first 8 games last year when he threw 24 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Boyd slimmed down in the offseason to make himself more of a factor as a run threat. DeAndre Hopkins will be one if Boyd's favorite targets and can be counted on to make plays when covered. Charone Peake will step up in start in Watkins' absence and has displayed ability to make plays during the offseason. Andre Ellington is not a question mark and is one of the best backs in the ACC. He'll have run to behind an inexperienced line led by Dalton Freeman who is the only lineman that has proven to be dependable. Brandon Thomas also started last season at tackle but was inconsistent. One unproven yet impressive lineman is Tyler Shatley. He has a toughness and nastiness about him that could make him a dependable starter.
On defense, the Tigers hope to rebound from be much improved after struggling last season. It seems as the Kevin Steele led defense was always confused and lacked tackling fundamentals. A change to new defensive coordinator Brent Venables' simpler read and react defense should help lower confusion and put more focus on tackling basics. Unlike last season, the defensive line is unproven and will expect Malliciah Goodman go from being a non factor to being one of the stars of the defense. At linebacker Stephone Anthony looks ready to become a stud. He showed flashes of brilliance last season using his athletic ability and size to make plays. Quandon Christian and Travis Blanks will share a roll at a hybrid linebacker strong safety position. Both should be able to slow down dual threat quarterbacks. The secondary comes back missing only Cody Sensabough. Rashard Hall and Xavier Brewer will be in their 3rd year in the secondary rotation and will use their experience to solidify the back of the defense.
Clemson's special teams will be what every head coach hopes for coming into a new season: an experienced kicker and punter combined with exceptional return men. In the return game Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Ellington, and Charone Peake could all be used as returners.
Clemson should expect important contributions from 3 freshmen players. Travis Blanks is the unquestioned star of the class and will be used as a 5th defensive back often for Clemson. Blanks played well in the spring and can also help defend the run. Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader will be in the rotation on the line. Both possess the strength and energy to contribute right away. On offense, tackle Shaq Anthony and running back Zac Brooks will have opportunities in spot duty. Anthony may start the Auburn game if Gifford Timothy can't go.
Dabo Swinney expects Clemson to continue to climb as a top program nationally. Swinney has hired a new coordinator for the 2nd year in a row and hopes that Venables defense will have an impact similar to what Chad Morris had last year. The Tigers' chance at repeating as ACC Champs will likely hinge on a trip to Florida State. Homefield advantage might be too much for Dabo's squad to overcome in a game of evenly matched teams. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and South Carolina are other critical games for Clemson. Also, Solid Orange cannot overlook a Thursday night game at Wake Forest. Clemson typically struggles at Wake and in Thursday night games. Overall Clemson should be successful once again and have a good shot at getting back on top of the Gamecocks but a repeat trip to the ACC Title Game is unlikely if the Tigers lose to the Noles. Prediction: Clemson goes 10-2 and 6-2 while finishing 2nd in the ACC.Back to the Clemson Tigers Newsfeed