This is the second in a series of preview of ACC teams that we will be doing leading up to the 2012 season.
I can’t help but think that the outlook for the Clemson Tigers going into 2012 would be so much higher had they not played in a Bowl Game last January. Think about that for a second, a program being much better off if they had been, say banned from the post season for the 2011 season. Take away the 70-33 embarrassment to WVU and what isn’t there to love about this program?
Instead heads had to be chopped, and as a Terp fan with a sister and best friend both Tiger fans, the tempered tiger enthusiasm is back. That is when you want to believe in something, but each time you start to, you get punched in the stomach.
In order to exercise the ghost of Orange Bowl’s past, Coach Dabo Swinney excused Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele and replaced him with Brent Venables. Venables comes to the Tigers from Oklahoma, he will have is work cut out keeping in mind how easily even the Terps Offense was able to put up points on the Tigers in 2011.
But if Venables is able to beef up the defense, then the sky is the limit for the Clemson Tigers. Offense will not be an issue.
One thing to watch this season is a new gimmick arriving in Death Valley. Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris is planning to instill the “Pistol Offense”. The Pistol of course being a half shot gun set with the idea that in the case of handoffs, it’s a half step quicker to get the ball into the running backs hands.
Of what I saw in 2011, I don’t know if the offense needs any gimmicks, they didn’t seem to have too many problems putting up yardage last year, and with the return of Tajh Boyd at QB, and Andre Ellington at RB, it is hard to imagine them not continuing that success. But the real wild card will be Sammy Watkins. The Sophomore is expected to have a HUGE season after a dream like Freshman year, but with off field trouble (Read Mary Jane) it is yet to be determined how much time the youngster will miss. Keeping in mind Clemson opens this year vs. Auburn in Atlanta, so you can’t do the whole miss week 1 and 2 vs. Furman and Ball State trick.
Once Watkins is back, assuming he were to miss anytime, look for him to again be one of the most exciting players in the ACC.
On the defensive side of the ball, Rashard Hall will be leading from the secondary. This will be his fourth year as a starter. Despite being banged up, Hall led the Tigers in tackles and had two interceptions. Jonathon Meeks at Safety, and Malliciah Goodman at Defensive End will also provide Senior leadership to this group that is surely to be under the Tiger fan’s microscope.
For the Tigers Schedule there is some good news and bad. The good is that a lot of key match ups will be played in Death Valley, including their non-conference match up with South Carolina. The bad is that they will be playing Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech from the Coastal Division. You could argue that those are two of the best programs the Coastal has to offer.
Of course you can’t talk Tigers Schedule without pointing out that they travel to Tallahassee on September 22nd. To say a shot at the Division Title is on the line with this match up would be a slap in the face to our readers.
Prediction wise, I have the Tigers finishing 9-3 and coming up short of FSU for the Division Title. Sorry to disappoint Tigers fans, but I can’t shake the vision of what I saw last January when I picture the Tigers going into Tallahassee on the 22nd.
And finally, I just want to touch on one thing real quick. What a great name Dabo is. That may sound sarcastic, but it is 100% sincere. I’ve heard of Coach Edsall, Coach Bowden, Coach London, and so on so down the line, but do you ever hear Coach Swinney? No of course not, there is always a Dabo in there, and that is how you know it is a great name, no one EVER misses a chance to use it.
Others players to watch, not mentioned above: C Dalton Freeman, WR DeAndre Hopkins, LB Stephone Anthony, and PK Chandler Catanzaro.