Looking Back

Today, we take a look back at our "quick predictions" column from our summer preview edition of CUTigers The Magazine. How many wins did we predict? Who would be the offensive and defensive MVPs? Some of our predictions may surprise you!

Every year, CUTigers The Magazine releases a column that contains quick predictions in regards to the upcoming season. Here's a look back at what we said July, before the start of fall practice, and then a blurb about what actually transpired over the course of the season.

Number of Wins in 2003:
In July We Said: The way the home schedule sets up with Georgia and Florida State coming in to Death Valley, eight or nine regular season wins seems like a good bet. I think we'll upset Georgia in the season opener, beat Virginia at home, and likely lose to Florida State in a close one. Add in wins over Furman, Middle Tennessee, Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech, and that leaves swing games against South Carolina, Maryland, and N.C. State. We'll win one of those swing games, most likely against South Carolina, and head to the Peach Bowl in late December.

Result: The only thing we missed here was the upset game. Coming into the season, we thought that Clemson would beat Georgia, and lose to Florida State. Other than that, we called a Peach Bowl berth with 8 or 9 regular season wins. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Offensive MVP:
In July We Said: If Charlie Whitehurst stays healthy, he'll break a whole host of single-season passing records established by former Tiger Woodrow Dantzler. Mark it down now, led by Whitehurst, this offense is poised to reach new heights in 2003, there's no doubt in my mind about that.

Result: Again, hard to argue this point. Charlie Whitehurst proved to be the difference in the season ending 3 game winning streak. Whether it was his excellent decision making, his pin point throws, or his ability to escape the pocket and pick up the first down on the ground, the Georgia native came through in a big way for the Clemson Tigers this season.

Defensive MVP:
In July We Said: Hey, if teams decide to throw anywhere close to Justin Miller this year, he may be able to put up numbers like he did last season, but I'm not expect to see it. John Leake returns for his senior year under the direction of a new linebackers coach in David Blackwell. I'm expecting big things out of this Texas native in 2003.

Result: LeRoy Hill gets this one hand down. If you saw that one coming, then I'll hire you to write this column for us next year. Hill was the only Tiger selected to the first team All-ACC team this year after leading the conference in tackles for loss.

Redshirt Freshmen to Watch:
In July We Said: Keep your eye on Kelvin Grant and Nathan Bennett. These are likely your two biggest impact players for 2003. Bennett has already nailed down the starting right guard position entering fall practice, and we all know what the coaches think of Kelvin Grant. He's one of the most talented players on roster- all he needs to do now is live up to the hype.

Result: Grant never quite materialized this season behind Airese Currie, Kevin Youngblood, and Derrick Hamilton, but he still has a promising future in Tiger Town. Bennett started most of the season at right guard and was a solid contributor. Other redshirt freshmen who made noise by the end of the season were Roman Fry and Dustin Fry.

True Freshmen to Watch:
In July We Said: Jad Dean and Chris Capote. If Dean doesn't handle kickoffs this year, then something is truly wrong. Capote will battle it out for a reserve tackle spot, and I think he gets the job done and sees action with the second team early in the season. Don't forget, you're talking about a 6-5, 308 pound freshman with unbelievable footwork.

Result: Dean proved to be an outstanding kicker for the Tigers on kick-offs by the end of the season. Capote ended up redshirting after fighting off a nagging injury during the start of fall practice. When it's all said and done, however, Marion Dukes would probably nab this award for his performance on the offensive line.

Most Exciting Game:
In July We Said: There were a lot of fireworks put up last year through the first three quarters in Tallahassee, but then things got out of hand after a barrage of turnovers and miscues. I suspect we'll see more of the same offensive firepower this year in Clemson. And while I'm not predicting the Tigers to overcome Florida State this year, I think it will be high scoring, and extremely close.

Result: We may not have called the upset back in July, but we sure did have this one nailed down as the most exciting game of the season. Who can ever forget a win over the highest ranked team in Clemson football history? Bowden Bowl V finally lived up to the hype as the Clemson Tigers pulled off a massive 26-10 victory.

Biggest Road Win:
In July We Said: A lot of folks in Columbia think that this is their year to beat the Tigers in their own backyard, but I don't see it. South Carolina is going to make a run in the SEC East in 2004, but we've got their number this year. It's home for the holidays again for the Gamecocks.

Result: Another one nailed right on target. The biggest road win of the season was against the Gamecocks. A 63-17 road win over your arch rival speaks for itself.

Biggest Surprise:
In July We Said: Yusef Kelly. Sure, I've fallen into the Duane Coleman trap too, but Kelly is just too powerful of a running back to sit and let a redshirt freshman overtake him on the first team. Assuming he stays healthy, he's the running back that will carry the load for Clemson in 2003.

Result: Yup, we missed this one completely. Coleman and Jasmin ended up becoming the dominating ball carriers for this team and Yusef Kelly really didn't make an impact for the Tigers this season after reporting to fall camp over weight.

Most Improved Unit:
In July We Said: The offensive line- if they can stay healthy. If you've been to see a single practice in the last year, you know that the three redshirt freshman that arrived in the 2002 class are going to be more physical, a step quicker, a bit stronger than what we've seen in each of the last two seasons. Watch the right side of the line early in the season, I have a sneaking suspicion we could see a bulk of our longest runs headed in that direction.

Result: Another home run. The Clemson offensive line improved beyond expectations this year, and the good news is that 5 of the 10 key contributors are freshmen. What was once viewed as a weakness for this team is now a strength.

Biggest Obstacle:
In July We Said: N.C. State. This team scares me to death, and it should do the same to you too. After thumping Clemson last year in Death Valley, defeating Florida State at home, and crushing Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, the Wolfpack looks like a team poised to do something great. And to make things worse, the Tigers have to travel to Raleigh this year. A win over this team would be the makings of a special season for Clemson, but right now, State looks like the better team.

Result: State ended up on top in a Thursday night contest against the Clemson Tigers, but after suffering two horrible upsets to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, the Wolfpack finds themselves one spot below the Tigers in the ACC postseason pecking order.

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