Clemson (8-4) concluded its second-best season in five years with a victory in the Champs Sports Bowl, capping a finish with four consecutive wins and boasting a team which could be an ACC title contender in 2006.
"I look at it more as excitement going into the spring because of (the players) we have coming back," said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. "Look at the players we have red-shirted, the way recruiting is going, the West (End) Zone project. That's exciting.
"I think the program is more stable. Offensively, we went from last to next to first in offense (in the ACC) in one year, and we're No. 13 in the nation in scoring defense. That's exciting."
Equally exciting is how well Clemson played defense in its final seven games.
The Tigers did not allow more than two touchdowns in any game during the second half of the 2005 season.
"We have come a long way defensively since the start of the season," linebacker Tramaine Billie said.
"The foundation for the future is set," senior cornerback Tye Hill said. "We have to be excited about the future."
Starting linebacker Anthony Waters says of the direction of the program, "We like where we are headed right now. Things could have turned out differently for us this year, but we know we can compete with any team we face. We also know that we can beaten. That's something we'll all carry over to next season."
Waters is right, especially when you consider the Tigers' four losses were by a total of 14 points.
One was in triple-overtime to Miami.
Another was in overtime to Boston College and the other two games ended on the final play of the game.
"I've been very fortunate as a head coach to have been undefeated one year," Bowden said, referring to his 11-0 Tulane team in 1998. "Things have to fall the right way. You've got to be lucky. We just weren't lucky, but I think the thing about this year's team is we never gave up. There was plenty of opportunity."
Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who finished his career as one of the school's greatest players, was more concerned for how well teammates could leave the season.
"I need some time between the end to think about (his own legacy)," he said. "But for us seniors, we couldn't have finished in a better way."
Players Excited About the Future
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