GAME OF THE YEAR: Just as the Tigers did two years ago, this football team made its season by beating Florida State. This time, it was a 35-14 rout on Nov. 12 that was as one-sided as it seemed. The Tigers scored on their first two possessions, jumping to a 14-0 lead, went into halftime tied 14-14, then broke the game open with 21 points in the third quarter.
The emotional surge from that performance may have enabled Clemson to go on the road a week later and knock off state rival South Carolina.
Simply put, back-to-back wins over ranked rivals has Clemson excited about its future.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RB James Davis won the ACC Rookie of the Year honor, capping a big season by gaining 145 yards on 27 carries and scoring the game-winning touchdown against rival South Carolina. Davis became the fifth Clemson player to earn the league's rookie honor after rushing for a team-high 729 yards and eight touchdowns. He then capped off the year with a 150 yards and a touchdown against Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl.
RAPID REVIEW: The Tigers were staring at disaster in early October after three consecutive losses. The final loss was against Wake Forest, reignited hostility among Clemson fans. The talk was renewed after a 10-9 loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 29 left Clemson at 4-4 with FSU and South Carolina left on the schedule. But a losing season turned into a memorable one with back-to-back wins over the Tigers' biggest rivals. While the Tigers didn't display a tremendous amount of offensive fireworks in the bowl game, the effort was good enough to get a win and also leave a good taste going into 2006.
The biggest issue in 2006 will be replacing QB Charlie Whitehurst, a three-year starter who left such a lasting legacy. Backup Will Proctor, a rising senior, should get the nod, but freshmen Cullen Harper and Tribble Reese will battle for the position during spring practice. The Tigers should also have a solid backfield and emerging receiver corps.
The defense made tremendous strides this season under new coordinator Vic Koenning, but questions will emerge at cornerback headed into next year.
Bottom line: this team could be a serious contender to unseat Florida State as division champs if the Seminoles have another mid-season stumble.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2006: PK Jad Dean -- Dean was recently named one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best placekicker. He led the ACC in scoring with nine points per game, and he also connected on a school-record 24 field goals after drilling two attempts in the Champs Sports Bowl against Colorado.
WR Chansi Stuckey -- The Tigers' other first-team All-ACC selection, Stuckey led the ACC in receptions per-game (5.64) and was third in receiving yards per-game.
RB James Davis -- The true freshman proved worthy of all the preseason hype after being named ACC Rookie of the Year. He capped off a stellar first year with 28 rushes for 150 yards and a touchdown in Clemson's 19-10 win over Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl.
CANDIDATES FOR THE NEXT LEVEL: QB Charlie Whitehurst -- His week at the Senior Bowl will be critical to his draft status, however, most draft experts agree that he has the potential to see his stock rise significantly between now and April.
CB Tye Hill -- One of the top cover corners in the ACC the past three seasons. One concern about Hill, however, is his size, generously listed at 5-10. Hill, like Whitehurst will play in the Senior Bowl and has also been invited to the NFL Combine in February.
S Jamaal Fudge -- He led the Tigers in tackles among defensive backs and also had two interceptions. He's physical and swift enough to attract some notice.
ROSTER REPORT: OG Nathan Bennett, who was suspended for the Carolina game, is "out of the doghouse," and able to play, according to Bowden. DE Gaines Adams has refuted speculation he may leave early for the NFL, saying he's "99 percent" certain he'll return next season. Keep an eye on Adams situation as nothing is currently set in stone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the first step in something really big. We went 41 straight possessions without giving up a touchdown. That's the type defense that wins championships." -- Clemson DT Gaines Adams on what he liked about the 2005 season.
2005 Rapid Rewind
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