Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook Preview

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Brassey's Inc.'s "Blue Ribbon College Football Forecast" profile for Clemson. We've included an excerpt of our position analyses, as well as of our "Blue Ribbon Analysis" for the upcoming season.

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Defensive Backs
If the offensive line is Bowden's primary concern on offense, then the secondary remains his biggest headache on the other side of the ball. The Tigers were simply bad in back last year, allowing 22 touchdown passes and making only 13 interceptions.

One of the first things Lovett did when he was hired as defensive coordinator was take over the secondary from Bowden's brother-in-law, Hines, who now coaches linebackers.

The Tigers have three cornerbacks with significant experience in senior Brian Mance (5-11, 185), junior Kevin Johnson (6-0, 190) and Toure Francis (5-11, 184). And sophomore Ryan Hemby (5-10, 166) is supposed to be the best cover-corner on the team.

Former wide receiver Terrance Huey (5-7, 165) was moved to corner in the spring after playing wide receiver last year.

Senior free safety Eric Meekins (6-3, 190) started nine games last year and finished fifth on the team with 72 tackles. He stepped into the lineup after teammate Marcus Houskin suffered a career-ending vertebrae injury. Meekins has been a durable member of the secondary, playing in 36 consecutive games without missing any time with an injury.First-year sophomores Travis Pugh (6-1, 190) and Tavaughn Monts (6-2, 185) are Meekins' backups.

At strong safety, senior Altroy Bodrick (6-1, 215) is trying to recover from a major knee operation and make the switch from linebacker, where he played his first three years. He was known as one of the fastest players in the front seven, but he won't know until the fall how his injury will affect that speed.

Coming out of the spring, Bodrick was listed behind sophomore Ronny Delusme (6-1, 191), who played in all 12 games last year, mostly on special teams.

Redshirt freshman Curtis Baham (6-1, 195) is also listed on the depth chart at the rover spot.

Bowden also signed three defensive backs, two of whom may challenge for starting positions immediately.

Jeff Francoeur (6-4, 205) of Lilburn, Ga., could win a spot at safety if Bodrick doesn't come back from his injury or make the transition to strong safety as smoothly as anticipated.

Justin Miller (5-11, 180) of Owensboro, Ky. was considered one of the best cornerbacks coming out of high school last year. He has the versatility to contribute as a starter, in the nickel package or on special teams.

Blue Ribbon Analysis
Bowden knows that his fourth season as the leader of Clemson's storied program is critical. He and his revamped staff should have the personnel to improve on last year's wretched defense and enough talented skill players to make up for the loss of Dantzler at the quarterback.

There are massive holes to fill, particularly on the offensive line. None of the three tailbacks Bowden is counting on to replace Dantzler's rushing yards has proven capable of carrying the load by himself. And the secondary, even with two impressive incoming freshmen, still needs time and a lot of effort to improve.

What Bowden and his crew don't have gracious plenty of is fan patience. The coach will have to be more diplomatic in how he handles himself this year if he wants to remain the golden coach those rabid fans all loved when he led the Tigers to nine wins and a Top 20 ranking two years ago.

This is the point in a coach's career that Clemson fans start expecting championships, something that isn't likely to happen this year.

In Bowden's mind this is still a transitional season, one in which his first recruits finally start to mature. But his request for patience while he continues to build his program isn't likely to be granted by Tiger fans, who haven't enjoyed a real run for a conference championship in more than a decade.

To see more—including a detailed position-by-position analysis of every single team—pick up the "Blue Ribbon College Football Forecast." For more information or to order click on the link to the left. Use our 800-number (1-800-755-2518) and mention Code BRFW to get a 20 percent discount! Top Stories