10 Keys to 10 Wins: #1

For the first time since 2003, the Clemson football team will play a 12-game regular season schedule. And for the first time in a long time, Tiger fans are realistically talking about what it will take to get back to the 10-win plateau for the first time since 1990.

"This is again a very challenging schedule," said head coach Tommy Bowden. "We will face seven teams that won at least seven games last year, including two of the top teams in the ACC within our first three games, both on the road. Plus, we have to go to Virginia Tech, who won more games than any other ACC team last year."

While it's true the Tigers won't have to face Miami and Texas A&M this year, the team will face its fair share of challenges, including road games at Florida State and Boston College in two of the first three games of the year and playing 11 consecutive weeks to open the season.

"That is a positive if you get on a roll, like we did in 2000 (when Clemson played the first 10 weeks of the season), but it can be a negative if you run into injury problems," said Bowden.

So what will it take to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, challenge for a BCS berth and win 10 games for the first time in 15 years?

Today CUTigers continues our 10-part series, taking a look at what must happen in 2006 to get the football program to the proverbial "next level."

#10: No Slip-ups
#9: More Mr. Clutch
#8: Punt Team Improvement
#7: Freshmen Must be Ready
#6: Offensively, Open It Up
#5: Adams, Davis Must Remain Healthy
#4: One Loss Doesn't Kill the Season
#3: Strong Cornerback Play
#2: Continue the Turnover Trend

#1: Proctor Must Prove Himself
The argument could be made that senior quarterback Will Proctor will have more weapons at his disposal than his predecessor Charlie Whitehurst did during any of his four years at Clemson.

Not only will Proctor have the benefit of nine of the top 10 offensive linemen on the team returning this year, he'll also have ACC Rookie of the Year running back James Davis, senior running back Reggie Merriweather, All-ACC wide receiver Chansi Stuckey and sophomore wide out Aaron Kelly, who finished with a team-record 47 receptions as a red-shirt freshman in 2005.

And keep in mind that does not include players like Rendrick Taylor, who is expected to have a significant impact this year as a sophomore and the newly created J-back position, and also freshmen C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford.

Yes, Proctor has made only one start in his first four years at Clemson, but he fits Rob Spence's offense perfectly.

He makes good decisions with the football, he's mobile and he's also been preparing for his upcoming senior season in each of the last four years.

"It's something I've been preparing for," he said. "I went through it in high school. Anytime you play football at a big school like this you are definitely going to be in the limelight as a starting quarterback. It's definitely different (this year)."

QB Will Proctor completed 18-of-31 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns last year and was instrumental in wins over Texas A&M and Duke.
While Proctor has yet to go through the rigors of an average season, he's earned the respect of his teammates and demonstrated to the coaching staff he's ready to take the next step as the starting quarterback of this football team.

Of course, how well he performs will go a long way in determining just how successful the Tigers will be this year. If Proctor proves to be the kind of player many think he can be, the Clemson football team will indeed be contending for 10 wins and a shot at the ACC Championship.

And after an overall solid showing this spring, Proctor is confident the pieces are falling into place.

"We had a real productive spring on both sides of the ball," he said. "But we have to keep that momentum going throughout the summer and keep working hard. We need to have everybody stay focused. Hopefully everybody is going to be around this summer and we can keep working on timing between quarterbacks and receivers and keep focused for Florida Atlantic."

Of course, the one thing we don't know about Will Proctor is his ability to respond after making a mistake. For instance, what happens when Proctor throws his first interception? What happens when he has to put the team on his shoulders and lead a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter?

The good news is, in limited action last season he responded well in the clutch, including stepping in for Charlie Whitehurst in the fourth quarter of a 25-24 come-from-behind win over Texas A&M in the season opener.

Furthermore, just a brief conversation with head coach Tommy Bowden reveals he already has the utmost confidence in Proctor's abilities.

"He hasn't had a whole lot of distance to travel," said Bowden. "Last year he was the MVP of the spring game. His practice performance, Texas A&M performance and Duke performance have been pretty solid."

Still, until he takes the field for a 12-game season, Will Proctor has something to prove. And how well he proves himself will go a long ways in determining just how successful the Tigers can be in 2006.

"It's kind of a one-and-done year for me," said Proctor. "I've been waiting under a guy who is definitely considered a legend here. It's been hard at some points, but I figured it'd all be worth it in the end. I could have transferred and gotten playing time earlier, but Clemson is the place for me.

"Looking back on it, I'm definitely glad I'm here. This one year, hopefully, is going to be pretty special."

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