Tigers Call Offseason "A BCS Summer"

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Much like this year, prior to the start of the 2004 season, there were many reasons to believe the Clemson football team was going to challenge for the conference title and a top bowl. However, it didn't come close to being that way.

The Tigers finished 6-5 and ended the season with a brawl against South Carolina, which prevented them from going to a bowl. It was just a bad year all the way around.

But as painful as it was then, suffering through that type of season may be very beneficial this year as the Tigers prepare to take to the field as a ranked team in 2006.

"We had high expectations a couple of years ago and we kind of fell on our face," said Clemson senior receiver Chansi Stuckey. "But I think this year, we're seniors now and we're they type of guys where we're not going to let things like that happen.

"You can't live off the name and where the publications and media have you. You've got to go out and play the season. No one's going to roll over. Every team in this conference is a good or great team, so you have to be focused."

Stuckey then went a little deeper with his thoughts about the cause of the problems in 2004 and how that will differ from this season.

"I think some guys thought it would be easy, but I think that we had some leadership, but the leadership wasn't where it needed to be," he said. "I think this year, we've got not only seniors leading, but some young guys stepping up and being leaders."

Senior defensive end Gaines Adams agreed with Stuckey, then added: "I believe the 2004 team got caught up in all the hype and everything. That's what we're going to have to change this year. Everyone has got to know their roles and go out and do it."

One of the ways the players have tried to increase their focus is come up with a motto during the offseason. The Tigers are calling this a "BCS Summer."

"We're setting our goals high where we want to go this year," Stuckey said.

However, in order to achieve that ultimate goal, Clemson can't afford to have any letdowns, like they've constantly displayed in the past.

"You've just got to preach it during the summer, like we're doing now," Stuckey said. "We've got to win games on the road and win the games we're that supposed to. It's just a lack of focus. But I think this year, with the group of seniors, I don't think we'll have a letdown like that this season."

Even though there are many that believe the Tigers will win the Atlantic Division, there are even more who think they will revert to their old ways and blow a game it should win.

Stuckey said the doubters are right in their thinking.

"Yes, because it's happened," he said. "It's been proven and we can't shake that. The only thing we can do now is try to move on this season and turn the program around to get it going back in the right direction like we were in the early 80s and early 90s. …

"The shoe is on a different foot now. We're usually trying to get to the top, but now we're just trying to get picked for the top, which is all good before the season, but once the season starts, all that changes."

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