5 Questions for the Season Opener

It's hard to believe, but the college football season is finally here. CUTigers.com takes a look at five questions facing the Clemson Tigers headed into their 2006 season opener against Florida Atlantic.

#5. Can Proctor handle adversity?
It's been discussed as much as any topic concerning Clemson football this offseason. Will Proctor- can he lead this team to its first ACC Championship in 15 years? The answer to the question, at least according to those that actually coach him and play the game with him is an resounding "yes." However, the one thing we don't know about this fifth-year senior is just how he'll respond after making his first big mistake? Chances are there won't be much adversity Saturday against Florida Atlantic, but it will be interesting to see how Proctor responds after throwing his first interception of the year.

#4. Who will punt?
Jimmy Maners vs. Cole Chason. It's a battle that has been fought since spring practice. Maners has improved his get-off time but Chason, the three-year starter, has looked better than he ever has during the preseason. Chances are both punters will get an opportunity against Florida Atlantic. The bigger special teams question may be at long snapper.

#3. Which freshmen will play?
Coach Tommy Bowden has made little secret about the fact that six to eight true freshmen will see the field this season. Entering the final week of practice CUTigers.com believes that RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, CB Crezdon Butler and DE Ricky Sapp are locks to play on Saturday. Other players who are on the bubble include DE Jamie Cumbie, LB Jeremy Campbell and LB Kevin Alexander.

#2. How big of an impact will C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford actually provide?
It's hard to imagine two players who have been hyped more than freshmen C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. Can they live up to those high expectations? More importantly will they get the touches to live up those expectations in the season opener? Spiller certainly figures in the game plan as the Tigers will run the ball more this season and Ford will get his touches in the return game and as a wide receiver, but will they be impact players right off the bat?

#1. Can this secondary cover anybody?
Sure, the nature of the question sounds a little harsh, but it is worth discussing. A year ago at this time, starting cornerbacks Duane Coleman and C.J. Gaddis were playing other positions- Coleman was even playing on offense. Now, both Gaddis and Coleman find themselves with targets on their backs in a secondary that lost its two top starters in Tye Hill and Jamaal Fudge. The good news is this should be as physical a secondary as any in the defensive-oriented ACC. But can these guys cover? Surely, Florida Atlantic will try and test the Tigers in the passing game.

Bonus: Will South Carolina lose to Mississippi State Thursday night?
It's always fun to poke fun at our feathered friends to the south, and considering this is the first year that Clemson doesn't open with a ranked opponent or Wake Forest, this could be one of the more intriguing story lines of early part of the year in the Palmetto state. A loss to Mississippi State would send the Gamecock nation into their typical late-season tailspin in the first game of the season. While it likely won't happen ... Mississippi State is that bad ... it will still be fun to watch what should be a nervous Gamecock contingent in Starkville Thursday night. The reported over/under on number of quarters QB Blake Mitchell plays before giving way to freshman Chris Smelley … two.


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