After beginning work on the 2007 Clemson Football Preview edition of CUTigers The Magazine, (due out in late June) I was able to come up with enough notes to write a little commentary for the web site.
Here are early thoughts on Clemson's 2007 schedule:
N.C. STATE: New Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien gave his team a fresh start during spring practice, meaning every starting position was up for grabs. Instead of releasing a two-deep depth chart, O'Brien used an "organizational chart" to keep track of who was doing what. While N.C. State clearly has talent remaining from Chuck Amato's recruiting efforts, it will be interesting to see how O'Brien's discipline transforms a program that's been anything but structured in recent years. By the way, how would you like to be Tom O'Brien when the Wolfpack travel back to his old stomping grounds in Chestnut Hill, Mass. for the SECOND game of the 2007 season? If I'm Matt Ryan or Brian Toal, I'd like to show my old coach just what he's missing out on this season.
VIRGINIA TECH: Did I spell that right? With eight starters returning on offense and eight more on defense, Virginia Tech looks like the cream of the crop in the ACC this year. Remember the unit that led the nation in total defense and scoring defense last season? Yeah, the Hokies are only going to be better this year. If Virginia Tech can somehow pull out a win at LSU in the second game of the season ... look out. Quarterback could still be a question mark, but Brett Jensen could take over in Blacksburg and lead the Hokies to 10 wins given the returning talent there this season. On second thought, maybe not.
MARYLAND: The big question mark for the Terps this year will be at quarterback, where Jordan Steffy takes over for two-year starter Sam Hollenbach. A late-October trip to the Byrd Stadium will be anything but easy, but who in their right mind thinks Steffy will be as accurate against Clemson's zone defense as Hollenbach was a year ago? I sure don't. Still, Ralph Friedgen's team won't beat itself and it has just enough talent to make a run in the Atlantic Division. By the way, if you haven't had a chance to visit College Park, Mary. as a fan of another ACC school, do yourself a favor and don't do it. Just trust me on that one. Byrd Stadium is surprisingly loud but the television cameras fool the average fan into thinking it's twice as big as it really is. Don't fall for it. Next time you see a Maryland home game on television - know the pressbox side has no upper level. It's a hoax.
DUKE: The Blue Devils, fresh off an 0-12 campaign under fourth-year head coach Ted Roof, hired Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas as their offensive coordinator this offseason. Vaas, of course, was the coach of expected first round draft pick Brady Quinn the past two seasons. Expect a more aggressive passing game from the Blue Devils this season. Don't forget, Clemson returns the scene of one of the worst losses in school history this year- Durham, N.C. The Tigers lost 16-13 in 2004 just one week after upsetting No. 10 Miami in the Orange Bowl in their last trip to Wallace-Wade Stadium. Quick ... what's Ted Roof's record since taking over the Duke program in Dec. 2003? How about 5-34? Ouch. Good coach, bad program.
BOSTON COLLEGE: If you've watched Clemson's two games against Boston College since the Eagles joined the league, you get the sense the Tigers are facing a team that runs an NFL-type scheme, especially on offense. Whatever system it is the Eagles run- works. And this year it will have even more of an NFL influence as new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski was hired away from the Green Bay Packers and offensive coordinator Steve Logan (formerly of East Carolina fame) was plucked away from the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe. The scary thing is former BC coach Tom O'Brien admitted when leaving that his 2007 team would likely be his best ever in terms of returning talent. In fact, Boston College may be the early favorite to win the Atlantic Division, even with a coaching change.
GEORGIA TECH: The idea of addition by subtraction will be proven this year in Atlanta as Tyler Bennett takes over for Reggie Ball at quarterback. Ball, who was wildly inconsistent during his four years with the Jackets, never lived up to expectations and Bennett proved in the bowl game he has the ability to move the chains and put points on the board. Tech returns many of its top defenders and just enough weapons on offense, including one of the top running backs in the conference in Tashard Choice to be a contender in the Coastal Division. Maybe that will help keep Chan Gailey from putting his resume in front of every NFL general manager next offseason.
WAKE FOREST: No, you aren't dreaming- the Demon Deacons are the defending ACC Champions in 2007. Surprisingly the Deacs return just enough talent to be dangerous once again this year, including eight starters on offense, five on defense and All-World specialist Sam Swank. If you haven't figured it out by now, it's probably not smart to think Clemson will waltz all over a Jim Grobe-coached team. It hasn't happened yet, and it won't happen this year either. By the way, when's the last time you heard of a coach finding a way to win a conference championship with a third string rookie quarterback? Oh, and he also did without his top running back and a starting offensive lineman, who were both lost to injury. Get the picture? Jim Grobe is a great coach and Wake Forest will always be a formidable team with him roaming the sideline.
FLORIDA STATE: Get used to hearing the following name throughout the summer: Jimbo Fisher. Fisher, who takes over as Florida State's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, will be the subject of nearly every Seminole football preview written this year. Of course, Fisher must work his magic quickly with quarterbacks Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee if he expects to lead Florida State back to conference supremacy. Problem is, Lee can't throw the ball in the ocean and Weatherford's confidence has clearly been shaken in his first two years running the show. Good thing the Tigers get Florida State early this season.
SOUTH CAROLINA: No, South Carolina isn't in the ACC but it's always important to keep an eye on the archrival. Listening to Steve Spurrier's comments through the course of spring practice, you get the sense he's got his swagger back, and rightfully so. The Gamecocks return nearly everybody on defense and enough firepower on offense to make most teams in the SEC nervous. Still, am I the only one that remembers South Carolina was 3-5 in the SEC last season? That's 3-5 as in just three wins against five losses. Gamecock fans will be quick to point out that many of those losses came in the final seconds, including a one-point loss to eventual National Champion Florida on the road and that's as understandable as it is impressive. However the 2007 schedule doesn't get any easier for South Carolina, especially with road games at LSU, at Georgia, at Tennessee and at Arkansas. Find a way to win two of those games and the sky is the limit. If Carolina goes 0-for-those four games, it will be difficult to improve on last year's 8-5 record.
Commentary: Early 2007 Schedule Analysis
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