- 2008 Clemson Defense | 2008 Clemson Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Clemson Preview | 2006 CFN Clemson Preview
Here we go again.
Head coach: Tommy Bowden
10th year: 69-42
12th year overall: 87-46
Returning Lettermen: 52
Lettermen Lost: 21
Best Tiger Players
1. RB James Davis, Sr.
2. RB C.J. Spiller, Jr.
3. WR Aaron Kelly, Sr.
4. QB Cullen Harper, Sr.
5. NG Dorell Scott, Sr.
6. DE Ricky Sapp, Jr.
7. SS Michael Hamlin, Sr.
8. DE DaQuan Bowers, Fr.
9. C Thomas Austin, Jr.
10. FS Chris Clemons, Sr.
Aug. 30 Alabama (Atlanta)
With six starters back on offense and eight on defense, Tommy Bowden’s
biggest challenge this year will be keeping his Tigers from losing focus
or becoming overconfident.
Clemson is the early favorite to win the ACC title, a target it’ll have to wear until it loses its first game, if it loses its first game. While there are a few issues, the defense should be a killer, the skill players are the best in the ACC, and the time will never be better to finally turn the corner and become a premier powerhouse again. And that’s where the pressure kicks in.
This shapes up as a pivotal year for Bowden, who hasn’t quite been able to nudge the program over the hump, failing to win 10 games or qualify for a major bowl game in his nine years at the helm. Close to being fired several times, he managed to save his job with late year rallies, but now it’s win it all or bust. If he can’t get to the BCS this year, when is going to happen?
This is Bowden’s most talented team to date, adding an extra layer of pressure for a coach who’s no stranger to must-win situations. While there are certainly questions marks at linebacker and the offensive line is a big problem, but it’s not like Clemson is playing in the SEC. Every ACC team has issues, and no one has the upside the Tigers do.
The big question will be whether or not the team can keep up the intensity for a full season. A world-beater when the lights are on, Bowden’s teams have had problems with the out-of-the-blue lull. The offense blew up against NC State, and a week later managed three points against Georgia Tech. Two years ago the team was red hot with a 7-1 start only to lose four of the last five. Every year there’s one puzzling performance to throw things off, and that has to be avoided to finally win an ACC title for the first time in 17 years.
The Tigers open the season against Alabama in the Georgia Dome, so the tone for the season will be set right away. Everyone will know right away whether the Clemson is a championship contender or a perennial pretender. Exorcising a few late-season demons will be a must by dodging a November schedule that includes trips to Atlantic Division rivals Boston College and Florida State, but the team is good enough to navigate its way through. At least those are the expectations. One way or another, it’s not going to be just another year.
What to watch for on offense: The development of the offensive line. More than any other unit, the like will hold the key to the team’s season. Four players with starting experience are gone including all-stars Chris McDuffie and Barry Richardson. In their place, the program has a bunch of talented blockers, but not many with extensive game experience and it all showed this spring with an awful all-around performance. By 2009, this group will be hailed as one of the best in the ACC, but now it’s a source of much anxiety for an offense loaded everywhere else.
What to watch for on defense: Bowers power. Okay, so it’s unfair to start cranking up the hype machine for a true freshman, but 6-5, 265-pound DE Da’Quan Bowers actually warrants all of the attention. A next-level talent, he already has an NFL body and a monster spring camp in the books. At times, he was unblockable in April, finishing with seven tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks in the spring game. If he keeps working, he’ll be force up front as early as this fall.
This team will be far better if …the rebuilt offensive line gels in time for the opener. There are new faces at guard and tackle from a unit that underachieved a year ago. If the fuses are going to be lit on all of that explosive talent in the backfield and at wide receiver, it’s a must for the linemen to hold their blocks a little longer and give QB Cullen Harper more time to throw than he had in 2007.
The Schedule: It's Clemson, so there's always going to be a brain cramp or two along the way, but if Bowden's club can pull off a season-opening neutral site win over Alabama, there's no real reason for a team this loaded to not be 7-0, even though a trip to Wake Forest could be a bear trap, before November 1st. Then things get interesting with three road trips in four weeks facing Boston College, Florida State and Virginia before the yearly showdown against South Carolina. Even if everything goes right for the Tigers, it's too tough a schedule to get through unbeaten, but it's not nasty enough to prevent an Atlantic Division title.
Best Offensive Player: Senior RB James Davis. Feel free to insert QB Cullen Harper, RB C.J. Spiller, or WR Aaron Kelly, who are all near the top of their positions on a national level. A true workhorse, Davis is a downhill runner, who hits the hole in a flash and is always pumping his legs for extra yardage. The school’s top ground-gainer the last three years, he’s on target to leave Clemson as the school’s all-time leading rusher and scorer.
Best Defensive Player: Senior NG Dorell Scott. While his stats will never measure up with the other high-profile Tiger defenders, Scott means as much to the defense as any other player. A 6-4, 320-pound boulder in the center of the line, he occupies multiple blockers and is quick enough to shoot the gap and make plays behind the line. Entering his third season as a starter, he’s poised to become one of the best run-stuffing tackles in the country.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore OT Chris Hairston. The Tigers are pining for an anchor to build the line around, a role Hairston has shown signs he’s capable of handling. Blessed with great size and the athletic ability of a future left tackle, he kept Auburn’s rush ends in check in last December’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. If he’s as talented as the coaches believe, he and C Thomas Austin will be a solid foundation for a line in transition.
The season will be a success if ... Clemson wins the ACC crown. The Tigers enter the 2008 season with as much talent as any team in the league, so anything less than a BCS bowl game will be labeled a lost opportunity for Bowden and the program. Navigating trips to Wake Forest, Boston College, and Florida State, three tough Atlantic Division opponents, will be challenging, but the Tigers have the stars on both sides of the ball to survive that gauntlet.
Key game: Aug. 30 vs. Alabama. With a national TV audience in attendance, expectations soaring, and Nick Saban on the other sidelines, this is the kind of opener that’ll set the tone for the rest of the season. Although the outcome will have no bearing on the ACC race, Clemson has to start fast or else it’ll plummet in the Top 25 and be forced to spend the rest of the year trying to recapture its mojo.
- Punt return yards: Opponents 14.7 – Clemson 9.4
- Second quarter scoring: Clemson 151 – Opponents 33
- Turnovers: Opponents 25 – Clemson 12