The Tigers are ready ... are you?

I've heard several Clemson fans say this already since spring practice ended, "why should I get excited about the new season? They will just get my hopes up and then bring them crashing down."

This logic is understandable when Tommy Bowden was the head coach. More than once Bowden coached teams appeared to have all the tools to make a run at an ACC Championship, only to find some way or some excuse to lose it. No bigger letdown, obviously, than last season, when they returned a stout defense along with a near 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard runner and a 1,000-yard receiver, not to mention running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Jacoby Ford.

Believe it or not, the Tigers were the team to beat in the ACC at this point last year. Some viewed them as a legitimate dark horse in the national title race. But that all came crashing down when Alabama routed them 34-10 in the Georgia Dome to open the season and then after a 3-3 start, Bowden was let go as head coach and so began the Dabo Swinney Era.

So why should Clemson fan's be excited about this season? For one, the team will be as physical as it has ever been since the days of Jeff Nunamacher, Stacy Long, Jeb Flesch and Stacy Seegars on the offensive line, and William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Michael Dean Perry, Brentson Buckner, Chester McGlockton and Trevor Pryce on the defensive line.

The secondary is loaded with talent that reminds some of Terry Kinard, Dexter McCleon, Brian Dawkins, Robert O'Neal, Dexter Davis and Donnell Woolford.

Then there is Spiller, a legitimate 2009 Heisman Trophy candidate that brings explosiveness and speed that has never been seen at Clemson. He can run the ball. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can be a receiver and he is one of the best return specialists in the game.

Then there is Swinney himself. A no-nonsense coach who asks a lot out of his players, including being physically tough, having the want to and doing everything together.

"His values and his toughness is something you want to be involved with," Spiller said.

To really get a look at what the 2009 team could be like, really go back and breakdown the last six games of the season, starting with the win at Boston College. Clemson went 4-2 in that stretch, and in those two losses, they were knocking on the door with a shot to beat Nebraska in the Gator Bowl and they were an onside kick away from having a chance to tie Florida State in Tallahassee.

Keep in mind that was done with two less coaches, with a makeshift coaching staff and with a team that was completely divided when Swinney inherited the program on Oct. 13.

"You can see guys really buying into it," Spiller said. "Guys really want to have a great season this year. If we want to accomplish good things, we have to be able to do the little things too. If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."

Granted there are still questions as to who will be the starting quarterback, who will catch the ball and are things settled at kicker? Yes, some will have the wait-and-see kind of attitude as it pertains to the offensive line, but with less than 80 days left before the start of the football season, how can you not get excited?

The players are.

"This year we are flying under the radar," Spiller said. "Not too many people are really giving us a chance to do anything really significant because of our coaching change, but we like that. We know what we have to do as a group and we are just going to go out and perform and let the results speak for themselves." Top Stories