Clemson Football: Best and Worst Moments of Tigers Offseason
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—and the Clemson Tigers have certainly seen both in the 2012 offseason.
A shrewd coaching change and a gigantic recruiting coup have highlighted Clemson's downtime, while two embarrassing events; the arrest of a star player and a Twitter cat-fight between two others, have lowlighted it.
Nonetheless, expectations are still favorable for the upcoming season, as the Tigers return a strong base of talented players.
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Clemson's offseason.
Best: New Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables
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The Clemson defense was incinerated by the West Virginia offense in a humiliating 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to end the 2011-12 season.
Aside from that, the Tigers' defense was pummeled numerous times throughout the season, allowing 30 or more points in seven games.
So after finishing No. 81 in the nation in scoring defense, Clemson wisely cut ties with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Dabo Swinney made a trendy hire by scooping up Brent Venables from Oklahoma, one of the most well-known defensive coordinators in college football.
The Oklahoma defense was great at times during Venables' 13-year tenure but was also suspect at times last year in the Big 12, which was arguably the deepest conference in the country a year ago.
However, Venables is a revered recruiter, which has already been evident.
In all, this looks like a great hire for Clemson.
Best: Commitment of Robert Nkemdiche
Photo via NoCoastBias.com
Fans all across the south were surprised when the Grayson High School product selected the Tigers over the likes of Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss (where Robert's brother plays).
It marked the first major recruiting draw in the Venables Era, as the Georgia native will be the crown jewel of the 2013 Clemson class.
A few of Nkemdiche's Grayson teammates are already set to join him at Clemson and he is hoping the Tigers will extend an offer to yet another one of his buddies (per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, h/t Adam Himmelsbach, New York Times).
It may seem like a nuisance but, as talented as Nkemdiche is, this may prove to be just a slight annoyance for an elite athlete.
If Clemson holds onto Nkemdiche, this may prove to be the best part of its 2012 offseason.
Best: The Maxwell Watch List
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Whether Venables is able to make an immediate on-field impact or not, Clemson will be able to lean heavily on what will be one of the most talented offenses in the country.
Clemson joins USC, Oklahoma and Arkansas as the only programs to have three players named to the preseason Maxwell Award watch list.
The Maxwell is essentially the other Heisman Trophy, as it is awarded to the player of the year in college football.
Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were the previous four winners.
That puts Clemson's three watch listers, quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, in some pretty esteemed company.
Worst: Offensive Line Losses
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Clemson will have to endure some massive losses on its offensive line—literally.
Literally, the Tigers will lose 1,534-pounds through five departures who measured up at an average size of 6'4" 306-pounds.
The only returning starter is center Dalton Freeman who will lead an offensive line which (as of the post-spring depth chart) will start two juniors and two sophomores.
One key addition to the offensive line will be the transition of Tyler Shatley from defensive tackle to offensive guard.
As talented as Clemson's skill players are, it will be tough for them to succeed without a fortified line.
It all starts up front, and right now that is a question mark for this Clemson team.
Worst: Sammy Watkins' Legal Issues
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It is always bad when a player is arrested.
When a star player is arrested, it's downright ugly.
Both are misdemeanor charges, so it certainly could be worse for the Tigers.
It was originally believed that he would at least sit out Clemson's season opener against Auburn, if not more, but now that may not be the case.
Travis Sawchik of The Post and Courier said that Watkins may still see the field against Auburn.
Swinney said Sammy Watkins could play against Auburn. Swinney also said last month that Watkins would miss gametime as part of his arrest on drug charges.
Sawchik then went on to place the over/under of Watkins suspension time at 1.5 quarters.
Place your bets.
Worst: Twitter Battle Royale: Chad Kelly vs. Cole Stoudt
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The good, old fashioned, childish Twitter battle.
I just can't get enough of them and lately, everyone seems to be getting in on the 140-character trolling.
The latest has been an embarrassing digital scuffle between Clemson's second-string quarterback Cole Stoudt and incoming freshman quarterback Chad Kelly.
Essentially, the high school all-American Kelly said that "your" (apparently meaning Stoudt) sitting the bench for a reason. Kelly then basically claimed that he was coming to take Stoudt's job, to which Stoudt replied that he shouldn't be talking because he hasn't done anything yet.
The Buffalo, New York native went on to say that he was coming to Clemson to play and not to sit the bench and he claimed that he would see the field in his freshman season.
Kelly's grammar is awful (not internet shorthand awful, just plain awful), so Clemson better hope his arm is better than his diction.
At least Kelly didn't claim he was coming to take the starting job from Tajh Boyd.
Nonetheless, this certainly won't be positive for the team chemistry at Clemson.