The Clemson football season is some time away, but there are some early "givens" that Clemson must address if the Tigers plan to be bowl-eligible this year. Here are my top five.
1) Find a quarterback: This is a basic concept, and one that needs no explanation. Willy Korn is the four-star recruit, signed in 2007. He played in both 2007 and 2008 and in two years has thrown the ball just 49 times! His backup is Kyle Parker: he has even less experience. This is a huge concern for the Tigers.
2) Replacing Vic Koenning: There is no doubt that during his four years at Clemson, the Tiger defenses excelled and were consistently very good. Now the Tigers look to Kevin Steele to keep the defense at the same level. Steele is one of the most respected coaches in the game, but this is still an area of concern.
3) Receivers must step up: Gone are some very good receivers from the 2008 season. Clemson has Jacoby Ford, who will attract defensive attention. The problem lies with the rest of the receivers. While talented, this group has not proven themselves. Defenses will more than likely stack the line and force a young Clemson quarterback to throw. The receivers will need to run clean routes and make catches.
4) Depth at secondary: Clemson has a talented secondary that should have no problem covering receivers. But if the injury "bug" bights, watch teams go to the air.
5) Reaction after the first conference loss: I am sure Clemson fans will have dreams of a conference title in their minds come early August. (This is not a bad thing.) But Clemson opens the ACC season with a road game in Atlanta on a Thursday night. Anyone who follows college football knows that road teams rarely win on Thursday nights. So after Clemson loses, how will the fans react? Keep in mind, Clemson fans are unforgiving. (Clemson is perhaps one of the most difficult places to coach, due to unrealistic expectations.) With a young quarterback, this could be a recipe for the first losing season at Clemson since 1998.
****Also, the Tigers must keep Andre Ellington happy. The four-star running back from Berkley County was to share time with Jamie Harper this year. He red-shirted last year, anticipating getting many touches in 2009. But someone named CJ Spiller decided to stay for his senior year. The Tigers can ill afford to lose a future star after last season's low recruiting numbers.