In 2008, the Clemson Tigers finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the ACC. The 4-4 mark was one game shy of ACC Atlantic division winner Boston College, who went 5-3. The Tigers finished the season losing to Nebraska in the Konica-Minolta Gator Bowl.
The 2009 Clemson Tigers have the ability to do great things. The Tigers return some experienced players on both sides of ball. If the Tigers play to their potential, they can definitely contend in the ACC.
Let's get started on offense where the Tigers return seven starters from last season.
The O-Line returns four starters from last 2008. Last year, the O-Line was very shaky because of youth and inexperience. However, this season it has improved and become tougher during the off-season.
Clemson is going with RS Jr. Chris Hairston at RT, Gr. Thomas Austin at LG, RS So. Mason Cly at C, So. Antoine McClain at RG, and RS Sr. Cory Lambert at RT. The Tigers look to have improved O-Line play from last season and it is expected to be one of their strengths.
At QB the Tigers are starting the season with RS Fr. Kyle Parker, a two-sport star (he also plays baseball) with a HUGE arm. Also expect RS So. Willy Korn to see some action at the position.
One possible weakness on offense could be at WR. The Tigers return one starter from last season in Sr. Jacoby Ford. Although a speedster with his sub 4.12 40-yd dash, Ford has got to step up his all-around game this season. He has been hampered in the preseason by a hamstring injury, but he will be fully fit the season opener.
The Tigers will start with Jr. Xavier Dye and RS Jr. Terrance Ashe at WR. Dye, 6'4", needs to develop into a big play guy for the Tigers. Ashe has been a consistent target in the past and that needs to continue this season. Also look for RS Fr. Jaron Brown and So. Marquan Jones to have breakout seasons.
At TE Clemson returns reliable target Sr. Michael Palmer. RS Fr. Dwayne Allen is another candidate for a breakout season. He has speed and size, and should become a go-to guy for the Tigers this season.
At RB, the Tigers return preseason Heisman contender C.J. Spiller. Spiller, one of the best players in the country, will be a huge part of Clemson's offense this season but needs to touch the ball at least 25 times a game.
Spiller was the "Lightning" part of "Thunder and Lightning," but with "Thunder" James Davis now in the NFL, Spiller is the feature back. The Tigers also return So. Jamie Harper, who had a shaky Fr. campaign.
Tigers RS Fr. Andre Ellington, is a big time playmaker and basically a younger version of Spiller. Expect him to see some action this season as well.
On defense, the Tigers return nine starters from a defense that ranked highly last season.
The Tigers are very deep on the D-Line this season. Clemson will go with the "Bamberg Bookends;" Sr. Ricky Sapp and So. Da'Quan Bowers at DE. Sapp and Bowers both played high school football together at Bamberg Ehrhardt High School in South Carolina.
The Tigers return Jr. Jarvis Jenkins at NG and So. Brandon Thompson at DT. Expect to see Sr. Kevin Alexander and RS Jr. Jamie Cumbie see significant time on the D-Line. Clemson did not record many sacks last season and will have to improve on that this year.
At LB Clemson returns a solid group. The Tigers are going with Sr. Kevin Alexander/Jr. Scotty Cooper at SLB, Freshman All-American in RS So. Brandon Maye at MLB, and RS Sr. Kavell Conner at WLB. LB was a weak spot going into last season, but the group played well throughout the season and are a strong piece for the Tigers this season.
The Clemson secondary is also solid with Gr. Chris Chancellor and Sr. Crezdon Butler at CB-both of whom are on the preseason Thorpe Award watch list. Clemson is the only team with both CB on the list.
The Tigers are going with Jr. DeAndre McDaniel at SS and Jr. Marcus Gilchrist at FS. Clemson is very deep in the secondary and have a number of options they can turn to.
On special teams, Clemson will start with Parade All-American RS Jr. Richard Jackson. So. Dawson Zimmerman returns at P for the Tigers this season. Clemson has two gamebreakers returning kicks this season in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford.
Dabo Swinney begins his first full season as Clemson head coach; promoted to HC having proved himself capable as interim coach last season. Swinney has preached toughness to the Tigers this offseason, and wants them to be "All In".
Swinney also plans to run more with the QB this season and plans to be more aggressive on defense this season.
The Tigers have a moderately difficult schedule this season. Their toughest games include an early season, Thursday night contest at Georgia Tech (9/10), an out of conference matchup at home against TCU (9/26), a showdown at Miami (10/24), a home game on 11/07 against FSU, before their final game of the season on the road against rival South Carolina (11/28).
The Clemson Tigers will be one of the best teams in the ACC this season and will compete for the ACC Championship in the '09 season. Clemson has a plethora of talent. They have as much, if not more, talent than anyone in their schedule. The Tigers should have a solid season with at least eight wins.
The question is, will they? Time To Put Up Or Shut Up. LET'S GET IT!!!