Before you read any further know that this is a very biased article. I love Clemson football and like millions of other fans, I would love to believe this is the year my team lives up to its potential. This article is written as if from the future, three years from now, as I reflect back on my time at Clemson. I realize this is very optimistic, however here it goes.
Over the past four years I have grown in every aspect of life while attending Clemson University. I appreciate so many things from my Clemson experience. I appreciate: my degree in industrial engineering, the countless crazy stories of dorm room life, the wacky but down to earth professors, and the relationships built that will never fade away. I started with several friends and finished with thousands. But the memory that will always stand out for me is my sophomore year, the season when the Clemson football team finally turned the corner. The 08-09 season was the season of the Clemson Tigers. The season where Tommy Bowden finally proved to the fan base he’s worth the money, where they captured the ever illusive ACC Title, and played for and won a National Championship.
They started and finished the regular season by beating teams from the daunting SEC and beat the ever constant USC Trojans to win it all. Cullen Harper followed up his stellar junior year with a record breaking senior year. James Davis and CJ Spiller showed the multitudes why they were coined “Thunder and Lightning.” Aaron Kelley, Tyler Grisham, and Jacoby Ford provided constant excitement while causing fear in every opposing teams secondary. All the while the offensive line lead by Thomas Austin answered every question that was asked of them in the off season. The offense clicked on all cylinders.
And then there was the D. While the offense was stellar, the defense was nothing short of spectacular. Led by senior starting safety, Michael Hamlin, the secondary with the likes of Chris Chancellor, Chris Clemmons, and Crezdon Butler proved to be the anchor of the stingiest defense in Clemson history. The defense kept its top 10 form overall while excelling in categories including points allowed, yards allowed, red zone defense, and helped secure the top turnover ratio in the nation. The linebacking core came through stronger than any fan could have hoped by filling the holes Auburn’s offense so obviously exploited in the previous year’s Peach Bowl. And the defensive line won the battle up front week in and week out. With three returning starters the defensive line excelled in everything from run stopping to quarterback popping. Scott, Jackson, and Sapp showed how valuable years under their belts could be while freshman phenom Da’Quan Bowers proved the scouts right by having an immediate impact in the pass rush by being reunited with high school buddy with Ricky Sapp on the other side of the line.
And finally the ever questionable special teams problems were finally fixed. No more Virginia Tech fiascoes, the Clemson special teams not only kept them in close games, but helped them win some for a change. Tommy Bowden finally realized Mark Bucholz is golden from less than 40 yards and in between the hash marks and also recognized that having a special teams coach isn’t the end of the world. Jacoby Ford and CJ Spiller provided the constant threat of taking one to the house based solely on the fact that their quicks were quicker than yours, and they knew it.
Looking back, it couldn’t have gone any better. The 08-09 football season was the year of the Tigers, the Clemson Tigers. And I enjoyed every minute of it.