This is the first of two articles on Clemson's chances of repeating as Atlantic Division champions in the 2010 season. This article will cover what needs to happen for Clemson to take the division, and the next will cover what could cause the Tigers to fall short.
1. Kyle Parker will stay for fall football.
Right now, this is looking like the most unlikely of the five. Kyle Parker is burning it up on the diamond this season, and it's going to come down to fall football at Clemson, or a couple million dollars signing bonus in the MLB draft for Parker.
If Parker stays, good things will happen for the Tiger's offense. Parker was a freshman All-American and will only continue to improve. Tajh Boyd provides a good backup option, but the full year of experience that Parker has under his belt could lead Clemson back to the ACC championship.
2. Andre Ellington will emerge as an elite back.
C.J. Spiller is gone. Don't let it send you spiralling into depression. Andre Ellington will develop as an elite back in the ACC. Whether it will happen next season is up for debate.
If last year is any indication, Ellington could make a big splash during the 2010 season. In 2009, he put up a whopping 7.2 yards per carry, a mere .1 yards behind C.J. Spiller's freshman average.
3. Clemson's defense will rank in the top 15.
The talent is there, the coaching is there, and Clemson is ready to return to the top national tier of defenses. Charlie Harbison and Kevin Steele are doing a great job of preparing the defense and appear to be quite pleased with early spring results.
The Tigers finished 20th in total defense last season. That ranking will need to improve for Clemson to win the Atlantic Division again. By all accounts thus far, it should.
4. The wide receiving core will develop.
Clemson lost its top three receivers in Jacoby Ford, Michael Palmer, and C.J. Spiller. For Clemson to succeed on offense, new faces will need to fill the void. Look for Xavier Dye and Dwayne Allen to step up, with Andre Ellington taking over Spiller's duties of catching out of the backfield.
If the receiving core can pull it together this season as a coherent unit, look for Clemson to outscore ACC opponents all season.
5. Jimbo Fisher will need a year to transition.
Being quite frank, Florida State looks to be pretty good next season. If Jimbo Fisher immediately settles in and feels comfortable being the face of the team, Clemson may have a tough time getting past FSU.
However, if Fisher hesitates even a little and fails to maximize his team's output, Clemson will have its opening to the top of the Atlantic.