In 2007, the Clemson Tigers finished 9-4 and 5-3 in the ACC. The 5-3 mark was one game short of placing them in the ACC Championship Game. Instead, the Tigers ended up losing to Auburn in overtime in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
The 2008 version of the Clemson Tigers is one of the best in years. The Tigers return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The Tigers will contend for ACC Championship and possibly the National Championship for numerous reasons.
Let's get started talking about the offense. The Tigers are absolutely LOADED this season on the offensive side of the ball.
The one possible weak spot of the offense could be on the O-Line. The Tigers lost 3 of their full-time starters from last season. However, they do return 3 lineman who have starting experience, two of which started full-time last season. Clemson is going with RS Soph Chris Hairston at LT, RS Jr. Jamarcus Grant at LG, RS Jr. Thomas Austin at C, RS Jr. Barry Humphries at RG, and RS Jr. Cory Lambert at RT. So, the Tigers do have experienced players on the line.
At QB the Tigers return Cullen Harper, who was 2nd Team All-ACC last season. Last season was Harper's first season as a starter, but he played extremely well throwing 27 TD's to only 6 picks. Harper is rated as the #1 Sr. QB this season and was voted preseason ACC MVP.
At WR Clemson returns a plethora of options, including 2007 All-ACC 1st Teamer Aaron Kelly. Kelly is chasing several Clemson and ACC receiving records. Kelly, at 6'5", provides a big target for Harper. Also returning is Tyler Grisham. Grisham is very underrated. He will catch everything and will go across the middle with no fear. However, probably the best part of his game is his blocking ability. Speedster Jacoby Ford is also returning this season. Ford was injured at the end of last season, but is expected to be at full strength when the season starts. Ford is a vertical threat with his sub 4.12 40-yd dash and he will stretch the field for the Tigers.
At RB, the Tigers return James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The two combine to form the deadly "Thunder and Lightning". Davis was 1st Team All-ACC last season, and flirted with the NFL before pulling his name out of the draft on the last day to do so. Spiller had a bit of a down season last year, but has worked very hard in preseason camp to improve his running between the tackles. He still has his gamebreaking ability, which was evident in his 83 yd. TD run against Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl at the end of last season.
On defense the Tigers return 7 starters from a defense that ranked 9th nationally a year ago.
The Tigers are very deep on the D-Line this season. The Tigers will start with Ricky Sapp and Kevin Alexander at the DE positons this year, and with Dorrell Scott and Jamie Cumbie/Jarvis Jenkins at DT's. Alexander is being pushed by Fr. Da'Quan Bowers, who was the #1 prospect in the nation according to ESPN. I expect to see Bowers starting across from his high school teammate Sapp before the season ends. Preseason starter at DT Rashaad Jackson was injured in preseason camp and is now out until midway through the season. He is being replaced by either Jamie Cumbie or Jarvis Jenkins.
LB could be the weak spot of the defense this season. The Tigers will go with 3 new starters, but they are very athletic but they are also young. Clemson is going with Scotty Cooper at SAM, Brandon Maye at MIKE and Kavell Conner at WILL. Cooper got significant playing time last season.
The Clemson secondary was recently rated as #2 in the nation behind only Ohio State. Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor return at the CB positions, and Chris Clemons and 2007 All-ACC 1st Teamer Michael Hamlin are at the S positions. Hamlin is a ballhawk and is a potential 1st round draft pick in the upcoming draft. Hamlin and Clemons combine to form a hard hitting safety duo.
On special teams, Clemson returns K Mark Bucholz who will be always remembered for making a game winning FG against rival South Carolina last season. Punting for the Tigers will be either last season's starter Jimmy Maners, or Fr. Dawson Zimmerman. Clemson has two gamebreakers returning kicks in Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller this season.
Tommy Bowden is back for his 10th season as Clemson's head coach. He signed a contract exentension in the offseason so this season the pressure is all on the players.
The Tigers have a relatively easy schedule this season and they are playing in a down ACC. Clemson's toughest games will be the opening game against Alabama, a Thursday night game at Wake Forest, a road game at Florida State, and the final game of the season against rival South Carolina at home.
In my opinion, the Clemson Tigers will be one of the best teams in college football this season. I believe the Tigers will win the ACC and will be a darkhorse for the National Championship. They have more talent than anyone on their schedule and will be favored in every game. So they should win all of their games this season. The question is, will they?
The Clemson Tigers start their Championship run tonight, August 30, at 8 pm on ABC. Time To Put Up Or Shut Up. LET'S GET IT!!!
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