A lot can now be said of the disappointing 6-6 record posted by the Clemson Tigers. Some can point to coaching, lack of execution, and lack of leadership along the offensive side of the ball, which came back to bite the Tigers later in the season.
However, many are looking for more answers after the bowl game, and hope to find them in the 2011 recruiting class, which is ranked by many to be a top ten class, with a good number of freshmen to receive immediate playing time. As the bowl games pass, the off season is set to begin for Clemson. In evaluating the season, it is easy to see which areas of this Clemson squad need recharging.
Wide Receiver: Offensive skill in the passing game is the biggest need for Clemson, and it all starts here, at wide receiver. Early on, when veteran receivers Xavier Dye, Brandon Clear, and Terrance Ashe failed to step up, the younger cast of freshmen DeAndre Hopkins, Bryce McNeal, and Jaron Brown stepped in and swiped away the veterans' starting jobs, while fellow youngster Brandon Ford even moved to tight end and did better.
However, the group, aside from Hopkins, still lacked a true downfield threat, with Brown and McNeal better fitted as possession receivers. The 2011 class has addressed the need to find receivers, adding a total of five wideouts; the most notable are Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake, and Sammy Watkins, all of whom are listed as better downfield threats than the current receivers save for Hopkins. Look for these three names to be in orange jerseys taking the field as soon as possible, and add more pressure to McNeal and Brown to perform.
The tight ends will also gain more attention, as Clemson has landed Eric MacLain who will bring competition into a young group of tight ends behind Dwayne Allen. The tight end must become important in the passing game again.
Quarterback: With Parker gone, Boyd is set to become the starter, and this position becomes a need due to depth rather than immediate contribution. Clemson has made sure to address the quarterbacks in its class, adding two quarterbacks by the names of Tony McNeal and Cole Stoudt to compete for the back up positions along with Donny McEleeven. McNeal has been described as more of a pro-style quarterback, while Stoudt has been classified as more of a dual-threat.
The offensive line remains mostly intact, with Chris Hairston the only loss. Brandon Thomas is set to replace him.
The running back position is deep, and it gets even deeper with the addition of Marlin Lane and Mike Bellamy—four and five star prospects, respectively. With Harper a rising senior, and Rod McDowell likely to become more of a slot option, the position will be crowded with redshirt freshmen Demont Buice and DJ Howard coming into the mix. The backfield's future looks brighter heading into next season, likely featuring a four running back rotation of Ellington, Harper, Bellamy, and Lane.
The defense remains the biggest strong suit of Clemson's team, and will be highlighted by position within the following days.