Tiger's Time: Clemson Will Be Ready To Claim ACC Crown in 2011
Every year Clemson fans say it: "This will be our year." And every year it's the same result: the Tigers score a big win over a top 15 team, and then lose to a Maryland or Wake Forest the next week.
That's how football has gone in Clemson for over a decade, lots of hype, tons of potential, but they never finish the job. They came close in 2009, falling short in the ACC Championship game, but it's been two decades since the ACC crown found its home in Tiger Town.
Its hard to pick a team that finished 6-7 to turn around and win their conference, but Clemson seems to be getting the pieces in place for a big turnaround. I'd hate to jinx the Tigers so early, but let's face it, this is college football and the only thing to do in the offseason is speculate.
Let's start at the top: head coach Dabo Swinney. When Dabo took over for Tommy Bowden in the middle of the 2008 season, he had some decent success and Clemson's athletic administration thought he was a miracle worker.
Good on Dabo for getting some wins, but when he was hired as the full-time head coach, I'm sure more than one Tiger fan lost some sleep. His hire was a typical Clemson move, bring in someone who can do a fair job at a good price.
Coach Swinney has proved some nay-sayers wrong though, and Clemson has had some success with him calling the shots. He has proven himself as a recruiter, and he has finally started to revamp his coaching staff. One of the most impressive moves that Dabo has made up to this point is the hire of Tulsa's Chad Morris to drive the offense.
Every Clemson fan gets an upset stomach and suffers a mild heart attack every time the Tigers have the ball. Plain and simple: You never know what's going to happen. I for one am excited to see what this new coach can do for the Clemson offense.
After a decade of watching bubble screens on 3rd-and-18, a new spread attack will be a welcome change. Morris had great success in terms of offensive production at Tulsa, and he should be able to achieve a similar outcome at Clemson.
In one of the best recruiting moves that the Tigers have made in years, the coaches brought in some players who will be a perfect fit in this new offensive system, while addressing some serious team needs.
The receiving corps seriously struggled last year, with Deandre Hopkins emerging as the only significant threat that the Tigers had. That should all change next season as three top notch receivers will move into Clemson next fall to help Hopkins with the load.
Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant will all be able to make an impact next year. Watkins is, to put it mildly, a beast. At the Army All-American game he showed that he has the quickness to make defensive backs just look silly. Peake has great hands and is a very reliable target. Not to mention that he looks like he is chiseled out of marble. Bryant, though a little unpolished, has big play ability and his long frame will cause mismatches down field.
These new receivers should make Tajh Boyd's life a lot easier. Boyd showed that he could get the offense moving in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and his legs will make him a good fit in Morris's new offense. With some work in the spring, Boyd has the potential to put up big numbers next year.
Next to Boyd will first and foremost be Andre Ellington. Ellington was a breath of fresh air at times last season, and let's face it, the kid can play. If he stays healthy, he could very well have a Spiller-esque year.
Everyone is curious to see how incoming freshman Mike Bellamy will fit into the picture. Bellamy has that top end speed that everyone loves, but his size has raised some questions. If Bellamy can break a few tackles, he is going to have some highlights.
Hopefully the offensive woes will be at a minimum next season, but when they struggle, the Tiger Defense will be able to bail them out. With some returning talent, and some immediate-impact freshman, ACC offenses will struggle against Clemson.
The biggest story here is the signings of Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. These two monsters will start making a legacy as a linebacker duo from day one. Both are fast, strong and can make plays...what else do you want?
The Clemson defense will be strong like it always is, and don't even get me started on what will happen if the Tigers can land Jadeveon Clowney. One word: Filthy. With a little support from the offense the defense will only play better.
All the places are set for the Tigers to do some big things next season. Sure, Florida State may have won the recruiting battle, but all of Clemson's impact freshman will be in position to contribute from day one.
I see Clemson having at least a spot in the ACC Championship game, and once they get there, the title will be theirs for the taking. It scares to me to write all of this, like I said before, the football gods don't like to shine on Clemson too often. Maybe if I send this as a prayer and not a prediction the Tigers will have a better shot.
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