With a new head coach in Dabo Swinney, a new offensive coordinator in Billy Napier, and a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele, Clemson will the open the ACC as one the conferences biggest unknowns.
What will be the five keys to Clemson having successful season and contending for an Atlantic Division title?
Kyle Parker ends any quarterback controversy right away
Parker has been named the starter by head coach Dabo Swinney now he needs to play like one. In a tightly contested quarterback battle with South Carolina product Willy Korn, Park edged ahead of Korn because frankly he just has more raw talent.
Parker is more accurate, has a stronger arm, and is nearly as mobile as Korn. Swinney has stated that Korn will play, and that's fine, but if Parker struggles early and a quarterback controversy ensues, that's never good for a team.
Highly regarded freshman QB Tajh Boyd will be red shirted this year.
Keep C.J. Spiller healthy and get him the ball
In games last year where C.J. Spiller had less than 10 carries, Clemson was 2-4, and that includes a six-carry game against the Citadel that the Tigers won. Spiller rested most of the game.
He missed almost all of the Wake Forest game and all of the Georgia Tech game. Clemson lost both.
The Tigers are deep at running back with talented but young RB's Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington waiting in the wings. Spiller is that special kind of player, though, who can score anytime he touches the ball.
He's always had James Davis as a partner in the past, but now he's the feature back. He can score running, receiving, and returning kicks, and he needs to stay on the field for the Tigers to be successful.
Da'Quan Bowers lives up to his potential.
Bowers came into Clemson as the No. 1 rated DE in the class of 2008 by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He was pretty much a can't miss prospect.
Last year, we saw glimpses of a player with tremendous athleticism, but had the tendency to overrun plays. I've went to several Clemson spring games the last few years, and I've rarely seen a player dominate the way Bowers did this year. I really believe he is about to become one of the best players in the ACC.
Along with Ricky Sapp. the Tigers may have the best pair of DE's in the conference, and that should really help a pass rush that had only 14 sacks last year. The Tigers may have a future All-American on their hands.
Field Goal Kicking
The Tigers figure to be in some close games this year and with the departure of the solid Mark Buchholz, finding a good FG kicker has been one of the offseason's most important jobs. Spencer Benton and Richard Jackson have been battling for the position. Neither had distinguished himself through most of the early fall practices.
If pressed, Swinney appears to be leaning towards former Parade All-American kicker Jackson. This position might be more tightly contested than the QB position was.
Clemson is a far cry from the three yards and a cloud of dust football that was their identity in the Danny Ford 1980s era.
Throughout Tommy Bowden's tenure, the Tigers resembled a finesse football team, more often throwing a bubble screen on 3rd and 3 than just pounding it in.Goaline runs were replaced with fade routes from the four yard line.
Dabo Swinney has been preaching an increased focus on toughness. As I noted in my Clemson Preview on ACCSECblog, it's not just a philosophy, but also a change scheme wise for the Tigers. There will be more power I, more use of the fullback, and more use of the tight end, than in years past.
If the Tiger players buy in, this should help Clemson deal with the more physical teams on their schedule—the same type of teams they've struggled with the last few years.