Perhaps this is the year that Clemson is able to live up to their lofty rankings. 2009 should be a much needed relief from the 2008 season where the Tigers were to contend for the BCS crown. This year the expectations are not as high as they are in the others receiving votes category in the coaches poll and ranked thirty-second by Rivals.
They also are projected to finish second in the Atlantic division behind Florida State, so there is no target on Clemson this season. They do have the potential ACC player of the year in running back CJ Spiller, however he has never rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season. His closest was his freshman year where we raked up 938 yards on the ground, however with Spiller's explosiveness he has the ability to make big plays. Look for this year to be his best now that he is not splitting carries as he did in 2008.
Besides Spiller the Tigers have a lot to make up for on offense with losses of QB Cullen Harper, RB James Davis, and WR Aaron Key who was one of the best receivers in ACC history.
The offensive line has talent with all five starters returning from last years dreadful line that broke in four new lineman. The line is easily most improved in the ACC, and should definitely be one of their strengths in 2009. According to the people who cover the ACC more closely then we do here the Clemson offensive line is ranked in the top third of the ACC.
The Tigers will need a good offensive line to help propel CJ Spiller surpass 1,000 yards, and help break in a new quarterback which will be either redshirt frosh Kyle Parker or Willie Korn. The early leader from spring is Parker but the final decision will during fall camp that is underway. Now all they need is a receiver who can replace Aaron Key who had 67 receptions, 722 yards, and four scores.
While the offense may have some wrinkles to work out the defense returns over half the starters from last year and the new starters had significant playing time. This defense finished second in scoring defense, and fourth in total defense in the ACC. Expect more of the same with improvement added. The reason the Tiger defense was so good was within their front seven.
They only had 14 sacks on the year but they were very good in run defense by not allowing them to get past the line of scrimmage; the defense had 85 tackles for loss which was third in the ACC. Clemson was fifth in total rushing yards allowed which sounds not too impressive however they were the only team in the ACC to allow under double digits rushing scores, by only allowing seven.
For how good their rushing defense was and has the potential to be the pass defense was even better and was third in passing yards allowed, but had 19 picks. The team does replace both every down players at the safety, but the new starters arae DeAndre McDaniel who is moving from corner to safety, and then there is senior Sadat Chambers.
Both of these safeties should not have a drop off in production from last year in terms of production, but the two corners who are in the race for the Thorpe Award with Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler who have started for the past two years will make this possibly the best secondary in the ACC.
Expect this Clemson team to be better from last year, because the national hype is not hoveirng over the team, but a trip to the ACC title game is not out of the question.