Coming off an 11-2 season with a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, optimism is running high at Clemson. The Tigers are the early favorite to win the ACC in 2013 and will likely be a top-10 team in most preseason polls. With quarterback Tajh Boyd returning to campus for his senior year, Clemson will have one of college football’s top offenses. The Tigers averaged 41 points a game last season, and despite the departure of receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the NFL, this offense can keep that pace going in 2013. While the offense is one of the best in the nation, the defense is still a work in progress. Clemson made some gains in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables, but the Tigers still have some work to do in 2013.
Clemson Tigers 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Spring practice dates: March 6-April 13
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7
Passing: Tajh Boyd, 287 of 427, 3,896 yards, 36 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Tajh Boyd, 186 car., 514 yards, 10 TDs
Receiving: Sammy Watkins, 57 rec., 708 yards, 3 TDs
Tackles: Spencer Shuey, 93
Sacks: Vic Beasley, 8
Interceptions: Five players tied with 1
Redshirts to Watch: QB Chad Kelly, WR Germone Hopper, C Jay Guillermo, OL Patrick Destefano
Early Enrollees to Watch: DB Jadar Johnson, DE Shaq Lawson, TE Jordan Leggett, DE Ebenezer Ogundeko
Aug. 31 Georgia
Sept. 7 South Carolina State
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 19 at NC State
Sept. 28 Wake Forest
Oct. 5 at Syracuse
Oct. 12 Boston College
Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech
Nov. 23 Citadel
Nov. 30 at South Carolina
Related Content: 2013 ACC Schedule Analysis
Offensive Strength: The unquestioned strength of Clemson’s offense is quarterback Tajh Boyd and one of the ACC’s top receiving corps. Boyd is the ACC’s No. 1 quarterback for 2013 and should be in the mix for All-American honors.
Offensive Weakness: The Tigers have few weaknesses on offense, but they must find replacements for running back Andre Ellington and center Dalton Freeman.
Defensive Strength: Even though the Tigers will miss defensive end Malliciah Goodman, there’s a lot to like about the front seven. Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes are back at end, while the Tigers have a handful of contributors ready at tackle. The linebacking corps should be solid, especially if Stephone Anthony can live up to his recruiting hype in 2013.
Defensive Weakness: There’s plenty of room to grow on the defense, but the secondary probably needs the most attention in spring practice. Defensive backs Rashard Hall, Jonathan Meeks and Xavier Brewer are gone, which leaves a void in the secondary. Getting Martin Jenkins back after missing all of 2012 due to an injury will help this unit.
Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers
1. Get Sammy Watkins back on track. After a standout freshman season, Watkins was a major disappointment in 2012. Watkins caught 82 passes in 2011 but watched his numbers dip to just 57 receptions in 2012. An illness and an off-the-field incident played a huge role in Watkins’ struggles last season, and with all of that behind him in spring practice, the junior is ready to rebound back to All-American status. Getting Boyd and Watkins back on the same page will be crucial for Clemson’s passing attack in 2013.
2. Replace Andre Ellington at running back. The Tigers seem to have some capable replacements for Ellington, but a pecking order needs to be established. Roderick McDowell rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season and is the likely frontrunner to lead Clemson in yards this season. McDowell had a couple of impressive performances late in 2012, rushing for 83 yards against Duke and NC State, along with 47 yards against South Carolina. Also joining in the competition is junior D.J. Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks. If the rotation isn’t settled by fall camp, incoming freshman Tyshon Dye could get an extended look. The Tigers may lack a 1,000-yard back in 2013, but McDowell, Brooks and Howard should be a capable trio.
3. Who backs up Tajh Boyd? Considering Boyd has made every start in his two years as Clemson’s No. 1 quarterback, durability isn’t a question mark. However, Boyd has just one season of eligibility remaining, and the Tigers have to start thinking about 2014. This spring will be the first opportunity for redshirt freshman Chad Kelly and junior Cole Stoudt to stake their claim to the backup spot, which would setup the winner of this battle in a position to build on that lead in spring practice next season.
4. Find the right mix on the offensive line. With three new starters taking over on the line last season, it was no surprise Clemson allowed 2.4 sacks a game in 2012. This unit returns four starters for 2013, including first-team All-ACC tackle Brandon Thomas. Guards Tyler Shatley and David Beasley are back as returning starters, but the unit must replace center Dalton Freeman. Thomas could slide to guard if Isaiah Battle can claim the left tackle spot, while the coaching staff also hopes to see progress from Giff Timothy after making 11 starts in 2012. The pieces are there for Clemson’s offensive line to be one of the best in the ACC. Can the Tigers find the right mix this spring?
5. Finding more improvement on defense. After finishing 2011 ninth in the ACC in yards allowed and 10th in scoring defense, the Tigers showed solid improvement in the first season under coordinator Brent Venables. Clemson ranked third in the ACC in points allowed and registered 2.6 sacks a game last year. The Tigers held five of their last seven opponents under 25 points and allowed just 219 yards to LSU in the bowl game. If Clemson is going to be a factor in the national title picture, the defense has to take another step forward this spring. Seven starters are back for 2013, and linebacker Kellen Jones is eligible after transferring from Oklahoma, while defensive back Martin Jenkins returns after missing all of 2012 due to injury. Even though this unit needs to replace defensive end Malliciah Goodman and safety Rashard Hall, there’s enough returning to expect more improvement on the stat sheet.
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