The Clemson Tigers 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Record: 11-2; ACC 7-1
Introduction: The Clemson Tigers finished 11-2 overall last year and 7-1 in the ACC. Head coach Dabo Swinney is thrilled to have senior QB Tajh Boyd back for his senior season and he used it as a big recruiting tool during the offseason. Boyd became an elite quarterback in his junior season and may arguably be the best quarterback in the country heading into this season. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ hopes that his defense carries over their positive momentum from the end of last season, the defense improved steadily as 2012 progressed. Clemson comes into this season as the favorite to win the ACC and they are ranked in the top 10 in every preseason poll.
Offense: The offense will center on Boyd and his ability to make big plays with his arm. Boyd threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns, an ACC single-season record, while only throwing 13 interceptions in 2012. Boyd earned ACC Player of the Year honors and was also named first-team All-American. Boyd will have the luxury of four starting linemen returning from last season and the offensive line should be a major strength again. However, the one loss was a big one, as C Dalton Freeman graduated after being a two-time Rimington Award finalist. Senior RB Roderick McDowell will replace RB Andre Ellington, who graduated at the end of last season. Junior RB D.J. Howard and sophomore RB Zac Brooks will compete for time behind McDowell. Junior WR Sammy Watkins had an outstanding freshman season, but his numbers slipped last year thanks to a drug arrest that led to a suspension, along with lingering injuries. Watkins will be counted on to step up and be the number one receiver this season as WR DeAndre Hopkins left for the NFL after the 2012 season. Fellow juniors Adam Humphries, Charone Peake, and Martavis Bryant will also help the receiving unit.
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Defense: The Clemson defense improved as the season progressed in 2012. The Tigers held LSU to only 219 yards of total offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished third in the ACC in scoring defense. Despite the loss of leading tackler Jonathan Willard and starting safeties Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks, the Tigers’ defense should be even better this fall. The only loss on the defensive line heading into the season is DE Malliciah Goodman. However, junior DE Vic Beasley is poised to move into Goodman’s defensive end role, while juniors Josh Watson, DeShawn Williams, and Grady Jarrett form a formidable three-man rotation at defensive tackle. Senior LB Spencer Shuey may not be the biggest or fastest guy, but he racks up tackles and will be the leader of the defense this season. Sophomore S Travis Blanks, a 2012 Freshman All-American, is a stud in the making at the safety position and should help improve a secondary that was a disaster at times last year.
Special Teams: K Chandler Catanzaro will return to the Tigers, after making 18-of-19 field goals as a junior last season. Sophomore Bradley Pinion will most likely replace Spencer Benton as the punter and kickoff specialist.
Final Analysis: Swinney believes in this team and he thinks this may be the year to bring the program’s second national title back to Death Valley. There is no doubt that the offense will be explosive again this season, led by the outstanding play of Boyd and Watkins. The defense should be better than last year and they may be the difference between a great season and a perfect season. Clemson will play Georgia to start the year and South Carolina to end the year, along with home games against Florida State and Georgia Tech. Clemson has a great base of talent returning and the Tigers should have high expectations for this season.