Eye View: Clemson is, without a doubt, the toughest team to figure in the
entire conference. They have significant strengths, as they are led by a
talented senior quarterback in Charlie Whitehurst, and little pressure because
the expectations of the national pundits (as opposed to the Tiger faithful) are
minimal. They also have two new coordinators and lost their two best defensive
players. It’s tough to slot them, but when in doubt I’m putting Maryland and
BC ahead of them because of superior coaching.
Areas of Strength (offense):
Whitehurst has an impressive arm, decent feet and is smart enough to understand
the plays that need to be made. His poor play last year really is inexplicable,
but the odds favor him getting things back together this year under the high
percentage passing scheme preferred by former Toledo assistant Bob Spence.
Expect a lot of shorter passes to secondary receivers and more bubble screens to
the wideouts. Running back Reggie Merriweather is a 5’8”, 215 lb. bulldog
inside, and much like Leon Washington his height makes him difficult to find
behind the offensive line. Tight end Bobby Williamson should be a big
beneficiary of the new offense. Expect him to catch 30 balls or so.
Areas of Concern (offense):
The receivers were terrible for most of last year, and the best of the bunch,
Airese Currie, is gone. Wideout Kelvin Grant looks like Tarzan, but has yet to
put it together on the field. He’ll need to this fall for the passing game to
work. Three starters return on an offensive line that got beaten up last year,
but left tackle Barry Richardson could be a star if he dedicates himself to the
game. Left tackle is the hardest position to play on the field as a true
freshman, and all things considered, Richardson acquitted himself well last
fall. If the line can play smash mouth football, good things will happen for the
Areas of Strength (defense):
The secondary has two very good players in all ACC candidate Tye Hill and free
safety Jamal Fudge. Hill is a converted running back with track speed and an eye
for the ball (tied for the league lead in passes defensed, although he had no
picks). Fudge is very good in run support although he lacks prototype size (5’10”,
192). New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning (Troy) has brought a hybrid bandit
position with him, and Gaines Adams has the specifications to excel given the
myriad pass rushing/coverage skills required by the position. The defensive line
lacks standouts but has a lot of players with some game experience.
Areas of Concern (defense):
The loss of stud linebacker Leroy Hill leaves leadership questions, and the loss
of enigmatic talent Justin Miller (CB) means inexperienced Sergio Gilliam will
get a lot of attention from opposing quarterbacks. Overall, this defense seems
to lack playmakers despite having six returning starters.
Key Game: At Maryland. The
Tigers have just as much talent as the Terps and a far more settled quarterback
situation. Getting a road win early against a peer in the division would be a
coup for Bowden. A 1-4 start ruined last year’s season of high expectations,
and the noose will get tighter if the Tigers start similarly this year.
Fearless Predictions: Stud
South Carolina high school junior quarterback Will Korn will commit to the
Tigers in August, but that alone won’t pacify a rabid fan base feeling
threatened by the presence of Steve Spurrier. The offense will take a dramatic
step up in 2005, averaging 28 or so points per game (up from 21 last year), but
the defense will yield bigger numbers as well. The Tigers will drop two
non-conference games (versus Texas A&M, at South Carolina) and that will
lead them to a 5-6 finish.