15 Returning Starters (8 on Offense, 7 on Defense)
Top Players: QB Will Proctor, RB James Davis, WR Chansi Stuckey, LT Barry
Richardson, C Dustin Fry, DE Gaines Adams, LB Anthony Waters, S Michael Hamlin,
K Jad Dean
This has the potential to be the best Clemson team in recent memory. They
return playmakers at nearly every position on offense and defense, and up front
they should be the most physical of all of Tommy Bowden’s Clemson teams.
But can they avoid the bad loss? It seems like every year, Clemson loses a
game to a Duke or a Wake Forest, but then goes on a run at the end of the season
that provides great hope for the following season. Will things stay the same
The running game will be Clemson’s offensive strength in 2006, and the
Tigers will rely on it more than ever in Tommy Bowden’s tenure. They return
all five starters on the offensive line, and four of them are seniors. Junior
left tackle Barry Richardson may be the best of the bunch. Overall, nine of
their top 10 offensive linemen from last season are back.
At tailback, Clemson has perhaps the best running back in the conference in
James Davis. Davis was the ACC Rookie of the Year last year after rushing for
879 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing time due to an injury. He
averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Davis, who once favored Virginia Tech in the
recruiting process, is poised to have a big season.
Behind Davis is Reggie Merriweather, an experienced senior who filled in
admirably for the injured Davis. Merriweather ran for 715 yards and seven
touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Since the Tigers return their top two rushers, top two receivers, their tight
end, and basically all of their offensive linemen, we’ll have to go with
quarterback Will Proctor as their offensive weakness. In limited action last
season, Proctor was 18-of-31 for 281 yards, with three touchdowns and no
Proctor is a senior with little game experience, but he is very familiar with
the offensive system. If he plays within that system and does not turn the ball
over, the Clemson offense should be fine. Proctor is actually more mobile than
former QB Charlie Whitehurst was and could be a better fit in offensive
coordinator Rob Spence’s offense.
Clemson’s linebackers are the best group of players on their defense, and
they are possibly the best group of linebackers in the ACC. All three starters
return for 2006, led by All-American candidate Anthony Waters. Waters recorded
109 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. He broke up seven passes and pressured the
quarterback five times.
The other two linebackers, Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie, recorded 99 and
93 tackles respectively. They combined for 10.5 tackles for loss. However, they
are both undersized. Billie is the strong side linebacker, and he measures in at
only 6-1, 200. Watkins is 6-2, 215. But they can fly to the ball.
Clemson returns just one starter in the defensive secondary, sophomore
Michael Hamlin, who plays the CAT safety position. He played well as a freshman,
but he will need help. Cornerback is the biggest question mark.
Duane Coleman moved from running back to corner last season and has some
starting experience there, but he has not mastered the art of covering
one-on-one. Neither has C.J. Gaddis, who moves to corner from free safety this
year. Offenses with good receivers should be able to exploit the Clemson
A key game for the Tigers will come on September 9 at Boston College. This is
the type of game that the Tigers generally lose. They play Florida State on
September 16, so they could be looking ahead. If Clemson can knock off the
Eagles in Chestnut Hill, that sets up a great matchup with the Seminoles in