So where does Clemson go from here? The Tigers got as close to a conference title as they have since 1991. The all-everything CJ Spiller will now be playing in the NFL. And the starting QB Kyle Parker could be playing professional baseball. Many Tiger fans already anticipate his departure and expect red shirt freshman Taj Boyd to fill that QB role. Boyd has a strong arm with better mobility than Parker, but it is unknown what he can do under pressure. He will need help from his teammates. The running back position could take some of the pressure off, but that position will also have new starters at the position. The good news is that last year’s backups to Spiller, Andre Ellington, who average over 7 yards per carry, and Jamie Harper have had some playing time.
At the receiver corps positions, the Tigers will also have to bring new starters in with the departure of WR Jacoby Ford and TE Michael Palmer. This unit will have to look at senior wide receivers Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe and sophomore tight end Dwayne Allen and freshman Victor Beasley. Coach Swinney has started to make use of the tight end more and more, and this unit will definitely be called upon to help the offense move the ball.
Perhaps the one thing on offense that has remained in tact is the offensive line. Although they lack depth, this unit will only have one position at left guard to replace. The depth will have to develop for consistency. With new starters at the running back, wide receiver and potentially at the quarterback position, this unit will have to provide that protection and give time to the skill positions.
Defensively, the Tigers are expected to be stout. Seven starters, including Da’Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson, return from a unit that ranked in the top 20 defensively. The line backing corps will need to step up as this was the weakness in 2009. The answer could come from junior Brandon Maye. Conversely, the strength of this defense in 2009 was the secondary, anchored by All-American DeAndre McDaniel.
The special team struggled in 2009 with inconsistency. Richard Jackson had some moment of brilliance, such as when he tied a school record with 6 field goals in one game, but he also struggled in pressure situations. Additionally, the return game will have to find some playmakers to fill the void with the departure of Ford and Spiller.
The Tigers seemingly improved emphasis in toughness should bode well for them. Under the previous coaching staff, there was more finesse, which is not what Clemson football is all about. Under Coach Swinney’s leadership, there has been more emphasis in playing power football, which will be important as they will have some challenging games, such as the road games at Auburn, North Carolina and Florida State.
Go CLEMSON Tigers!!