14 Clemson

August 20, 2012

All signs point ... where, exactly? Big-play talent abounds, but so do leaks in the lines

The Skinny

PUTTING DEFENSES on their heels last season with offensive coordinator Chad Morris's shiny new HUNH (Hurry Up, No Huddle), the ACC champs improved dramatically, jumping from 88th to 26th in total offense. And that was with first-year starter at quarterback Tajh Boyd having digested "60-to-65 percent" of the offense, says Morris. Now a junior and a veteran of Morris's system, Boyd is ready "to get into the next layer of this offense," says the OC. Boyd is also ready to do a better job taking what the defense gives him and to stop forcing throws into coverage. Over Clemson's last six games he threw as many picks (nine) as TDs—after a 24-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio to start the season—which is in large part why the Tigers lost four of those games.

Key Recruit

CARLOS WATKINS The 6'4", 275-pound defensive tackle was a high school running back, wide receiver and linebacker and spurned Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame, among others, to become a Tiger. A depleted D-line ensures he'll contribute immediately.

Breakout Player

TRAVIS BLANKS After enrolling early, the 6'1", 195-pound cornerback earned a spot at nickelback. One of the nation's top cover corners in high school, he is a punishing, sure tackler. He can play any position in the back seven, but new defensive coordinator Brent Venables wants to first hone his skills in the secondary.

Final Analysis

THESE TIGERS are loaded with skill, but they have question marks in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Clemson will need to light it up on offense if the defense—last seen giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl—doesn't get something figured out. Venables has admitted concern over the team's lack of depth and experience along the defensive front, especially at end. Sculpted senior Malliciah Goodman must finally play to his potential, and second-year players such as Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams, Josh Watson and Tavaris Barnes will have to take giant leaps.

THE VITALS

Coach Dabo Swinney (5th year)

29--19 (19--10 ACC)

2011 Record 10--4 (6--2, 1st in ACC Atlantic)

Final AP Rank 22

Returning Starters Offense 7, Defense 7

2011 STATS

Total Offense (FBS Rank) 440.8 YPG (26)

Rushing Offense 158.5 YPG (59)

Passing Offense 282.3 YPG (21)

Total Defense 394.4 YPG (71)

Rushing Defense 176.9 YPG (83)

Passing Defense 217.5 YPG (50)

TELLING NUMBER 2

Games star playmaker Sammy Watkins has been suspended for an off-season drug arrest. Watkins will miss Clemson's Sept. 1 opener, against Auburn, and its next game, against Ball State.

TOP PLAYERS

Offense

QB Tajh Boyd

Jr. 6'1", 230 pounds

3,828 YDs, 33 TDs

WR Sammy Watkins

Soph. 6'1", 180 pounds

82 RECs, 13 TDs

RB Andre Ellington

Sr. 5'10", 190 pounds

1,178 YDs, 5.3 AVG

Defense

DE Malliciah Goodman

Sr. 6'4", 278 pounds

12 TFLs, 2½ sacks

LB Corico Hawkins

Jr. 5'11", 230 pounds

97 tackles

S Jonathan Meeks

Jr. 6'1", 205 pounds

65 tackles, 3 INTs

Special Teams

PK Chandler Catanzaro

Jr. 6'2", 205 pounds

22/27 FGs, 9/12 from beyond 40 YDs

PHOTONED DISHMAN/GETTY IMAGES (FREEMAN)Dalton Freeman anchored a line that helped the Tigers jump 62 spots in offense, but the playbook is more complex in '12. PHOTOMARK CRAMMER/ANDERSON (S.C.) INDEPENDENT MAIL (BLANKS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)