2010 Record: (6-7, 4-4 in ACC)
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (19-15 All-Time, 13-8 in ACC)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl (lost to USF 31-26)
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9/17: Auburn (2010 result: lost 27-24 OT)
9/24: FSU (2010 result: lost 16-13)
10/1: at Virginia Tech
10/8: Boston College (2010 result: lost 16-10)
10/15: at Maryland (2010 result: won 31-7)
10/22: UNC (2010 result: lost 21-16)
10/29: at Georgia Tech (2010 result: won 27-13)
11/12: Wake Forest (2010 result: won 30-10)
11/19: at NC State (2010 result: won 14-13)
11/26: at South Carolina (2010 result: lost 29-7)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 24.0 ppg (10th in ACC, 86th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 138.85 yds/game (7th in ACC, 79th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 195.7 yds/game (9th in ACC, 78th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 334.5 yds/game (10th in ACC, 88th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 18.8 ppg (1st in ACC, 13th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 128.38 yds/game (5th in ACC, 28th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 191.8 yds/game (2nd in ACC, 22nd in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 320.2 yds/game (2nd in ACC, 19th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: -0.23 per game (8th in ACC, 70th in Nation)
Penalties: 55.2 yds/game (7th in ACC, 75th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Tajh Boyd, Soph (33 of 63 for 329 yds, 4 TD, 3 INT)
Rushing: RB Andre Ellington, Jr (117 for 684 yds, 5.8 ypc, 10 TD)
Receiving: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Soph (51 rec for 626 yds, 4 TD)
Tackles: LB Corico Hawkins, Jr (73)
Sacks: DE Andre Branch, Sr (6)
Interceptions: CB Xavier Brewer, Jr; S Rashard Hall, Jr (2)
Last year did not turn out as expected for Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. Coming off of a 9-5 season in which they went 6-2 in the ACC the Tigers posted only 6 wins and went 4-4 in conference play. Clemson's defense was among the best in the ACC and kept them close in a lot of games (they lost 4 of their 7 games by just one score) but the offense struggled. The big off-season hire for Clemson was new OC Chad Morris. Morris comes from Tulsa and brings a fast tempo offense with him to Death Valley. It will be very interesting to see how quickly Clemson adapts to this new style. Clemson has a lot of young talent on offense and they have to replace a lot of key guys on defense. Clemson is the type of team that always keeps enough talent stocked to contend for the ACC Championship but it seems like it's been a long time since they've maximized that talent. This year will be a very telling year for Dabo Swinney and Clemson. Clemson did not make our Pre-Season Top 25 (which we will debut in August) but one of our three man voting crew did peg them at #22 in his poll. Can Clemson step up this year and contend for an ACC Championship? We headed over to SB Nation's Clemson blog Shakin The Southland to get their take on the 2011 Clemson Tigers. Make sure you follow them on Twitter @ShakinSouthland this football season for some great takes on ACC football.
In our Exit Survey from last season you said the offense was predictable. What does the hiring of Chad Morris add to the offense and to the coaching staff?
Morris' offense is a carbon-copy of Gus Malzahn's system at Auburn. Its built around a few core plays with the same blocking scheme, with various motion and other window dressings to make it confusing for a defense. What I have seen thus far is that Morris brings a new energy to the offense that was lacking before.
What remains to be seen is an extra attention to detail that has been lacking since Rich Rodriguez left Clemson's sidelines. Morris talks things up the right way, and what we've heard from practice is that he is tough on details, but I want to see it on the field.
I don't expect him to turn things around overnight, but I am expecting consistent improvement week to week.
DeAndre Hopkins came in as a freshman last year and led the team in receiving. Who are some newcomers that can make an impact this year?
Clemson signed a Top 10 class this February with some big name talent at the top. That ranking is mostly due to the number of 5-star recruits we signed, not the overall class depth. There were 4 or 5 we should not have taken in the 29-man class for sure. However, the top talent, assuming everyone makes it in school, is good enough to make an impact immediately at some positions.
At WR, Sammy Watkins is probably the most talented guy we've signed in a decade. He isn't tall (6'1-6'2) but he's very physical and is lightning-fast. He won the Florida state 200m this spring. Clemson's new offense uses a 4-wide set, and we expect him to take one of the slot positions immediately. I'm looking for the other slot to be Joe Craig, a former SC state 150m champ in his own right. Morris loves to run the jet sweep, so don't be surprised to see Craig or Watkins put up good RUSHING yards this year. I'm hopeful Jaron Brown finally showcases his ability at the other WR position, though I'm losing hope. If he doesn't do it, Charone Peake or Martavis Bryant will take his job.
The other need position coming into this recruiting cycle was Linebacker, and we signed the best LB class in the nation. I do not expect them to grasp the complex defensive scheme right out of the gate, but by the end of the season I think Tig Willard will lose his WLB spot to Stephone Anthony or Tony Steward (assuming his knee is 100%). Rico Hawkins could lose the MLB spot, and will eventually to one of them, but I think that is another year away. Both of these guys have amazing film and it'll be hard to keep them off the field. I currently expect the other signees here to redshirt.
Finally, though he's not a total newcomer because of a redshirt, look at Bashaud Breeland at Corner this fall. He and soph. Darius Robinson are big cover corners and Breeland has really good man/man skills.
Despite going 6-7, Clemson finished first in the ACC and 13th Nationally in points allowed. Who will fill the voids left by the exit of Da'Quan Bowers, DeAndre McDaniel, Marcus Gilchrest, Byron Maxwell, and Jarvis Jenkins?
We lost 2 2nd round picks up front, and we don't have guys that can immediately make the impact that they did. Andre Branch is a good player, but hasn't taken over games at weakside DE yet. He needs to step up. Brandon Thompson is another future NFL pick, and he has to make plays now as well as continue to absorb double teams at NG. Rennie Moore is a good pass rusher that will take Jenkins' spot at the 3 technique, and Tavaris Barnes is a talented freshman who'll back him up, but both are a little underweight to play the run. Malliciah Goodman once showed flashes of greatness but his work ethic is questionable, and he'll take
I think we'll have some teething issues in the secondary because of youngsters starting at one CB position, so we'll blow some coverages and give up a few more big plays, but at safety I think we'll be fine with Hall and Meeks, who really picked it up in the middle of last year. Thankfully the ACC is not a great passing league.
What needs to happen for Clemson to make a serious run at the ACC Championship this year?
Chad Morris comes in and puts up 450 yards per game on offense while the defense doesn't lose much of a step statistically. I think it's a pipedream. The D will have teething issues and the offense won't be that crisp out of the gate. By the end of the year, I think good offensive numbers are possible however.
Tajh Boyd would have to play like the 5-star rating he was given in HS. Andre Ellington, if healthy, should be outstanding in this offense, but he can't do it by himself. Mike Bellamy would have to put up serious yardage in relief of AE, and we'd need more receivers to step up besides Hopkins.
TE Dwayne Allen would have to look like he cares about winning games and run blocking as well. I call his effort on any non-pass play into serious question.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for Clemson this year?
Auburn, FSU, and Va Tech are all clustered together. Clemson must go 2-1 for this to be a good season. An 0-3 run and you'll see the flames flickering around Dabo Swinney. I currently hope for 1-2 out of the set.
Realistically, we should be able to beat Auburn at home, considering that they lost nearly everything. I think Clemson fans want that one bad. In terms of the ACC title, FSU is the bigger game. We can out-cat the rest of the schedule in the division, but we have to beat FSU at home to win the division I think...unless we just crush VT and the rest of the conference opponents.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
I won't predict a final W-L this year. Its pointless. My hope level for Clemson football has plummeted this year thanks to Dat Boy. I know how he runs practices and if those are still crap in 2011, the team will be crap too. My respect for this man's intelligence is even lower. He consistently fails to do the smart thing when it comes to player evaluating and X's and O's coaching. We always lose at least one "WTF?" game every year, and nothing Dabo has done so far appears to have changed that. We could go 9-3 or 6-6 again. That's Clemson.
If Chad Morris is left alone to run his offense, I think he could be good for us, but that is a big question.
But the real problem, and the true cause for our inability to win the ACC for 20 years, is the leadership at Clemson. Until they are replaced, I will not be too optimistic about our football team again.
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