August 23, 2004
The Big Picture
The Clemson faithful are out of control. All of the season tickets are gone. The chatter on the talk-show airwaves is about the ACC title and a BCS bid. There is a feeling among some fans that the Tigers once again are ready to make an impact on the national scene. Meanwhile, coach Tommy Bowden is trying to hold down the out-of-control enthusiasm. He knows the Tigers still have some shortcomings. Add to the depth problems at several positions the most difficult schedule Clemson has faced in years, and it's easy to see how this team could disappoint. The Tigers ended 2003 with four memorable performances, but can they maintain the momentum?
When you talk about Bowden, you normally talk about offense. But defense was the key to Clemson's late run. Defensive coordinator John Lovett has done an excellent job of re-tooling the unit. Last season, the Tigers were second in the ACC in pass defense, and they improved their rushing defense along the way. After allowing Wake Forest to rush for 321 yards, Clemson allowed its final four opponents to rush for a total of 319 yards. One point of emphasis during the preseason was more forced turnovers. Because of experience, this year's secondary could be one of the best in school history.
Done For Me Lately
|1995||6-2 (3)||8-4||Gator Bowl (L)|
|1996||6-2 (2)||7-5||Peach Bowl (L)|
|1997||4-4 (5)||7-5||Peach Bowl (L)|
|1999||5-3 (2)||6-6||Peach Bowl (L)|
|2001||4-4 (4)||7-5||Humanitarian Bowl (W)|
|2000||6-2 (2)||9-3||Gator Bowl (L)|
|2002||4-4 (5)||7-6||Tangerine Bowl (L)|
|2003||5-3 (3)||9-4||Peach Bowl (W)|
ACC: 45-35 (.563); No. 3 in ACC
Overall: 68-52 (.567); No. 3 in ACC
Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is the key to the season. Second in the ACC in passing last fall, he must continue to make Clemson's offense click. No one associated with the program wants to talk about it, but if Whitehurst goes down, all bets are off. Converted QB Chansi Stuckey is expected to make a major impact at wide receiver. The coaching staff is trying to develop creative ways to get the ball to him in the open field. Leroy Hill is undersized for a Division I-A linebacker, but it doesn't matter because he makes plays. The Tigers have a very solid foursome of defensive ends.
Coming On Strong
Tailback Yusef Kelly provided a rarity in the first scrimmage, a 50-yard touchdown run. He said later that he could not remember the last time he had run that far for a score. Freshman offensive tackles Barry Richardson and Akeem Robinson both are getting rave reviews. Richardson (6-7, 330) left some of the veterans in the dust during preseason training runs. Receiver Kelvin Grant finally is starting to approach his press clippings. Defensive end Charles Bennett caused a lot of havoc in camp and is expected to have a big year. Converted QB C.J. Gaddis still isn't thrilled about playing cornerback, but he's getting plenty of praise from Bowden and has moved into the third cornerback slot.
Cause For Concern?
The talk of the spring and during the preseason was about the tackles on both sides of the ball. Sophomores Roman Fry and Marion Dukes both are huge, but they're also inexperienced. Richardson and Robinson moved into the picture during the preseason, and it will be interesting to see if they can stay there. At defensive tackle, Eric Coleman and Trey Tate have zero starts between them in 54 career games. The Tigers will miss Donnell Washington's bulk.
The Whole Truth
"I think for the program to reach its full potential, there are some facility issues we have to address that haven't been addressed. Are we in better shape? No, not really. Nothing has been done yet."
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden
CHART BY: THE CLEMSON INSIDER
(9-4, 5-3 ACC)
|37||Middle Tennessee St.||14|
|39||at Georgia Tech||3|
|15||at N.C. State||17|
|17||at Wake Forest||45|
|63||at South Carolina||17|
|Sept. 4||Wake Forest (5-7)|
|Sept. 11||Georgia Tech (7-6)|
|Sept. 18||at Texas A&M (4-8)|
|Sept. 25||at Florida State (10-3)|
|Oct. 9||at Virginia (8-5)|
|Oct. 16||Utah State (3-9)|
|Oct. 23||Maryland (10-3)|
|Oct. 30||N.C. State (8-5)|
|Nov. 6||at Miami (11-2)|
|Nov. 13||at Duke (4-8)|
|Nov. 20||South Carolina (5-7)|
North Carolina, Virginia Tech