#20 Clemson Football 2012 Preview

Clemson Tigers

Overall Rank: #20
#3 ACC
Clemson College Football 2012 Team Preview
Clemson Team Page


The Tigers lost three of their last four regular season games, allowing over 30 points in all three contests. They rebounded with a nice win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, but things went bad again in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers allowed West Virginia to put up an embarrassing 70 points. The defense has a lot of pressure put on them by the offense that will either score quickly or turn the ball over, but they have to do better. The linebackers return Jonathan Willard and Quandon Christian, while the secondary should be much improved with a year in the system. Rashard Hall, Jonathan Meeks, Darius Robinson, Xavier Brewer and Bashaud Breeland give the secondary plenty of experience and, more importantly, depth to rotate in when the tired legs become a major issue.

2011 Record: (10-4, 6-2)
2011 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. West Virginia (L 33-70)
Coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19 at Clemson, 29-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chad Morris
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Venables

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Andre Ellington, RB, 1,178 yards
Passing: Tajh Boyd, QB, 3,828 yards
Receiving: Sammy Watkins, WR, 1,219 yards
Tackles: Rashard Hall, S, 89
Sacks: Malliciah Goodman, DE, 2.0; Stephone Anthony, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: Jonathan Meeks, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: CB Bashaud Breeland, S Xavier Brewer, WR Jaron Brown, LB Quandon Christian, C Dalton Freeman, LB Corico Hawkins, WR DeAndre Hopkins, G Brandon Thomas, LB Jonathan Willard

Key Losses: TE Dwayne Allen, DE Andre Branch, G Antoine McClain, DT Rennie Moore, OT Philip Price, CB Coty Sensabaugh, DT Brandon Thompson, OT Landon Walker, P Dawson Zimmerman

Clemson was second in the nation in offensive snaps per game last year, second to only Houston. Coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris hope to pick up the pace even more with most of the skill position players returning. Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns, but interceptions were a big problem down the stretch. He needs to be more reliable in the pocket. With receivers Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown back, Boyd will have his favorite targets again. Watkins made a huge splash as a freshman, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. Tight end Dwayne Allen, who was a great red zone target, will be missed, but Brandon Ford should be ready to take over that role. With Andre Ellington in the backfield, this is not a team that simply throws the ball all over the place. Ellington rushed for 1,218 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior and is one of the best backs in the country when he is healthy.

Everybody is excited about the return of the talent on the offensive side of the ball, but one cannot overlook the losses on the lines. The offensive line deserved a lot more credit than they got for their part in the offense. Now tackles Philip Price and Landon Walker are gone, along with guard Antoine McClain. Center Dalton Freeman and tackle Brandon Thompson are good pieces to build around, but the offensive line is extremely inexperienced beyond those two. And with the way this offense moves, having quality depth on the line is helpful. Most of that depth, and a handful of starters, will have to mostly come from unproven underclassmen. The line on the other side of the ball has a similar problem. Andre Branch, Rennie Moore and Brandon Thompson are all gone. End Malliciah Goodman is the lone returning starter. The two deep is littered with sophomores who mostly played very little last season. The line is smaller and quicker, yet that will not be a good thing against some opponents.

The Bottom Line:
The defense has to get better under new coordinator Brent Venables. There really is nowhere to go but up and a simpler approach should help the new faces on defense get acclimated quickly. But that may not solve the bigger problems the defense will face. Along with major questions on the defensive line, the entire defense will likely be put in tough positions if turnovers continue to plague the offense like they did at the end of the 2011 campaign. Those issues need to be resolved quickly if Clemson wants to get off to another fast start in 2012.

Projected Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 158.50 (59th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 282.29 (21, 1)
Total Offense: 440.79 (26, 2)
Scoring Offense: 33.57 (24, 2)
Rushing Defense: 176.86 (83, 10)
Pass Defense: 217.50 (50, 6)
Total Defense: 394.36 (71, 9)
Scoring Defense: 29.29 (81, 10)
Turnover Margin: -.07 (66, 7)
Sacks: 1.71 (76, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.36 (85, 9)

Madness 2013 NFL Draft Rankings:
#50 Andre Ellington
#92 Malliciah Goodman
#96 Rashard Hall
#98 Dalton Freeman

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#72 Carlos Watkins
#77 Germone Hopper
#80 Travis Blanks
#124 Chad Kelly
#231 Zac Brooks