By Keith McGonigle.
With the return of QB Kyle Parker, it is easy for Tiger fans to get very excited about the upcoming year. The chances of seeing the Tiger’s play in another ACC Championship Game has dramatically increased with Parker under center. The first two games should be easy wins for the Tiger’s (knock on wood.) And as a Tiger fan I know, and I know many other fans, will be thinking about winning the ACC and possibly the national championship after those easy games.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, here are 5 things that need to happen in order for the Tiger’s to compete for an ACC championship.
1. A #1 WR needs to emerge – When you look at the Clemson roster right now is there any receiver on there that you feel comfortable throwing to when the game is on the line? If we are in the same situation against Miami this year, what receiver do you look to, to make a big play in overtime? The player with the most receptions from last year that is still on the roster is Xavier Dye with 14. Kyle Parker did a great job last year of spreading the ball out to multiple receivers last year, but he still had two guys he could rely on in Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer to make big plays. Hopefully this problem can be resolved during pre-season and Parker can find that one or two guys that he feels confident in throwing to.
2. Winning the easy ones – it seems like every year regardless of how good the team is, Clemson will have a letdown game. It has happened the last two years against Maryland and against Boston College in two consecutive years before that. Last year Clemson was 14 point favorites against Maryland. I was at the game and it felt like everyone, the players, coaches, fans (even the Maryland fans), were waiting for Clemson to win the game. But they came out and played flat and ended up giving the game away. In order to be a great team, you cannot afford games like that. Especially now that the ACC has become a lot more competitive. One or two losses like that and our chance at the ACC title could be gone.
3. Players play up to their potential – There are 2 guys that I think of when I look at the roster that have all sorts of talent but have yet to play up to their potential. DE Da’Quan Bowers and RB Jamie Harper.
Ever since Bowers hit the field I thought he was going to be a top 10 pick in the draft. He has the looks of a guy that could be a star and even as a freshman he had unbelievable strength and quickness. Bowers has yet to have that breakout year. He is one of the players that they Tigers really need to come through this year.
Jamie Harper looked better last year especially in short yardage situations (a big run on 4th in short against Miami comes to mind), but he still has not become the complete player everyone thought he would be. He should be seeing a lot more carries this year and maybe with the bigger load, he can become the back Tiger fans have been waiting for.
4. Getting to the opposing QB. – Clemson’s defensive line this year is very deep and should be very impressive. A big part of defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele’s defensive scheme was based on getting pressure on the QB and making the QB make bad decisions or take sacks. When you are getting pressure on the QB it makes the job for the linebackers and secondary a lot easier. I remember 2 years ago when the Tiger’s had a great secondary but at times they were asked to cover receivers for such a long time that eventually they would allow someone to get open.
5. Young guys step it up – The most important younger player for the Tiger’s may be Dwayne Allen this year for Clemson. Clemson’s offense really needs Dwayne Allen to have a big year and help fill the void left by Michael Palmer. Allen had some big plays last year and it is surprising that Allen was only a red shirt freshman. Parker loved going over the middle to his tight ends last year so hopefully Allen can be his new big target over the middle.
Quandon Christian a red-shirt freshman is currently slated as the starter at SAM linebacker position. Based on the few hits I saw from Christian on his highlight tape, it looked like he could have sent a bunch of kids to the ER. He looked similar to DeAndre McDaniel so I am really excited to see him play.
Another guy that will have a big role is C Dalton Freeman. Only a red-shirt sophomore Freeman will be the youngest member on the offensive line. The Center is responsible for leading the offensive line and making adjustments for the o-line. This will be a tough transition for Freeman but hopefully he can lead what should be a very solid offensive line for the Tiger’s this year.
PREDICTION: I believe the Tiger’s will go 9-3, I think they will lose to North Carolina, Florida St., and Wake Forest. I am very scared of the 5 games of the season. I think the Boston College and Wake Forest games could both be trap games where Clemson comes out slow and end up blowing it.