By Heath Bradley.
The 2012 season kicks off in just over three months. As the Tigers prepare for summer workouts TheClemsonInsider.com takes an early look at the 2012 opponents. The Tigers will open in the Chick-Fil-A Classic against Auburn.
Date: Sept. 1, 2012
Location: Atlanta, GA
Time: 7:00 PM ET
2012 BALL STATE QUICK FACTS
Location: Auburn, AL
Colors: Burnt Orange & Navy Blue
Conference: SEC (West)
2011 Record – Overall (Conference): 8-5(4-4),
Head Coach: Gene Chizik, 3 Seasons at Auburn 30-10, 1 SEC Championship, 1 National Championship
Coordinators: Offensive Coordinator- Scot Loeffler; Defensive Coordinator- Brian Van Gorder
Returning Lettermen: 48 (20 offense, 26 defense, 2 specialists)
Returning Starters: 16, 7 Offense, 9 Defense
Key Returning Players: Punter- Steven Clark 2011 Ray Guy Finalist, First-team All-SEC, Defensive End- Corey Lemonier, First-team All-SEC in 2011, Tight End- Philip Lutzenkirchen, 2011 Second-team All-SEC, and Running Back-Onterio McCalebb, 2011 Second-team All-SEC
Key Losses: OC- Gus Malzahn, DC- Ted Roof, RB- Michael Dyer
What to Expect: Clemson lost a lot of talent on both its offensive and defensive fronts. It will be interesting to see how the young Clemson starters at these positions handle such a big game to open the 2012 season. While Clemson lost many talented players, Auburn also lost a lot of talent, as well as both of their coordinators following the conclusion of the 2011 season. Gus Malzahn takes his high power offensive approach to Arkansas State, while Ted Roof was named the defensive coordinator at Penn State. It will be interesting to see what schemes and identity these new coordinators bring to Auburn and how the both Tigers handle such changes in the Georgia Dome. Clemson did a great job in the second half of the Auburn game in 2011 making adjustments on both sides of the ball following halftime, and executing in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Sammy Watkins stole the show with some highlight catches and his potential presence in this game will play a key role in both Clemson and Auburn’s gamelan’s. If Watkins is not available, expect the other young Clemson receivers to step up and make their own statement, helping veterans Brown and Hopkins to make plays for Tajh Boyd in the passing game.
If the Clemson offense is able to click on all cylinders, and the young defensive lineman are able to make an immediate impact in the trenches, Clemson has a great shot at shaking the Atlanta woes by winning their first game in the city since the 2003 season. The keys to success for Clemson will be their ability to establish a running game and ball security. If the offense can protect the ball and hurt Auburn on the ground, it will open up the passing game for Boyd and the Clemson receiving corps to do damage. Clemson will win if they can be a balanced team. Clemson struggled in 2011 when they were not balanced and expect to see Chad Morris focus on assuring the Tigers are balanced in 2012.