After finishing with an 11-2 record in 2012 which included a one-point win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl the Clemson Tigers are optimistic for the 2013 season. This season could potentially see the team’s first Heisman Trophy winner and while there is an outside chance the team could be front runners for a national championship game.
The biggest thing Clemson needs to do is remained focus because history has shown that the Tigers have previously folded under such pressure.
This article looks at ten things you need to know about the Clemson Tigers prior to the start of their season.
Clemson Kicks Off 2013 Against Georgia
Over the past 13 seasons the Clemson Tigers have posted a 10-3 record in season opening games, however, all three of those losses came against SEC teams.
In 2008, the Clemson Tigers were ranked ninth in the country as they took on 24th ranked Alabama. The Clemson Tigers were manhandled in the game by an impressive Alabama offense and lost the game 34-10.
Clemson’s other two recent opening day losses came in consecutive seasons in 2002 and 2003 to Georgia. In 2002, Clemson narrowly lost 31-28, but in 2003 the Bulldogs annihilated the Tigers 31-0.
Expectations are high for Clemson after the team went 11-2 in 2012, which included a one-point victory over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and for Clemson to prove they are an elite team they must beat Georgia.
Clemson Getting Tough Schedule
This season Clemson will face four teams that had eight or more wins in 2012, with three of those teams having 11 or more wins.
On August 31, Clemson will face Georgia. Georgia went 12-2 in 2012, losing only to sixth ranked South Carolina and number two Alabama. On October 5, Clemson will play ACC newcomer Syracuse who went 8-5 in 2012, but won six out of their last seven games.
On October 19, Clemson will face rival Florida State, who went 12-2 in 2012, losing a close game to North Carolina State and against fourth ranked Florida. Neither team has been able to win this match-up two seasons in a row since Clemson won three years straight from 2005-2007, meaning after losing last year Clemson should score the win this season.
Lastly on November 30, Clemson will face their most hated rival in the South Carolina Gamecocks who went 12-2 in 2012. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to a victory over the Gamecocks in 2008, as interim head coach, but has been unable to beat South Carolina in the past four seasons. If Clemson only lost one game this season but it was this game, Clemson fans would consider the season a lost. Swinney must find a way to knock off the Gamecocks.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd Receiving Heisman Talk
In the 77 times the Heisman Trophy has been awarded to honor the top player in college football, the winning recipient has never come from Clemson University. However there is some buzz going around the college football world that Tajh Boyd may be able to change Clemson’s fortunes.
Boyd is coming off a season in which he had a pass completion percentage of 67.2, an average of 9.1 yards per pass attempt, while throwing for 3,896 yards, the most touchdowns in the ACC with 36, and 13 interceptions. Boyd also won the 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards.
If Boyd can continue to put up these same type of numbers in 2013, while playing well against Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina, Boyd realistically could be Clemson’s first Heisman winner.
In addition to Heisman talk, Boyd along with receiver Sammy Watkins are being considered for other collegiate awards this season. First, both players are on the watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award which is “awarded to the outstanding player of the year who has exemplified the qualities of self-discipline, unselfish team play, desire to excel, mature judgment and respect for leadership.”
Boyd and Watkins have also been placed on the watch list for the Maxwell Award which is a different organization also honoring the best college football player in the nation. Additionally, Boyd is on the watch list for the Davey O’Brien award for the nation’s best quarterback, and Watkins is on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation’s best wide receiver.
In addition to Boyd and Watkins, receiver Charone Peake, left tackle Brandon Thomas, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and defensive end Vic Beasley are all trying to win awards this season.
Last season’s leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins , 1,405 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, is now with the Houston Texans of the NFL, leaving Clemson some questions at the receiver position. The team will still have Sammy Watkins, who had a great freshmen year, 1,219 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, but suspension and illness caused to Watkins to slump in 2012, and he only accumulated 708 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Martavis Bryant is a receiver, who had 305 receiving yards and 30.5 yards per reception in 2012, has been dealing with questions about his maturity and missed last season’s Chick-Fil-A bowl due to suspension because of academic underperformance.
Charone Peake is getting some hype this off-season as he has been named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation’s top wide receiver. In two previous seasons with Clemson, Peake has managed 244 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.
For Clemson to win this season and help quarterback Tajh Boyd have the best chance of winning a Heisman Trophy, Watkins, Bryant and the rest of the receivers must play like top-tier football players.
The running game is another area of concern and question this season as superstar back Andre Ellington is now with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Clemson has three running backs listed on their post-spring depth chart with Roderick McDowell the favorite to be the starter. McDowell is entering his fourth season with the Tigers and had 450 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 83 carries in 2012.
The good news for the running game and the rest of the offense is that the offensive line is returning four starters meaning their experience should offer great protection for Boyd and great running opportunities for McDowell.
Clemson’s defense has lost several key players this offseason including defensive backs Xavier Brewer, Rashard Hall, defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman, and linebacker Jonathan Willard. In 2012 these four players combined for 245 total tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six interceptions, and seven forced fumbles.
Replacing, rebuilding and keeping the defense consistent are definitely top priorities for Clemson. Clemson is going to be playing some great teams and if the defense is unable to stop some explosive offenses then Clemson will lose football games. The defense especially needs to be strong in the second half, as in Clemson’s two losses last season; Clemson blew two halftime leads while giving up a combined 52 points.
On the night of June 2, Clemson’s famous Howard’s Rock, the rock Clemson rubs on their way down to the field on game day was vandalized as the case surrounding the rock was broken and part of the rock was broken off. Although it would be easy to assume and blame fans or students from the University of South Carolina, however the vandal seems to be a Clemson fan.
The latest update in the case came at the end of June when police arrested Micah Rogers of Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. Although Rogers is not a student of Clemson University, he is said to be a collector of Clemson Tiger memorabilia, and had a Clemson Tigers sticker on the truck he drove on the night he allegedly vandalized Howard’s Rock.
Rogers was charged with one felony and one misdemeanor and was released on a personal bond of $5,470. As of now there have been no other arrests and the missing piece of rock has yet to been recovered.
Action Off the Field
Current Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson is one of six current college football players that have become plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NCAA. The lead plaintiff in the case is former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and seeks to force the NCAA compensate student athletes from money made from live television broadcasts, jersey sales and using their likenesses in other ways such as video games.
The judge in the case is trying to decide whether or not to turn this lawsuit into a class action suit which could end up “representing thousands of current and former athletes. Such a ruling would be a significant legal victory for the players, exposing the NCAA and its member schools to billions of dollars in damage.”
While there is a possibility that Robinson and the other five new plaintiffs might receive some type “penalty” from the NCAA the thought seems to be about making the NCAA do what is right and fair for their players, especially when NCAA rules and regulations are so tight concerning allowing players to make extra money while in school.
Trash Talk Starting Early
This past week at the SEC media day, South Carolina Gamecock’s defensive end Jadeveon Clowney stated that several quarterbacks including Clemson’s Tajh Boyd get scared when going up against South Carolina’s defensive line. According to an article from The Sporting News, Boyd thought about tweeting his thoughts about Clowney’s comments but chose not to refrain.
According to USA Today Sports Boyd is quoting as saying,” "I'll tell you man, honestly, there's some things I would definitely like to say but I'm just not going to entertain it”
Boyd took the high road this time but the fact that this season will be Boyd’s last chance to score a win over hated rival South Carolina and these comments by Clowney are definitely going to fire Boyd up for this year’s match-up in Columbia.