Posted on: March 7, 2012 6:07 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Clemson.
Spring Practice Starts: March 7
Spring Game: April 14
Three Things To Look For:
1. Raised expectations. The hope of returning the ACC title to Clemson had driven Tigers' programs for two decades until Dabo Swinney finally delivered the crown in December. But after the 2011 team "broke through the walls," as Swinney put it several times, the expectations changed completely for 2012. Bringing back all of the primary offensive skill players but Dwayne Allen, and hiring Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables has made 2012 a BCS or bust season. No longer will Clemson fans hope to avoid a letdown, instead they expect to compete for hardware from opening day. Not even a record-setting blowout loss in South Beach could shake the confidence of a new-attitude program hungry for more titles.
2. Improving the offensive line. With Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Andre Ellington all back, the Tigers are set with All-ACC talent at the skill positions. However, troubles along the offensive line prevented the unit from clicking during their late-season slide in 2011. The success of the offense relied too heavily on individuals like left tackle Phillip Price, and this spring should be an opportunity for offensive coordinator Chad Morris to get some depth and a solid rotation along the line. Price and fellow tackle Landon Walker are gone, leaving center Dalton Freeman as the only lineman with any significant game experience. Conditioning should no longer be an issue for offseason practice, either, with one full year of Morris' system under their belts.
3. Brent Venables' impact. The Tigers return just six starters on defense, and have a huge need on the defensive line to replace All-ACC graduates Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch. Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables enters as one of the most praised (and highest-paid) defensive coordinators in the ACC, but will have his work cut out with this young group of defenders. On one hand, it might be easier to teach a new system rather than have to un-teach Kevin Steele's complex scheme. On the other, he could end up seeing the same youthful mistakes that plagued the Tigers in 2011. Venables will have all eyes on his defense in 2012, and getting through to his unit this spring will be essential for Clemson's success in the fall.
For much more on Clemson as they go through Spring Practice, including the Top 3 Position Battles for the spring, follow Travis Sawchik's Tigers' RapidReports. For more spring previews around the ACC check out Spring Practice Home.
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