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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Clemson Tigers

2009 Record: 9-5 (6-2 in ACC)
2009 Bowl: Music City Bowl (beat Kentucky 21-13)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: #24
Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (13-8 Overall, 9-4 in ACC)
Non-Conference Schedule: North Texas (9/4), Presbyterian (9/11), at Auburn (9/18), South Carolina (11/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 31.1 points per game (3rd in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 170 (3rd in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 192 (7th in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 362 (8th in ACC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 20.4 points per game (4th in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 151 (7th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 162 (1st in ACC, 7th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 314 (3rd in ACC, 20th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.43 per game (5th in ACC)
Penalties: 44 yards per game (4th in ACC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 7
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Kyle Parker, Soph (205 of 369 for 2526 yards, 20 TD, 12 INT, 180 ypg)
Rushing: RB Andre Ellington, Soph (68 carries for 491 yds, 7.2 ypc, 4 TD, 35 ypg)
Rushing: RB Jamie Harper, Jr (80 carries for 418 yds, 5.2 ypc, 4 TD, 29 ypg)
Receiving: WR Xavier Dye, Sr (14 rec, 236 yds, 4 TD, 1.2 rec/game, 16 ypc)
Tackles: SS DeAndre McDaniel, Sr (98); CB Marcus Gilchrist, Sr (96); LB Brandon Maye, Jr (95)
Sacks: LB Brandon Maye, Jr (3); DE Da'Quan Bowers, Jr (3)
Interceptions: SS DeAndre McDaniel, Sr (8)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #25
Phil Steele: #41
Pre-Snap Read: #47
Sporting News: #61
USA Today Coaches Poll: #31

2010 Pre-Season ACC Atlantic Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #2
Phil Steele: #2 (tie with Boston College)

Bowl Prediction:
Athlon Sports: Meineke Car Care Bowl (vs. UConn)
Phil Steele: Meineke Car Care Bowl (vs. West Virginia)

Last years season for the Clemson Tigers was bookmarked with two losses to Georgia Tech, one at the beginning of the season and one in the ACC Championship game, both by less than a touchdown. Clemson had some good victories last year (Boston College, Miami (Fla), FSU) and they had some tough losses (TCU, Maryland, South Carolina). Outside of the South Carolina game they didn't lose a game by more than 5 points. This year Clemson has 2 gimmes at home out of conference and two tough games against mid-tier (possibly higher) SEC schools. In the ACC Clemson will travel to FSU, UNC and Boston College and gets Miami (Fla) and Georgia Tech at home. A tough schedule but one that is manageable. Clemson's offense must replace C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and about two-thirds of last years receptions. We caught up with Dr B of SB Nation's Clemson Blog Shakin The Southland to find out how they felt about Clemson's chances in 2010.

What are the biggest strengths and most glaring weaknesses of the Tigers?

Defensive line and defensive backfield, particular safety, are very stout positions. 3 of the current DLinemen should be playing in the NFL, and two of them I think will be drafted in rounds 1-2 eventually.

Both safeties were all-americans (D. McDaniel on most AA teams, Rashard Hall was Freshman AA) and I predict DeAndre will be a 1st round pick....but Hall is really the better one of the two in pass coverage. This kid is phenomenal to have played so well as a freshman and almost never be out of position or miss an assignment.

Offensive line should be better, 4 starters are back. The new LG was the starting Center for the first half of last season, so its almost like having all 5 back. The two-deep isnt so hot though, and if we have injuries up front, particularly at Tackle, its going to be very bad.

Biggest weaknesses have to be the lack of proven WRs and the LB corps. We have good talent at both if you believe the recruiting sites, yet none of the WRs did anything last year and the LB corps' inability to read their run keys crippled us at times on defense last year. Clemson would've been a Top 10-15 defense if we had had a better MLB in 09.

Clemson has really early back-to-back-to-back games with Auburn, UNC and Miami. What do you hope to learn about the team during this stretch and how do you see it playing out?

3-0 in that stretch seems like a pipe dream, honestly. Clemson certainly could defeat each of them, but I highly doubt we really do, its a grueling stretch in the schedule.

Auburn is currently the only one I have predicted as a loss, just because its a new opponent early in the season and on the road. If this was at Clemson, I would be much more optimistic. Their offense may be too much for us without a proven set of LBs.

Miami I predicted to be a shootout, so I called it a toss-up. Whomever has the ball last wins. Its at Clemson, so we have a really good chance.

UNC vs Clemson may be the defensive game of the year. Their offense is not without skill talent, but they are woeful in their execution for several years. Clemson's defense can handle that. The problem is their defense starts so many future draft picks that it wont be easy to score even if we do find a WR. I think we'll win, but close.

What team on the schedule do you want to beat the most?

This year, South Carolina. The score last year was not indicative of the skill on those teams. We played awful on defense up front (LBs) and no one read their keys. It was atrocious.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Chad Diehl. He's a ball player. He doesnt get carries, and rarely gets catches, but he can flat out play football. He's an outstanding blocker, one of the best we've had in my memory. People dont give enough credit to great blockers.

Who will be attempting to replace C.J. Spiller?

The tag team of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper, both former 4-star players who can do it. Andre is quick, small, and runs like a jitterbug. He goes from 0-100mph in 2 seconds. No one hits a hole as hard or as fast.

CJ had a 5th gear and elusiveness these guys dont have, but Andre gets to his top speed quicker than CJ did.

Jamie is a bruiser with more deceptive speed. In a straight line he is comparable in speed to Andre, it just takes him more time to get going. If he can break tackles and hold onto the ball, he can be very good.

The two of them will probably each get 15 carries to start out.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

WRs. Xavier Dye, Jaron Brown, Marquan Jones, etc. We need vertical threats to take pressure off the run game. Right now only the TE Dwayne Allen has any record of production. People will just bracket cover him if no one outside or in the slot takes pressure off.

Who is your pick to take the ACC this year and are there any teams flying under the radar that might be able to make a run at the ACC championship?

My pick is FSU vs. VT, simply because I think Clemson loses to FSU in Tallahassee this year. BC has the schedule to win the Atlantic, but I just dont see them beating the Coastal champ.

If Miami's offense puts it together, watch out. That team has the ability to be awesome if Harris improves.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

10-2 is my expectation, but it needs to be 9-3 to be successful in my opinion. We just fired a guy for going 8-4 every year, we dont need regression. Its time for Clemson to get it together and win the ACC. I wont be satisfied with 9 wins, but I think its reasonable given the schedule.

Thanks to Dr B for answering our questions. Make sure you check out Shakin The Southland this football season for Clemson/ACC coverage. You can also follow them on twitter @shakinsouthland.

Previous ACC Previews:
Boston College Eagles
Duke Blue Devils
Florida State Seminoles
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Maryland Terrapins
North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia Tech Hokies
Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Next Up: Iowa Hawkeyes

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