- Dabo Swinney is in his 4th year as head coach. Last year Clemson went 6-7 and had a losing record for the first time since 1998.
- The big problem was with offense in 2010 and they are addressing it with the addition of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris who comes over from Tulsa. Clemson’s new offense is fast-paced and should lead to an increased play count per game for the Tigers. It relies on the running game and the passing game evenly. Morris is a spread, no-huddle guy. What you see is what you get and Swinney says he wants a “spread-the-field, fast-paced approach to moving the football.” (USA Today).
- Clemson is hoping it will have the same luck 2010 National Champion Auburn had by picking its new offensive coordinator from Tulsa (Auburn hired Gus Malzahn in 2008). Head coach Dabo Swinney said he was impressed by how much Tulsa improved from 2009 to 2010 in deciding to hire Morris. However, it’s not like they had a program that needed rebuilding—they just had an off year without a spread guru. The spread offense, of course, had already been implemented and perfected at Tulsa originally by Gus Malzahn. But in 2009 when he left for Auburn, Tulsa’s offense declined. To improve matters in 2010, Tulsa hired Morris. In just one season at Tulsa he increased their total production by almost 100 yards and 12 points per game. The biggest difference was in the running game that improved from 58th to 15th in the nation and tallied 217 yards per game.
- The running back position is deep. Running back Jamie Harper
unexpectedly took off for the NFL (drafted in the 4th round) but Andre Ellington is the expected starter. Ellington played in eight games in 2010 before he suffered a season-ending foot injury and is due to be the starter along with three back-ups (Demont Buice, Roderick McDowell and D.J. Howard who have little experience but plenty of promise). Rookie Mike Bellamy is being hyped as the “next CJ Spiller.”
- Former backup Tajh Boyd takes over at quarterback (Kyle Parker is playing baseball with the Colorado Rockies—for good this time). Boyd shadowed Kyle Parker last season and Clemson is hoping he is able to adjust to being the starter. Not only is Boyd taking on a new role in this offense, he must also learn a new system under new offensive coordinator Todd Morris. The Tigers new spread offense will depend on how effectively Boyd can read defenses. Boyd is a sophomore and he has shown some questionable decision making and despite his good leadership, his performance has been out of rhythm. Boyd’s back-up is Cole Stoudt. One thing on Boyd’s side is that in recent years Clemson quarterbacks have excelled in their first year as the starter so perhaps Boyd will have the same first-year luck on his side.
- Defense did a good job in 2010, but this unit is hardest hit by departures with just five players returning. The defensive line is hit especially hard with the loss of two 2nd round NFL draft picks. They also lose two linebackers and two defensive backs. But the talent doesn’t seem to have dropped that significantly so perhaps 3rd year Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele can at least match last year’s productivity.
- Luckily, the defense got a surprise when Corey Crawford enrolled early and emerged enough to become a part of the rotation in the fall. He is 6’5, 275 lbs. and will be wearing #93, the same number worn by Da’Quan Bowers (who could have been the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft this past spring had he not suffered an injury). Da’Quan Bowers was the star of the 2010 defense and was complemented by fellow defensive end Andre Branch. The door is open for Branch to impress this year and finish where Bowers left off.
Florida State 2011 Preview Team News