2010 Season: 6-7 (4-4)
By: Danny O’Donnell
The Clemson faithful are surprisingly upbeat after the season they had in 2010. Losing to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, watching a heartbreaking overtime performance to eventual National Champion Auburn, and losing to South Carolina, again, are all reasons the orange and purple should have a wait-and-see mentality for 2011. Nope. A top-ten recruting class and the return of numerous key starters, the Clemson Tigers have it stuck in their heads that they can take on Florida State for the Atlantic Division.
Dabo Swinney is entering his third complete season with the Tigers and has shown mixed results. Leading to the team to an ACC Atlantic Division title in 2009, Swinney let the momentum slip away when Clemson had their first losing season since 1998. Football is king in the south and though Dabo’s seat isn’t hot, it’s not exactly comfortable.
Kyle Parker struggled throughout the season and the Tigers will have to wonder “what if” when looking back at the 2010 regular season game against Auburn. But sophomore Tajh Boyd is ready to make a name for himself and Clemson in 2011. As a backup, Boyd has over 300 yards passing and 4 touchdowns throws. Running back Jamie Harper (760 yards, 7 TDs) will be leaving the squad after finishing 2010 as the teams leading rusher. Andre Ellington (686 yards, 10 TDs) is coming back for his junior year and has high expectations to lead the team and/or league in rushing. Suffering a toe injury midway through the season, Ellington will tag team with true freshman Mike Bellamy to head a monstrous rushing attack this fall.
The defense will be returning six starters but is losing highly ranked talent. Second round draft picks Da’Quan Bowers (15.5 sacks and 74 tackles in 2010) and Jarvis Jenkins have both left enormous gaps for the defensive line. Talented defensive end Andre Branch (five sacks last season) will be an outside threat and pass rush motor. The Clemson Tigers finished second in the ACC in rushing defense and will need the talent of the starting four to shadow the lack of depth on the roster.
Bashaud Breeland will be the babyface in the secondary going into his redshirt freshman year at cornerback. An eye-opener in spring practice, Breeland and his counterparts are going to need to click early and often to replace DeAndre McDaniels (leader in both tackles and interceptions) from the secondary.
Weakness: Wide Receiver. The passing game for Clemson was dreadful in 2010 after finishing 9th in the ACC. DeAndre Hopkins (637 yards, 4 TDs) returns to the team as the leading receiver but will need help from speed demon Joe Craig and freshman Sammy Watkins to help take on some of the load. The group could see a lot of upside, but as of now their 2010 reputation proceeds them.
Strength: Offensive Line. Clemson is only losing one member of last year’s set up in left tackle Chris Hairston (fourth round draft pick) but have already moved David Smith over to fill that position. Senior Mason Cloy heads the depth chart position at left guard and after finishing seventh in rushing in the ACC, you can only expect this group will get better going into their second year together.
2010 Team Rankings
Scoring: 24.0 ppg (10th ACC, 86th National)
Rushing: 139.0 ypg (7th ACC, 79th National)
Passing: 195.6 ypg (9th ACC, 78th National)
Scoring: 18.8 ppg (1st ACC, 13th National)
Rushing: 128.5 ypg (5th ACC, 28th National)
Passing: 191.9 ypg (2nd ACC, 22nd National)
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is salivating at the mouth after hearing the news that five star linebackers Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony decided to come to Clemson. Corico Hawkins (finished third in tackles last season) and Quandon Christian will be the returning starters for the midfield crew. Jonathan Willard, as of now, is the starting outside linebacker, but don’t be surprised if Anthony or Steward make a run at any of those positions with their size, skill, talent, speed, strength………
Big Man on Campus: Andre Ellington, RB. They lost Bowers and they lost their quarterback. Now it’s time for Ellington to take over as the poster player for the Clemson Tigers. With a talented backfield, Ellington could see a rise from last years numbers and should have a one-thousand yard season. The running game was mediocre last year, so all eyes will be on him anyways.
On the Rise: Dwayne Allen, TE. Allen was the teams third leading receiver with almost 400 yards and a touchdown. Tajh Boyd is going to find himself dumping it to the flats often and letting the 6’4, 255 lbs man grab some extra yards.
Breakout Freshman: Mike Bellamy, RB. Steward is probably the headliner for the Tiger’s 2011 recruiting class but Bellamy should be the leader during the regular season. Just behind Ellington, Bellamy is a powerful runner and can come in on any down and distance. Expect a lot of receptions out of the backfield from him this fall.
The Clemson Tigers will face the majority of their steep competition in the first five weeks of the season. Clemson will welcome in Auburn week three in hopes to avenge last year’s debacle. After that, The Tigers will take on Florida State and Virginia Tech back to back weeks before they can start a soft middle season game lineup. And of course, the Tigers will get their shot at in-state rival South Carolina at the end of the season after losing to last year’s SEC East Champions two years in a row (which hadn’t happened in 40 years.) Clemson is predicted to finish fourth in the ACC Atlantic and go 6-6 during the regular season. But after 25,000 fans filled the stadium for the 2011 spring game, you can bet the orange and purple enthusiasts are a little more optimistic.