RB James Davis (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Crammer)

2007 Statistics

Coach: Tommy Bowden
69-42, 9 years
2007 Record: 9-4
at NC State WON 42-20
at Georgia Tech LOST 3-13
at Maryland WON 30-17
at Duke WON 47-10
at South Carolina WON 23-21
Auburn LOST 20-23 (OT)

2007 Final Rankings
AP2-21, Coaches-22, BCS-15

2008 Outlook

Tommy Bowden has brought the Tigers to the outskirts of college football’s upper echelon, but it seems that each time they are poised to finish as a top ten club, Bowden’s luck changes. Last year was no different, as it was two heart-breaking three-point losses in the last three games that forced them down to No.21 after they had jumped as high as No.13. Like a force that builds over time to such an extent that it is bursting at the seams from pressure to push through, Clemson is on the verge of busting out of its wanna-be role and placing itself into the top 10. Bowden has put together an arsenal that has the most potential since the amazing Tulane team of 1998.

QB Cullen Harper has to be one of the biggest reasons for the recent surge. So does the RB-tandem of Davis and Spiller. The lightning bolt named Jacoby Ford and others can make the highlight reels with physical displays that keep people talking for years. But the two coordinators have been the biggest difference since their arrivals, and they are the architects of Clemson’s current approach (with Tommy’s oversight). Since offensive shaman Rob Spence came here in ‘05, the Tigers have won at least eight games each year. It is the first time since the glorious late-80’s/early-90’s-era that Clemson has won at least eight games three consecutive years, and they have been to a bowl game all three of those years, too. The defense owes its current system to Vic Koenning – he has seen Clemson finish in the top 25 in the big four statistical categories (yards allowed rushing, passing, total, and also scoring) two years straight, the first time in school history that has ever been accomplished. To boot, he gets five senior returning starters back, and with five juniors also in the starting ranks, his side of the ball only needs to secure the linebacker rotation to assure the defense gets even better.

This is an intimidating team on paper. If you can’t see the potential for this school to go all the way in 2008, then you must hate Clemson so much you are probably one of their rivals. Most experts will safely place them toward the middle of the upcoming Preseason poll, like they do every year, or they’ll rank them a bit higher with the “extreme” tag of “ACC’s Best” or “of the best in the south” somehow marbled into breakdowns that hedge their bets. Well, we aren’t afraid to say it: this team has the best shot of all the ACC teams - including Virginia Tech – to make the biggest game at the end of the year. They are one of five or six schools with a serious chance to win it all…with that said, they open in Atlanta with a resurgent ‘Bama. An early (non-con) loss, though not expected, wouldn’t kill the Tiger’s hopes at that juncture. No, VT (whom the Tigers haven’t beaten since 1989) and Miami aren’t on any horizons until possibly the conference title game, so it looks like this season’s biggest league tilts will be at home with Georgia Tech and ever-toughening in-state nemesis South Carolina (the winner of this rivalry in each of the last three years has won by four points or less). Sure, FSU is a better team than they’ve been in recent years past, but the Bowden bowl is a non-issue with Bobby losing four times in a row to son Tommy. That makes one game the focus/crux of the entire season – the payback trip to Boston College. A team they haven’t beaten since 1958 (7-7-2 all-time vs. the Golden Eagles), BC has had Bowden’s number three straight years, accounting for nearly one quarter of their losses over that time. All in all, this schedule can be traversed pretty handily if this team has the chops we claim. Bowden’s never had such a flush hand to play while here, and his guy Harper should have the defensive support to make a BCS run, regardless of their league finish. Anything less will be another disappointment.

Projected 2008 record: 9-3
QB - 4.5 DL - 4.5
RB - 5 LB - 3
WR - 4.5 DB - 4.5
OL - 3 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Cullen Harper, 282-433-6, 2991 yds., 27 TD

Rushing: James Davis, 214 att., 1064 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 88 rec., 1081 yds., 11 TD

Scoring: Mark Buchholz, 22-36 FG, 48-48 PAT, 114 pts.

Jimmy Maners, 55 punts, 42.8 avg.

Kicking: Mark Buchholz, 22-36 FG, 48-48 PAT, 114 pts.

Tackles: Michael Hamlin, 97 tot., 73 solo

Sacks: Ricky Sapp, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Chris Chancellor, 4 for 12 yds.; Michael Hamlin, 4 for 0 yds.

Kickoff Returns: C.J. Spiller, 19 ret., 28.8 avg., 2 TD

Punt Returns:
C.J. Spiller, 16 ret., 8.6 avg., 0 TD


DE Ricky Sapp (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Crammer)
OFFENSE: Barry Richardson-OT, Chris McDuffie-OG, Brandon Pilgrim-OG, Christian Capote-OT
DEFENSE: Tramaine Billie-SLB, Nick Watkins-WLB, Phillip Merling-DE (NFL), Cortney Vincent-LB

The emergence of Cullen Harper has allowed Clemson to get back to its tradition of winning…consistently. This senior stands tall in the pocket, willing to take the hit to get the completion. It meant 35 sacks in 2007, so his capable feet have to be employed and the radar in his head that warns him of (the timing of) incoming pass rushers has to be calibrated. Otherwise, his completion rate (65%) and his TD:INT ratio (27:6) prove why he was Second Team All-ACC. Backup Willy Korn is ironically a “Cullen Harper” type of backup – he is over-qualified and just waiting for his chance to prove why he should be the main guy. We expect that the No.5 dual-threat prospect (Rivals) from two years ago will assuredly see time on the field come fall since he is the next in line for this popular job.

First Team All-ACC senior RB James Davis is the first piece of Clemson’s two-RB system…junior C.J. Spiller, a Second Team All-ACC choice as a freshman who set the record that year for the school’s all-time best yards per carry (7.3) in a season, is the second. Spiller is a track man for the Tigers (2005 state champ in Florida AA 100m and 200m), and they get it to him (in the open field) through the air about three times a game to go with his 10 carries per week. Alex Pearson is the fullback who makes it all work and look easy for the other two main guys.

TEs Linthicum and Palmer will have to watch out for this year’s No.12 tight end prospect, Dwayne Allen, and his Rivals’ tag as having the “best hands” for his position of all incoming freshmen in the nation. It’s “all good” for OC Rob Spence and his creative (yet still conservative) sets. Even better for Spence is having three of his top four receivers back, too. Aaron Kelly is a catching machine – at 6’5, he will catch it if it is thrown anywhere near him, and he has been doing it since his freshman year. Ex-DB Tyler Grisham emerged as a junior in ’07, commanding a starting role in this effective offense. The move of hulking Rendrick Taylor (to LB) makes sense, so world-class sprinter Jacoby Ford will soon get the face time to become an ESPN regular (Top 10 Plays of the Day). His 6.52 sec. in the 60m in 2006 was the fastest college time in the nation that year, and Ford’s 4.126 in the 40 at the Fork Union Coaches Combine in 2005 is downright noteworthy! On 14 carries last year, he was able to finish third on the team in rushing. Ok, ok…yes, we think this Royal Palm Beach (FL) product needs the ball even more, and fans will agree after an ankle injury (vs. Maryland) meant he was lost for the year (and most of spring). Only line issues can sputter this well-stocked, experienced offense.

The line will also assure Clemson of surpassing last year’s paltry 50th ranking for rushing offense. Though they again feature four new starters (like they did in ’07) on the line, this year will see three newbies with extensive snaps already under their belts. Junior Cory Lambert has the experience, but he can grade better (best of ’07 was 80% at Central Michigan) and he will have to at left tackle if this team is to lessen its sacks allowed totals. Chris Hairston did much better on the other end, and both are huge, strong, imposing figures to be matched up against. Barry Humphries was bumped over to guard from his center slot after six games, one of several reasons this line struggled in ’07. He will stay at right guard, and the guy who replaced him, ex-wrestling champ Thomas Austin, can stay in the middle as he is considered the tops of this year’s OLmen. Like Austin and Humphries, senior Bobby Hutchinson can do as well at guard as he would at center, and he will finally get the start after working his way up the ladder here. Seven three-star (or higher) recruits over the past two incoming classes means the backup linemen will soon emerge, but will be green as they earn their first real game reps. Early growing pains up front will be worth it by mid-season.


QB Cullen Harper (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Crammer)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Cullen Harper-Sr (6-4, 220) Willy Korn-Fr (6-2, 215)
RB James Davis-Sr (5-11, 210) C.J. Spiller-Jr (5-11, 190)
Chad Diehl-Fr (6-2, 250) (FB)
WR Jacoby Ford-Jr (5-10, 185) Nelson Faerber-Sr (5-11, 180)
WR Aaron Kelly-Sr (6-5, 190) Xavier Dye-So (6-5, 205)
WR Tyler Grisham-Sr (5-11, 180) Marquan Jones-Fr (6-0, 180)
TE Michael Palmer-Jr (6-5, 245) Brian Linthicum-So (6-4, 235)
OT Cory Lambert-Jr (6-6, 310) Jock McKissic-Sr (6-7, 300)
OG David Smith-Fr (6-5, 285) Jamarcus Grant-Jr (6-4, 315)
C Thomas Austin-Jr (6-3, 305) Mason Cloy-Fr (6-3, 300)
OG Barry Humphries-Jr (6-3, 295) Bobby Hutchinson-Sr (6-3, 305)
OT Chris Hairston-So (6-6, 310) Landon Walker-Fr (6-5, 285)
K Mark Buchholz-Sr (6-1, 205) Richard Jackson-So (5-11, 190)



Defense wins championships, and the ACC crown will come here only if this era of consistent stopping results continues. Already a top 25 group in the national statistical rankings over the past two years in almost every major defensive category (a school first), only the linebackers have to find a majority of new starters.

The front line looks stellar, even without Merling. The senior pair of Dorell Scott and Rashaad Jackson will produce at least one All-ACC candidate, and well-initiated James Cumbie offers depth to help foster four-star Brandon Thompson, this year’s No.9 DT prospect. Outside, the nation’s top DE prospect is five-star DaQuan Bowers (No.2 prospect at any position - Rivals), an early arrival who will be a huge hit throughout the season. His mobility, coupled with blazing speed, should make this line even better. Ricky Sapp was the No.2 DE prospect when he arrived, making this possibly the best line in the ACC.

Scotty Cooper is the next big LB name to come from the Tiger ranks. Bowden tapped his potential last year a bit, but we expect much more this time around from the strongside sophomore. Courtney Vincent’s destiny after missing spring (disciplinary reasons) is unknown; Antonio Clay has his back, but Vincent in the lineup has to be preferred. Like Cooper, Kavell Conner has done a decent job as a backup, but the jury will be out until Conner proves he is an every-down player. We have mixed emotions about Rendrick Taylor moving to LB, but expect to see him, regardless. This is the only iffy area on defense, but it has the potential to be solid if a few factors can come together.

Suspended LB Cortney Vincent will not return to Clemson for 2008. The fifth-year senior started 12 of 13 games last fall. Antonio Clay was hoped to be a solid replacement, but Clay has withdrawn from school for the second straight spring semester for personal reasons. He returned in 2007 to play football, finishing as the team's third leading tackler. Redshirt frosh Brandon Maye garnered the headlines in the middle through the spring. Maye, who appears to have the most size and talent, was earning a look at playing time as a true frosh before sustaining a broken football last August. Rising junior Jeremy Campbell has been working at both SAM and WILL this spring. The quicker Campbell seems to be more of a better fit at the WILL spot. Kavell Conner entered spring as the unit's most experienced player but will have a hard time keeping his starting duties ahead of Campbell. DeAndre McDaniel is a third safety and has been lining up at the SAM position. In other notable moves, WLB Rendrick Taylor spent four practices at the position before requesting a move to wide out. Although the jest of the Tiger's defense is back again, the LB unit is easily considered the biggest question mark having to find three new starters.

The corner starters are two junior returnees – quick-footed Butler and scrappy Chancellor can both be left one-on-one with anyone. Backups Maxwell and Gilchrist know the ropes already, with Maxwell getting the nod at nickel most often due to his tackling prowess. The safeties also return classmate (senior) starters. All-ACC “CAT-back” Mike Hamlin roams the deep middle now for three straight years, while ex-sprinter Chris Clemons is rarely found out of position on play fakes and misdirection plays. Like Gilchrist, backup DeAndre McDaniel actually has more potential than those ahead of him, so expect either guy to break into the starting lineup by October. Coordinator Vic Koenning is a DB specialist, and beyond that, his schemes have proven to provide a consistent, well-balanced result. Only Virginia Tech scored more than 26 points in 2007, and after only two teams went over 30 points in ’06, you can see the obvious pattern that gives confidence to Tiger fans.


DB Michael Hamlin (PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Crammer)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Kevin Alexander-Jr (6-3, 245) Da'Quan Bowers-Fr (6-5, 265)
NG Dorell Scott-Sr (6-4, 300) Miguel Chavis-So (6-5, 260)
DT Rashaad Jackson-Sr (6-2, 280) Jamie Cumbie-Jr (6-7, 270)
DE Ricky Sapp-Jr (6-4, 240) Kourtnei Brown-So (6-4, 225)
SLB Scotty Cooper-So (6-1, 210) Jeremy Campbell-Jr (6-1, 225)
MLB Brandon Maye-Fr (6-2, 215) Josh Miller-Sr (6-0, 235)
WLB Kavell Conner-Jr (6-1, 225) Stanley Hunter-Fr (5-10, 220)
Rendrick Taylor-Sr (6-2, 240)
CB Chris Chancellor-Jr (5-10, 170) Marcus Gilchrist-So (5-11, 180)
CB Crezdon Butler-Jr (6-0, 185) Byron Maxwell-So (6-1, 185)
CAT Michael Hamlin-Sr (6-3, 205) DeAndre McDaniel-So (6-0, 200)
FS Chris Clemons-Sr (6-1, 210) Sadat Chambers-Jr (5-11, 195)
P Jimmy Maners-Sr (6-1, 190) Richard Jackson-So (5-11, 190)




Senior place kicker Mark Buchholz has to have a monkey on his back after missing multiple tries in three of Clemson’s four losses…he could arguably have won each game; though, to be fair, only one of those critical misses was from inside of 40 yards. Clemson was T-26th for least number of fourth-down tries, something that should change with such a great offense. Champions take risks, just ask Les Miles. Jimmy Maners has a foot from hell, but he out-kicks his coverage regularly, so much that his 20th-ranked efforts are rendered moot by the Tiger’s net results (97th). Spiller and Ford make up one of the top tandems of returners in the country.