RB C.J. Spiller
9-10-09 at Georgia Tech (Thur.)
9-26-09 TCU
10-3-09 at Maryland
10-17-09 WAKE FOREST
10-24-09 at Miami FL
11-14-09 at North Carolina State
11-21-09 VIRGINIA
11-28-09 at South Carolina
Coach: Dabo Swinney
4-3, 1 year

2008 Statistics

2008 RESULTS: 7-6
Alabama LOST 10-34
at Wake Forest LOST 7-12
at Boston College WON 27-21
at Florida State LOST 27-41
at Virginia WON 13-3
Nebraska LOST 21-26

2008 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR


2009 Outlook

The plus side of being a new Clemson coach in 2009 is that the expectations will not be as high as a year ago. At least not to the point where a top 10 preseason ranking leaves the Tigers nowhere to go but down as ex-head coach Tommy Bowden quickly found out. In the process, Dabo Swinney went from being a wide receiver coach, to the Clemson interim head coach when Bowden stepped down, to being officially named the head coach on December 1. What Swinney brings to the Tiger table is a demand of toughness and physical presence from his players.

As an example, one of the new aspects with this offense will be to incorporate the I-formation. The college world is already quite familiar with the skills and highlight reels of RB C.J. Spiller. He is one of the most explosive players at any position on a national scale, with the ability to score from anywhere on the field while either taking handoffs, catching passes or returning kicks. The use of a fullback in today's spread offenses has taken a back seat to H-backs and other forms of getting more receiver-types on the field. Swinney will have two powerful fullbacks in Taylor and Diehl to make this approach work. They will provide a solid blocking option for the talented tailbacks behind them.

More important, the offensive line troubles of a year ago are hopefully a thing of the past. Injuries completely destroyed this unit, and, in the process, took the offense down with it. This scenario is a typical domino effect of devastation that has claimed many high-ranking teams of the past. When the blocking breaks down, does it really matter who is carrying the ball, throwing the passes and/or catching them? Unfortunately, the 2008 Clemson squad could not have answered said question any better. The good news is that all of those offensive linemen are back and a few that had key injuries are getting healthy.

The biggest questions - how far this team can climb -rests with the pass-and-catch phase of the offense. This means a new quarterback and a fairly new set of receivers get broken in. Gone are big time receivers Aaron Kelly (ACC All-Time leading receiver) and Tyler Grisham. Track star Jacoby Ford is now the top target, but any more help will have to come from a group of youthful faces. The race between QBs Willie Korn and Kyle Parker will continue deep into August. All this probably means that fans can expect to see both at certain points of the season. If coaches want a playmaker that also uses the feet to move the chains, Korn is the likely answer. If they seek a rocket arm for the passing game, it’s Parker. But Korn can also toss the pigskin as he continues to work on a throwing motion that has been hindered by shoulder surgery. His ability to create plays probably equates to more turnovers and errors, however. Parker can also scramble, so both provide good options for this "run-first" attack. A pressing issue however will be how well Parker is capable of returning in the summer after baseball season concludes. He is the school's returning top home run hitter and left the spring gridiron to put his skills back on the baseball diamond.

One of his biggest moves by new coach Swinney was to surprisingly lure longtime defensive coordinator Kevin Steele from Alabama. Steele will inherit a defensive line that has the potential to be one of the best in the conference. The sack totals were lagging last fall. Expect that to change quickly. The top future star is at defensive end, where Da'Quan Bowers, the top rated prep player at any position, is starting to meet his lofty expectations. Getting Ricky Sapp healthy for the 2009 run gives Steele a pair of book “ends” second to none. Depth is a key factor with every defensive line; Clemson has loads of talent waiting in the wings. One of the nation's top rated pass defenses has two corners (and back ups) worthy of repeating similar results, despite the fact that the safety combination of Hamlin and Clemons have departed. Keep an eye on DeAndre McDaniel - he has locked down the strong safety position. Steele has labeled the former linebacker as one of the best all-around players on the team.

After the home opener with Middle Tennessee (no gimme as Maryland found out last year), the schedule has a brutal six-game ACC stretch with mid-major power TCU sprinkled in. The physical talent on defense appears strong. The mental aspect in this new Kevin Steele approach gets tested on national television in Atlanta as the second game against Georgia Tech's disciplined triple option attack is on a Thursday night. This game may be the biggest on the schedule; it will answer just how much improvement has been made as it sets the tone for the rest of the season.

Clemson has not won an ACC football title of any sorts in 17 seasons. Swinney hopefully has learned to take the shortcomings of the previous staff and make the necessary changes. On paper, these units are well stocked, which is nothing new when compared to most every Tiger team of the past. The biggest difference between now and a year ago is the depth and talent on the line of scrimmage.

The big IF'S...If the offensive line can stay healthy this time around, if the running game begins to flourish accordingly with Spiller, if the quarterback rotation avoids the mental mistakes and if another receiver steps into the limelight to compliment Ford…the Tigers have a shot at being in the Atlantic Division race come season’s end. If the passing game finds some form of consistency, eight or nine wins are not out of the question. On the other hand, fighting to stay over the .500 mark is another viable possibility if the aerial game does not rapidly mature. Ah, the uncertainty of football in Clemson.

Projected 2009 record: 7-5
CB Crezdon Butler
2008 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Willy Korn, 26-38-1, 216 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: C.J. Spiller, 116 att., 629 yds., 7 TD

Receiving: Jacoby Ford, 55 rec., 710 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: C.J. Spiller, 11 TD, 66 pts.

Punting: Dawson Zimmerman, 12 punts, 38.5 avg.

Kicking: None

Tackles: Kavell Conner, 125 tot., 66 solo

Sacks: Brandon Maye, Jarvis Jenkins, Ricky Sapp - 2 each

Interceptions: Crezdon Butler, 4 for 142 yds., Chris Chancellor, 4 for 71 yds.

Kickoff Returns: C.J. Spiller, 19 ret., 27.2 avg., 1 TD

Punt Returns: C.J. Spiller, 18 ret., 10.5 avg., 0 TD


S Jonathan Meeks - Meeks spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy and his stock soared. The need at free safety is a big one for Clemson and Meeks has the speed and cover skills to make immediate contributions.
QB Kyle Parker – Obviously! The redshirt frosh is currently the leader in the clubhouse to be the starting QB. The baseball star has a bright two-sport future.
RB Andre Ellington – Possesses the same skills as C.J. Spiller, a threat to score from anywhere. He will be the post-Spiller future and do not be surprised if he hits the field running in 2009.
2009 College Football Preview
OFFENSE: Cullen Harper-QB, James Davis-RB, Aaron Kelly-WR, Tyler Grisham-WR, Bobby Hutchinson-C, Mark Buchholz-K
DEFENSE: Dorell Scott-NG, Michael Hamlin-CAT, Chris Clemson-FS, Jimmy Maners-P


The race for starting quarterback duties is far from settled. Redshirt frosh Kyle Parker is in a heated battle with Willie Korn. The “leader in the clubhouse” appears to be the rocket-armed Parker. Coaches have been tight lipped when stating which one would start if September were here. Plus, throw in the factor that Parker, a former No.4 prep prospect, is still playing baseball here, and the situation becomes even more muddled. Korn is an intriguing dual-threat (rated No. 5 by Rivals.com in 2006) who is still struggling to hone his passing skills since undergoing shoulder surgery in December. Korn’s throwing motion still has a fundamental hitch in releasing the ball. If coaches are looking for scrambling ability to be a new dimension in this offense, Korn is more of the playmaker as opposed to someone who is just trying to manage the field while not losing in the process. He is also more prone to committing turnovers. If coaches see the powerful arm in the passing game to be the order for the day, Parker probably is the first choice. Under this scenario, expect to see both QBs this fall on a rotating basis. If this were not enough, look for highly touted incoming frosh Tajh Boyd (Hampton, VA) to get a look when he arrives this fall. Needless to say, the QB options are going to plentiful in Clemson for a long time, just a little inexperienced for ’09. Not finding someone who will be that every-down guy likely hurts the team’s prospects.


The top player on offense (and the team) is C.J. Spiller. A likely first-round draft selection had he gone pro this year, Spiller is the true definition of "all-purpose". He has already gained a school record 4,907 yards in three years as a runner and receiver. His dynamic speed make him an option to go the distance from anywhere on the field (school record mark for TDs of 50 yards or more with 12). He also is one of the nation's premier return men. Now that James Davis is gone, Spiller is in the spotlight, but he will get plenty of rest on the sideline when needed since Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington are worthy of being starters on a good many other top FBS-level teams. Harper lost 14 pounds this off-season and has very good feet, which is impressive for a guy weighing in at 235 pounds. He will be the thunder in this package while Ellington eerily reminds coaches of a future Spiller. He has the same explosiveness to score from any spot on the field and gives Clemson a bright future in the post-Spiller era. Coach Swinney has stressed the importance of being more physical. Ergo, the I-formation will return to Howard Field in 2009. More important, the increased presence of a fullback will be in store. Maybe not as much as when Danny Ford was the coach, but the spread offense appears to be a thing of the past (no more H-back/tight end schematics). Ultimately, both Rendrick Taylor and Chad Diehl are going to get their share of reps. Taylor puts fear in the eyes of every defender when having to worry about the fullback dive from this 255-pounder. He spent his entire Clemson career dealing with a multitude of injuries. The former prep receiver is also a great option out of the backfield and near the goal line. Diehl has been labeled one of the best blockers on the team. He won't carry the ball often but will see plenty of time being the lead blocker for Spiller.


Next to the quarterback race, the biggest question on the team is at receiver where only one of three starters return. Gone are Aaron Kelly, the top receiver in ACC history, and Tyler Grisham, who was a four-year letterman. The top candidate to reach the 1000-yard receiving plateau is senior speedster Jacoby Ford. Ford and Spiller might be the fastest receiver/running back combination in the nation. Both have been All-Americans for Clemson’s track team over the last three years (Ford holds the ACC record in the 60 meters at 6.51 seconds, and just recently won the men's 100m this spring at the ACC Outdoor Championships; Spiller finished second). However, beyond Ford, no receiver has proven reliable. Athletic Jaron Brown was recruited as a safety but clearly demonstrated his worthy snarling talents this spring. He makes the difficult catch look easy but his route running, as expected for a first-time guy, has to improve. Marquan Jones has made a serious push. The overall No. 7 prospect in South Carolina (2007, Rivals.com) is another athletic receiver in that 5'11-size mold. The most experience outside of Ford is Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe. Both bring more height to the table, but the battle to find an every-down WR amongst this youth remains. Accordingly, expect to see each garner starting opportunities as the season progresses. If the spring were any indication, expect the big men with soft hands at tight end to play more of a role. Michael Palmer and Durrell Barry combined to catch eight passes in the annual Spring Game. This position was hampered all of last season due to the injuries that forced a weekly shuffle on the offensive line. Palmer did not catch more than two passes in any game during his double-digit starting duties while having to be kept in as a blocker. He is not the fastest, but is the most fundamentally sound. Durrell Barry earned time as a starter and possesses the most pure talent. The good news is that both are now experienced and with the OL becoming more stable, their production in the pass attack will now become more apparent.


Last year, Clemson had to replace four starters up front. Compounding the issue was the injury bug that forced five freshmen into starting roles. The final dismal results ultimately spelled good-bye for head coach Tommy Bowden at the mid-season point. Due to the OL trials, the Clemson offense - with all its promise and skill talent - fell way short. Guard Barry Humphries (torn ACL in the second game of ‘08), can play both guard and center. It looks like he will be cleared to resume play this summer. The battle at center is heated between youngsters Mason Cloy and Dalton Freeman, a positive depth-building crusade that will not resolve until fall. The leader of the bunch is Outland Trophy Candidate Thomas Austin. A starter as a center and guard over the last two years, the All-ACC Second Team honoree has led Clemson in knockdown blocks each of the last two seasons. The honor roll student commands respect and is one of the toughest players on the team. Guard Antoine McClain has made the biggest splash. The Alabama product is the most highly recruited player on this front, emerging as its MVP in just his sophomore season. He is a powerful 6'5, 325 pound blocker capable of lining up against anyone the schedule has to offer. Tackles Chris Hairston and Landon Walker are both returning starters. Hairston had two separate injuries that limited his time on the field. Walker started 10 games as a redshirt frosh. Both graded out well (two of the top three blockers). Senior Cory Lambert gives the line yet another body capable of playing any position. This was discovered last year after Lambert earned seven starts along the front. Tackle may be the deepest spot of the unit. Line coach Brad Scott enters his 12th season with the Tigers and he has stated the offense appears to be progressing nicely. They should be the most improved unit on the team, which should come as huge news for the Tiger faithful.


OG Thomas Austin


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Willy Korn-So (6-2, 220) Kyle Parker-RFr (6-0, 210)
FB Rendrick Taylor-Sr (6-2, 255) Chad Diehl-So (6-2, 250)
RB C.J. Spiller-Sr (5-11, 195) Jamie Harper-So (5-11, 235)
Andre Ellington-RFr (5-10, 180)
WR Xavier Dye-Jr (6-5, 210) Brandon Clear-So (6-5, 205)
WR Terrance Ashe-Jr (6-2, 190) Jaron Brown-RFr (6-2, 190)
WR Jacoby Ford-Sr (5-10, 185) Marquan Jones-So (5-11, 185)
TE Michael Palmer-Sr (6-5, 250) Durrell Barry-Sr (6-4, 245)
OT Chris Hairston-Jr (6-6, 320) Jamarcus Grant-Sr (6-4, 315)
OG Thomas Austin-Sr (6-3, 315) David Smith-So (6-5, 290)
C Mason Cloy-So (6-3, 310) Dalton Freeman-RFr (6-4, 270)
OG Antoine McClain-So (6-5, 325) Barry Humphries-Sr (6-2, 300)
OT Landon Walker-So (6-5, 300) Cory Lambert-Sr (6-6, 310)
K Spencer Benton-RFr (6-1, 190) Richard Jackson-Jr (5-11, 190)




To sum up the early prognosis for Clemson...“I think our defensive line will be the strength of the defense, perhaps the entire team.” So said head coach Dabo Swinney heading into spring practice. Limited hindsight says he may be right. The most experienced is senior Ricky Sapp, who was leading the team with 10 TFLs through the first 10 games before he suffered a season ending torn ACL. He sat out spring and will return in the fall. Sapp is one of many Tigers expected to be under the microscope of NFL scouts. Another senior, Kevin Alexander earned ten starts in '08, giving coaches three ends with significant starting experience. The "Watch Out" player by far is in-state prep superstar DE Da'Quan Bowers, the No. 1 rated high school prospect at any position in 2007 (ESPN.com). In short, no one has been able to block Bowers all spring as he made life for the new QBs miserable. Coach Swinney has stated that Bowers has actually gotten stronger and faster and his football instincts are some of the best he has ever seen. The entire defensive line has continued to bring the heat all spring. This line was 11th in the ACC in sack totals; expect this number to rise quickly. The only issue will be replacing NFL-bound Dorell Scott on the inside. But there are plenty of bodies to go around here, too, starting with Jarvis Jenkins at nose guard. Jenkins had a solid sophomore year (started 12 of 13 games) and finished the year tied with Sapp for the team lead in tackles for loss. Injuries forced true frosh Brandon Thompson into early action a year ago; the nation's No. 3 rated DT (ESPN.com) responded with 25 tackles in a back up role. Another former Parade All-American is Illinois product Jamie Cumbie who is poised for a break out season after injuring both wrists in 2008. Rennie Moore is also climbing up the depth charts after making huge strides this spring. As one can tell, this DL is extremely rich in depth and talent. Fresh legs appear to be on the '09 menu, which is a dish many opposing offenses will find quite unappetizing.


New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele takes over after serving in the same capacity at places such as Tennessee, Nebraska, Alabama, Florida State and the NFL Carolina Panthers. He also will continue to coach the linebackers, where his track record is even more impressive. Not one player departs from this unit. Kavell Conner was the top tackler (125 stops), starting all 13 games a year ago. Conner had a lot to do with Clemson leading the ACC for allowing the fewest points. Middle backer Brandon Maye had an outstanding redshirt freshman campaign and was named to the FWAA First Team All-Freshman list. He also doubles as an honoree on the All-ACC Academic team after making the Dean's List in the classroom. On the strong side Scotty Cooper continues to improve after attempting to fill the shoes of 2008 starter DeAndre McDaniel (moved to strong safety). There are still some concerns at this spot and coaches have tinkered with the thought of moving end Kevin Alexander here to bolster production. Coaches are pleased, however, that big hitter Daniel Andrews can likely solidify the spot.


While the Tiger defense was outstanding in many areas, the ‘08 pass defense was exceptional. While the safety position goes through a tough rebuilding mode to replace both of its (every-game) starters, the cornerback spot is quite the opposite. The duo of Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler has started together in this secondary for each of the last two years and both are legitimate Thorpe Award Candidates. Bulter has 10 career interceptions and has a knack for turning them into huge return yards. The former high school running back had four interceptions for 142 return yards last year, the third most interception return yards in school history. Chancellor has a string of 28 starts in a row on his back and also boasts eight career interceptions on his résumé. A strong set of veteran reserves is available when needed. Marcus Gilchrist saw a good bit of time as a nickel back last fall and Byron Maxwell might be the secondary’s hardest hitter. Gilchrist apparently is one of the best 11 guys on the field and it appears he will get a chance to earn either a starting spot at safety and/or move to strong side linebacker to find playing time. DeAndre McDaniel has locked down the strong safety position. Former Clemson assistant Charlie Harbison was hired away from Mississippi State this past December to coach the DBs. He has labeled McDaniel as possibly the best all-around athlete on the team as McDaniel returns to his more natural safety position after being somewhat lost as a starting LB last fall. The most heated secondary battle/questions will be at free safety; Sadat Chambers currently has a slight lead. Coaches need to find someone that can cover and tackle, and Chambers has had an inconsistent spring. He had a better overall spring than redshirt frosh Rashard Hall, but the battle to replace Clemons still remains open.


CB Chris Chancellor


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Da'Quan Bowers-So (6-4, 275) Ricky Sapp-Sr (6-4, 240)
NG Jarvis Jenkins-Jr (6-4, 305) Jamie Cumbie-Jr (6-7, 270)
Rennie Moore-So (6-4, 265)
DT Brandon Thompson-So (6-2, 315) Miguel Chavis-Jr (6-5, 280)
DE Kevin Alexander-Sr (6-3, 255) Kourtnei Brown-Jr (6-4, 240)
SLB Scotty Cooper-Jr (6-1, 215) Daniel Andrews-So (5-11, 190)
MLB Brandon Maye-So (6-2, 225) Jonathan Willard-RFr (6-1, 215)
WLB Kavell Conner-Sr (6-1, 225) Stanley Hunter-So (5-11, 225)
CB Chris Chancellor-Sr (5-10, 165) Marcus Gilchrist-Jr (5-11, 185)
CB Crezdon Butler-Sr (6-0, 185) Byron Maxwell-Jr (6-1, 200)
SS DeAndre McDaniel-Jr (6-1, 200) Carlton Lewis-Fr (6-2, 200)
FS Sadat Chambers-Sr (5-11, 190) Rashard Hall-RFr (6-1, 190)
P Dawson Zimmerman-So (6-1, 200) Richard Jackson-Jr (5-11, 190)




Clemson must replace multi-year starters Mark Buchholz and Jimmy Maners at the two kicking positions. The player expected to assume full-time kicking duties suffered a broken collarbone in a skiing accident during spring break. Spencer Benton -up until that point - was proving to be as consistent as any kicker here in recent memory. Distance does not appear to be an issue, but just how consistent his leg proves to be once he gets his first opportunity in front of a large crowd remains to be seen. Richard Jackson will push him in a battle that will continue through August. Dawson Zimmerman started two games and punted in three last season and assumes the punting duties. His 38.5 average (12 attempts) during his freshman outing are a far cry from the expectations for the nation's No. 2 rated prep punter. He has plenty of time to improve. The return game appears to be in fantastic hands. C.J. Spiller is one of the most electrifying kick returners in the nation with three career TDs to his name. He also handles the punts. Spiller takes what he does best as a running back and applies the skills to his return efforts. Accordingly, Spiller has what every good return man at this level or the next must have...the ability to quickly get going north and south. Receiver Jacoby Ford, too, is an outstanding return talent and has recorded both a punt and kickoff return of over 90 yards for scores. Pick your poison.