ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Clemson Tigers

Is Former Backup Roderick McDowell Ready to Take Over for Clemson at RB?

Is Former Backup Roderick McDowell Ready to Take Over for Clemson at RB?

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Clemson Tigers

Spring Practice Start Date: March 6

Spring Game Date: April 13

Following two-straight seasons of more than 10 wins, Clemson’s suddenly in the national spotlight and a real threat to win the ACC and the National Championship (and maybe even the Heisman trophy too). But even as they bring back a strong group of both players and coaches, there’s still plenty left to figure out heading in 2013 if they’re going to live up to the very lofty expectations attached to them.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris has returned for another year with the Tigers, meaning and he couldn’t be stocked with a better weapon than quarterback Tajh Boyd. Around the senior, though, there’s questions at wide receiver and running back, along with a gaping hole at center, formerly filled by NFL-bound Dalton Freeman. The odds-on favorite to fill that center spot is currently Ryan Norton, though he could also be challenged by redshirt sophomore Jay Guillermo. At receiver, Sammy Watkins will be called upon to quickly regain the all-world stature he’d reached as a freshman in 2011, especially without an experienced safety net to remove the pressure this time around. With Watkins at the top spot on the depth chart, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant will likely take some time this spring to gain a better rapport with Boyd and prove they can handle a larger role in Clemson’s dynamic passing game. The Tigers must also replace the departed Andre Ellington at running back, but can luckily plug his experienced backup, Roderick McDowell (450 yards, five TDs in 2012), right into the role.

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National Signing Day 2013: Top 15 ACC Football Recruits

Clemson Signee Mackensie Alexander Headlines a Strong Class of ACC Recruits

Clemson Signee Mackensie Alexander Headlines a Strong Class of ACC Recruits

Without a doubt, National Signing Day 2013 was a bloodbath in favor of the SEC. Eight of the top 20 classes (per ESPN). Eleven of the top 25 recruits overall (again, per ESPN). And yet, the ACC still put up a pretty good fight (and a much better one than most are willing to give credit for). Unlike the top-heavy classes of the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten — largely buoyed by two programs apiece atop the rankings — the ACC saw four different programs finish among ESPN’s top 20 classes, and carried six of the nation’s top 30 players. And that’s not even counting Notre Dame.

All that aside, however, this is about the best players the ACC brought in the door this National Signing Day. Below are the top 15 recruits of the class of 2013, using ratings by ESPN for consistency’s sake:

1. Mackensie Alexander, CB/Clemson (No. 4 overall, Grade: 91)

2. Matthew Thomas, OLB/Florida State (No. 6 overall, Grade: 90)

3. Jalen Ramsey, CB/Florida State (No. 14 overall, Grade: 89)

4. Kendall Fuller, CB/Virginia Tech (No. 18, Grade: 88)

5. Dorian Johnson, OT/Pittsburgh (No. 29, Grade: 88)

6. Ryan Green, ATH/Florida State (No. 30, Grade: 88)

7. Demarcus Walker, DT/Florida State (No. 40, Grade: 87)

8. Stacy Coley, WR/MIami (FL) (No. 47, Grade: 87)

9. Al-Quadin Mohammad, DE/Miami (FL) (No. 58, Grade: 85)

10. Artie Burns, CB/Miami (FL) (No. 70, Grade: 85)

11. Levonte Whitfield, ATH/Florida State (No. 74, Grade: 85)

12. Taquan Mizzell, RB/Virginia (No. 75, Grade: 85)

13. Ben Boulware, ILB/Clemson (No. 78, Grade: 84)

14. James Quick, WR/Louisville (No. 79, Grade: 84)

15. Kevin Olsen, QB/Miami (FL) (No. 87, Grade: 84)

No one would argue that Florida State and Miami (along with Clemson) carried the flag for the conference this year, though at the same time, there was also plenty of recruiting diversification. Seven different schools are represented among these top 15; which is half the league. You go a little bit further down the list, and you’ll find many of the other schools too. Even one like North Carolina — largely a “basketball school” and without a recruit until number 118 on ESPN’s list — still finishes 20th overall, despite a class of just 17 players total.

Want to see a full breakdown of every ACC team’s class? Check back in an hour for our team-by-team rankings.

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