ACC 2012 Season Preview: Clemson Tigers

Clemson’s Offense Will Once Again Be Among the Nation’s Best, But Can the Defense Improve Enough?

Team: Clemson Tigers

2011 W-L: 10-4 (6-2)

Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19; four seasons)

Returning Starters: 14 (7 Offense, 7 Defense)

Clemson enjoyed a banner season in 2011, clinching the ACC for the first time in 20 years and playing in their first Orange Bowl since 1981, they’d announced their resurgence on the national scene. Or at least they would have…

Despite their obvious and numerous accomplishments last year, the one glaring thing the Clemson Tigers will be remembered for is being annihilated by the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Orange Bowl, 70-33. It’s unfortunate, sure, but moments like this can also spark a change, and in this case, they did almost immediately. Within a week of the drubbing, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was out, and in came long-time Oklahoma defensive guru Brent Venables. He vowed to change things, and erase that game from everyone’s memory. While there are far too many memes to let us ever do that (West Virginia just scored again, guys), a new coordinator was probably the best remedy for a group whom tackling was not a specialty.

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2011 ACC Season Recap: Clemson Tigers

Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd Were Two of the ACC's Most Exciting Players in 2011

Team: Clemson Tigers

W-L: 10-4 (7-2)

Postseason: 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia

Top Offensive Performer: Tajh Boyd, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Andre Branch, DE

After a fiery 8-0 start that saw sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd dominating defenses unlike any ACC signal-caller had done in years, suddenly the wheels came off in shocking fashion. Losses to Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina were shocks to the system, and if not for a last-second field-goal against Wake Forest, the Tigers may not have even won the Atlantic Division crown. Nonetheless, the Tigers finished in impressive fashion, polishing off the odds-on favorite Virginia Tech Hokies twice — the second time for the ACC title. With momentum, and some of the league’s best playmakers in Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and standout freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson was ready to cap off one of their best seasons in two decades. Alas, it was not to be. The Tigers choked in epic fashion in the Orange Bowl, and despite scoring 33 points of their own, they were doubled-up by West Virginia. Brutally embarrassing bowl performance aside, Clemson was still among the nation’s best offenses all season, specifically through the air, and averaged nearly 34 points per game. Boyd and Watkins would connect for 12 scores, as both were getting Heisman buzz well through midseason. Continue reading