Clemson Tigers Preview
  2012 SEASON IN REVIEW:Dabo Swinney has built a national contender in a very short time at Clemson and 2012 continued the team's upward swing.

The Tigers began Swinney's fifth season at the helm with three straight wins, opening up with a 26-19 victory over SEC foe Auburn, followed by routs of Ball State (52-27) and Furman (41-7). The team wasn't able to carry any momentum into its ACC opener against rival Florida State however, falling to the Seminoles in Tallahassee, 49-37. Clemson bounced back strong with seven straight victories, earning a share of the Atlantic Division title with a 7-1 league ledger. Clemson closed out the regular season with a 27-17 setback to arch-rival South Carolina and wasn't able to participate in the ACC Championship Game, losing out to FSU on a tie-breaker. Still, the loss to the Gamecocks was quickly forgotten, as Clemson shocked another strong SEC squad in LSU in the Chik-fil-A Bowl, 25-24.

Many a record was set by the Tigers in 2012, including racking up 533 points (41.0 ppg), the most in school history and the fourth-highest total in conference history. The team finished last year with an 11-2 record, the best mark for a Clemson squad since its run to the national title in 1981.

A31 vs. Georgia
S 7 vs. South Carolina State
S19 at NC State
S28 vs. Wake Forest
O 5 at Syracuse
O12 vs. Boston College
O19 vs. Florida State
O26 at Maryland
N 2 at Virginia
N14 vs. Georgia Tech
N23 vs. The Citadel
N30 at South Carolina
QB Tajh Boyd
WR Sammy Watkins
OT Brandon Thomas
OT Gofford Timothy
OG David Beasley
OG Tyler Shatley

DE Cory Crawford
DT Grady Jarrett
DT Josh Watson
LB Stephone Anthony
LB Spencer Suey
CB Darius Robinson
S Travis Blanks

PK Chris Catanzaro

OFFENSE:The ACC Player of the Year returns to Death Valley to lead the Tigers on one more run toward a national crown. Senior QB Tajh Boyd put it all together last season, earning First-Team All-ACC honors, as well as All- America accolades, completing 67.2 percent of his passes, for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns. Boyd has been a factor in the ground game as well over his career, including last season's 514 yards and 10 TDs rushing.

Boyd sees a strong future for Clemson football, even beyond his senior season.

"Clemson is on the rise, and I don't see it slowing down from here - I only see it picking up steam," he said. "It's like a locomotive. It's been a pleasure to be a part of this program as it's continued to grow ... I'm excited to see what the future holds in store."

The team will have to replace standout tailback Andre Ellington (1,081 yards, 8 TDs) and the hope is that senior Roderick McDowell (5-9, 195), junior DJ Howard (5-11, 195) or sophomore Zac Brooks (6-1, 185) can assuage the loss.

The receiving corps is also minus a top playmaker with DeAndre Hopkins' departure to the NFL, but former All-American Sammy Watkins (708 yards, 3 TDs) should return to form as one of the nation's premier wideouts and become Boyd's favorite target once again.

Stability along the offensive line is another luxury that the Clemson offense will enjoy, with four starters returning up front. However, the one loss is All-American center Dalton Freeman. Sophomore Ryan Norton (6-3, 270) is the likely candidate to take over the pivot. Senior left tackle Brandon Thomas (6-3, 305) highlights the returning starters, earning All-ACC First-Team honors as a junior in 2012.

DEFENSE: Despite having several high profile players over the last few years on the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers have always been a step or two behind the offense in terms of production. Last season was no different, as Clemson showed inconsistency at times, allowing almost 400 yards of total offense per game.

Only six starters return to the Clemson defense, with the hardest hit area being the secondary. Gone are All-ACC defensive backs Rashad Hall and Jonathan Meeks and Swinney must find playmakers amongst a litany of unknowns. Free safety Travis Banks (6-1, 190) could be a budding star after posting 51 stops as a freshman last year.

The linebacking corps is a bit more stable with the return of senior Spencer Shuey (93 tackles) and junior Stephone Anthony (77 tackles).

The defensive line is strong inside with juniors Grady Jackson (6-1, 290) and Josh Watson (6-4. 285). Fellow junior Vic Beasley (6-3, 225) showed flashes of brilliant play as an edge rusher last season, posting a team-high eight sacks among his 18 total tackles. Beasley should play a more prominent role for the Tigers in 2013 as a result. Highly touted recruit Shaq Lawson (6-4, 260) will find his way on the field as well as a freshman.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Tigers possess a capable place kicker in returning All-ACC Second-Team member Chandler Catanzaro. The 6-2 senior had a strong 2012, hitting 18 of his 19 field-goal attempts, with a long of 50 yards. He also saw plenty of action in terms of PATs, drilling 57-of-59 opportunities. Punter Spencer Benton has moved on, but sophomore Bradley Pinion should be able to fill the void with little trouble.

OUTLOOK: The nation will get a true gauge of just where Clemson is in terms of BCS title hopes in the season opener, as the Tigers play host to the Georgia Bulldogs. The rest of the non-league slate consists of a couple of FCS foes in South Carolina State and the Citadel and of course the regular-season finale against powerhouse South Carolina in Columbia.

The ACC schedule shapes up nicely for the Tigers in 2013, as their toughest opponents must travel to Death Valley in the form of Wake Forest, Boston College, Florida State and Georgia Tech. Clemson should be the favorite on the road against NC State, Syracuse, Maryland and Virginia.

Can Swinney once again get his team to the 11-win plateau? A couple of SEC heavyweights stand in the way of that happening. Still, double-digit victories and another ACC title are well within grasp, providing Boyd stays healthy.

By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor

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