Saturday, August 26, 2006

Palmetto State Preview - Clemson & South Carolina

Based on last season's regular season finale, it appears Bowden still has Spurrier's number. Clemson's Tommy Bowden comes into this season with high expectations no just for the ACC, but nationally. Last season, the Tigers lost four games by a combined 14 points. South Carolina showed some muster last season narrowily losing to Georgia and then beating new rival Florida at home, but a collapse in their bowl game left somewhat of a sour taste on what could have been.

Clemson (8-4, 4-4)
Offensive Starters Returning: 8
Defensive Starters Returning: 7
Last 5 Years Win Totals: 7-7-9-6-8

Tiger fans are looking for the program to take the next step. Clemson has been bowl eligible seven straight seasons, but this season would like to make a serious run at an ACC title something they have not held since FSU came into the league. Will Proctor will step in at QB this season replacing Charlie Whitehurst. Tiger fans can be a rest assured because Proctor is the one who brought Clemson back from 10 down in the 4th quarter against Texas A&M last season. Behind him them though is two untested and unknown commodities Cullen Harper and Tribble Reese. If Proctor is not able to master the passing game then he can just hand the ball off to the best set of tailbacks in the ACC - James Davis and Reggie Merriweather. Davis, 2005 ACC Freshman of the Year, helped the Tigers raise their rushing yards per game from 107.5 yards in 2004 to 153.0 in 2005. Along with Merriweather and true freshman C.J. Spiller, Clemson should have a no trouble on the ground this season. At wideout, Chansi Stuckey and Aaron Kelly are the headliners returning. Stuckey led the ACC in receptions last season with 64. Sophomore Rendrick Taylor will be used as J-Back (lining up as a FB, TE, or WR) because of his unusual combination of size and speed. No championship team is complete without an offensive line and Bowden has all five starters from a year ago and nine of the first 10 returning.

Defensively, Clemson's best player is end Gaines Adams. Adams had 9.5 sacks last season, more than any returning player. He is the only returning starter, but the Tigers brought in two outstanding freshman who may get some playing time this season in Jamie Cumbie and Ricky Sapp. At linebacker, Clemson returns Anthony Waters who is the leading returning tackler in the ACC (do you see a theme here?). The other two positions will be filled by Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie. The secondary lost two of the defenses' best players last year and may be the weak link right now for the Tigers. Converted RB Duane Coleman will start at one corner while converted QB C.J. Gaddis starts at the other. The safeties will have have one new starter in Chris Clemons at free safety. Michael Hamlin, who started five games at corner last season, will be the starter at strong safety.

The Tigers special teams will be in good hands with both kickers returning. Stuckey will return punts with Coleman and Kelly returning kicks.
Sep2Fla AtlanticW
Sep9@Boston CollegeW
Sep23North CarolinaW
Sep30La TechW
Oct 7@Wake ForestW
Oct21Georgia TechL
Oct26@Virginia TechW
Nov11NC StateW
Nov25South CarolinaW
Prediction: 10-2, 6-2

South Carolina (7-5, 5-3)
Offensive Starters Returning: 6
Defensive Starters Returning: 4
Last 5 Years Win Totals: 9-5-5-6-7

Steve Spurrier enters his second season at the helm in Columbia and big things are expected in Columbia, but high expectations are an annual event come August from Gamecock fans. One of the reasons to be excited in Columbia is QB Blake Mitchell. Mitchell showed flashes last year of brilliance, but also threw 12 INT diminishing his pass effiency to sixth in the SEC. Spurrier expects better out of his QB's, but Mitchell's backup Cade Thompson is unlikely to see serious action barring an injury. Cory Boyd will be back at tailback following a one year suspension. That is good for the Gamecocks who finished next to last in the SEC in rushing. Sidney Rice is the clear cut star at South Carolina. The wideout was named national freshman of the year by after establishing school records in receiving yards and touchdowns. Syvelle Newton and Noah Whiteside will hope to provide Blake Mitchell some other options in catching the ball. The offensive line was woeful last season and will have three new starters this season. The leader will be center Chris White, Rimington Award watch list.

Defensively, South Carolina yielded 174 yards per game on the ground last season. Not to pile on but, four seniors are gone from last season. Spring practice players like Marque Hall and Stanley Doughty to push their names to the forefront, but the line will likely be a revolving door most of the season. The situation at linebacker is not much different, but the backups returning have some good experience. Leading the way is sophomore Marvin Sapp. The secondary was one of the best in the SEC last season, but Ko Simpson and Jonathan Joseph are gone. Fred Bennett returns and is a great cover guy, but a questionable tackler. Sophomore Carlos Thomas will man the other cover spot. At the safety positions, Chris Hampton and Brandon Isaac are the starters now, but are being pushed in the preseason for playing time.

The kicking situation is another question mark for Spurrier with two new starters. Thomas will likely return kicks while the punt return spot will be by committee early on.

Aug31@Miss StW
Sep23Fla AtlanticW
Nov18Middle TennesseeW

Prediction: 8-4, 5-3

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