Hope and concern: Clemson

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Biggest reason for hope -- Fast, veteran playmakers

Many coaches throughout the league will tell you there's no reason Clemson shouldn't win games this fall because of the Tigers' talent-laden roster. All five starters return to the offensive line, and they've still got oodles of playmakers on both sides of the ball -- C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Ricky Sapp, Crezdon Butler, Chris Chancellor and Da'Quan Bowers just to name a few. The speed in Death Valley is remarkable. If this staff gets the ball to its playmakers, it's possible Clemson could have a 1,000-yard rusher in Spiller and a 1,000-yard receiver in Ford. Clemson has seven starters back on an offense that ranked in the top five in the ACC last year in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense. The biggest difference should be up front, where the offensive line should be healthy and experienced.

Biggest reason for concern -- Unproven offensive leaders

Let's face it -- hiring a young wide receivers coach as a first-time head coach and promoting a 29-year-old tight ends coach to offensive coordinator was a gamble. And they'll be leading an inexperienced quarterback in either Kyle Parker or Willy Korn. Nobody is questioning Dabo Swinney's work ethic, his enthusiasm, or his abilities as a recruiter. And he did have a 4-3 record as Clemson's head coach in the second half of the season. But an average record in Death Valley won't cut it. This program needs to contend, and do it soon. Swinney and first-year coordinator Billy Napier will be running a spread offense, but it will feature more running plays for the quarterback. Overall, the coaches have enough talent to make Clemson a contender in the Atlantic Division race. The question is whether or not they can lead them there.