Can Clemson take the next step?

The question many are wondering this offseason is whether Clemson can take the next step and be a factor in the national championship race.

ESPN Insider Travis Haney weighs in with his thoughts on that topic in a new piece, noting two key areas the Tigers must address to get there. He writes:

For one, the Tigers' yards-per-rush number -- 4.2, 69th in FBS -- was low. And that was with veteran back Andre Ellington and quarterback Tajh Boyd developing a run element to his game. ...

Secondly, coordinator Brent Venables' defense needs to continue its upward trend. Through the first six games in 2012, the Tigers were 112th out of 120 FBS teams in yards per play allowed (6.56). In the final seven games, however, the Tigers were 22nd in the country (4.91), demonstrating marked improvement under the first-year coordinator.

Haney spent time in Clemson visiting with Dabo Swinney, Chad Morris and Brent Venables for the story and has plenty of good notes in there. It is an Insider piece and you can check it out hereInsider.