Clemson Tigers

15 Returning Starters (8 on Offense, 7 on Defense)

Top Players: QB Will Proctor, RB James Davis, WR Chansi Stuckey, LT Barry Richardson, C Dustin Fry, DE Gaines Adams, LB Anthony Waters, S Michael Hamlin, K Jad Dean

Overall View

This has the potential to be the best Clemson team in recent memory. They return playmakers at nearly every position on offense and defense, and up front they should be the most physical of all of Tommy Bowden's Clemson teams.

But can they avoid the bad loss? It seems like every year, Clemson loses a game to a Duke or a Wake Forest, but then goes on a run at the end of the season that provides great hope for the following season. Will things stay the same this year?

Offensive Strength

The running game will be Clemson's offensive strength in 2006, and the Tigers will rely on it more than ever in Tommy Bowden's tenure. They return all five starters on the offensive line, and four of them are seniors. Junior left tackle Barry Richardson may be the best of the bunch. Overall, nine of their top 10 offensive linemen from last season are back.

At tailback, Clemson has perhaps the best running back in the conference in James Davis. Davis was the ACC Rookie of the Year last year after rushing for 879 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing time due to an injury. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Davis, who once favored Virginia Tech in the recruiting process, is poised to have a big season.

Behind Davis is Reggie Merriweather, an experienced senior who filled in admirably for the injured Davis. Merriweather ran for 715 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Offensive Weakness

Since the Tigers return their top two rushers, top two receivers, their tight end, and basically all of their offensive linemen, we'll have to go with quarterback Will Proctor as their offensive weakness. In limited action last season, Proctor was 18-of-31 for 281 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Proctor is a senior with little game experience, but he is very familiar with the offensive system. If he plays within that system and does not turn the ball over, the Clemson offense should be fine. Proctor is actually more mobile than former QB Charlie Whitehurst was and could be a better fit in offensive coordinator Rob Spence's offense.

Defensive Strength

Clemson's linebackers are the best group of players on their defense, and they are possibly the best group of linebackers in the ACC. All three starters return for 2006, led by All-American candidate Anthony Waters. Waters recorded 109 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. He broke up seven passes and pressured the quarterback five times.

The other two linebackers, Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie, recorded 99 and 93 tackles respectively. They combined for 10.5 tackles for loss. However, they are both undersized. Billie is the strong side linebacker, and he measures in at only 6-1, 200. Watkins is 6-2, 215. But they can fly to the ball.

Defensive Weakness

Clemson returns just one starter in the defensive secondary, sophomore Michael Hamlin, who plays the CAT safety position. He played well as a freshman, but he will need help. Cornerback is the biggest question mark.

Duane Coleman moved from running back to corner last season and has some starting experience there, but he has not mastered the art of covering one-on-one. Neither has C.J. Gaddis, who moves to corner from free safety this year. Offenses with good receivers should be able to exploit the Clemson secondary.

Key Game

A key game for the Tigers will come on September 9 at Boston College. This is the type of game that the Tigers generally lose. They play Florida State on September 16, so they could be looking ahead. If Clemson can knock off the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, that sets up a great matchup with the Seminoles in Tallahassee.

Clemson 2006 Football Schedule
Clemson 2006 Roster
Clemson 2006 Depth Chart (PDF file: Clemson official site)