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Spring Football: If Clemson can play defense an ACC title shouldn’t be far behind

First Practice: March 6

Spring Game: April 13

After reaching 11 victories in 2012, Clemson football expects to repeat that performance — if not do even a little better in 2013. The Tigers 11-2 season was their best since the 1981 team went 12-0 and won a national title.

Dabo Swinney and his staff have amassed some serious talent, and they are fresh off a huge 25-24 victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Now Swinney must make sure the Tigers work hard this spring to get back on top of the ACC.

The few slip-ups that Clemson endured in 2012 should be enough to motivate the players to work hard this spring and put them in position this fall to be a serious national title contender.

The Tigers have some holes to fill on the defense, but second-year coordinator Brent Venables is up to the task.

Let’s take a closer look at the spring Clemson football team …

Stability Factor (1 = Chaos; 5 = Rock Solid): 4

Everything points to Clemson being able to compete for the ACC title and possibly be a darkhorse candidate to place for a national title, but let’s remember this is Clemson we’re talking about.

If there’s a program that can look success right in the eyes and blink it is the Tigers.

If Clemson can get over that hump it would be interesting to see how successful the Fighting Swinneys could be. It would help to find a way to be competitive with rival South Carolina.

sammy-watkinsUnder the Microscope: Sammy Watkins

After earning first-team All-America honors as a freshman, Watkins had a very pedestrian season in 2012. He missed three games, including the bowl win, but his 57 receptions and three touchdowns were well below expectations.

Watkins is capable of being Tajh Boyd’s main target again, and he’ll need to be even more so now that DeAndre Hopkins has left early for the NFL.

If Watkins can remain on the field and be the top-five pick that many NFL scouts consider him, then Clemson’s offense should be as potent as ever.

Locked and Loaded: Offense

As previously mentioned, the offense could be one of the nation’s best with Boyd and Watkins.

Of course, the Tigers must replace Andre Ellington, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.

Under the guidance of coordinator Chad Morris, the Tigers were a top-10 offense in total offense and scoring.

Clemson’s offense should light up the scoreboard this fall.

Jockeying for Position: Defensive Backs

The Tigers struggled mightily against the pass last season and this is definitely an area of focus.

Clemson focused on this area with its 2013 recruiting class and don’t be surprised if Mackensie Alexander and Adrian Baker — both Florida products — see plenty of playing time.

If the Tigers can shut down the passing attack more this season then Clemson will be tough to beat in the ACC — even or Florida State.

Name to Know: Corey Crawford, DE

If not Crawford then maybe Vic Beasley or Shaq Lawson. But one of them will be asked to step up and become a force on defense.

In case you haven’t noticed, but getting the defense in shape is a critical part o Clemson’s success in 2013.

Spring Will be a Success If: It’s all about the defense. If the Tigers can find some replacements for top talent that is gone like defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman then we could be talking about a repeat of 1981.

Like most teams, it’s also important that Clemson stay healthy throughout spring. As good as the Tigers are it is a fine line between title contender and nine wins.

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