PUTTING DEFENSES on their heels last season with offensive coordinator Chad Morris's shiny new HUNH (Hurry Up, No Huddle), the ACC champs improved dramatically, jumping from 88th to 26th in total offense. And that was with first-year starter at quarterback Tajh Boyd having digested "60-to-65 percent" of the offense, says Morris. Now a junior and a veteran of Morris's system, Boyd is ready "to get into the next layer of this offense," says the OC. Boyd is also ready to do a better job taking what the defense gives him and to stop forcing throws into coverage. Over Clemson's last six games he threw as many picks (nine) as TDs—after a 24-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio to start the season—which is in large part why the Tigers lost four of those games.
CARLOS WATKINS The 6'4", 275-pound defensive tackle was a high school running back, wide receiver and linebacker and spurned Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame, among others, to become a Tiger. A depleted D-line ensures he'll contribute immediately.
TRAVIS BLANKS After enrolling early, the 6'1", 195-pound cornerback earned a spot at nickelback. One of the nation's top cover corners in high school, he is a punishing, sure tackler. He can play any position in the back seven, but new defensive coordinator Brent Venables wants to first hone his skills in the secondary.
THESE TIGERS are loaded with skill, but they have question marks in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Clemson will need to light it up on offense if the defense—last seen giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl—doesn't get something figured out. Venables has admitted concern over the team's lack of depth and experience along the defensive front, especially at end. Sculpted senior Malliciah Goodman must finally play to his potential, and second-year players such as Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams, Josh Watson and Tavaris Barnes will have to take giant leaps.