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What Are Expectations for 2013?

Streeter Lecka

We stated after last season ended that the expectations would be higher for this Clemson team. If they truly have taken another step and elevated the program to where it once was, then this season will show it. They'll have to beat UGA, FSU, and SC along with handling the rest of the schedule. We had basically one year where we didn't go bipolar and lose to someone like Maryland, and that has to continue to be the case if you want us to get any respect nationally. All the pieces are here to compete for a national title and most of those pieces are going to be gone on offense in 2014. I think the ceiling needs to be set high this year and adjusted next offseason when we re-evaluate what we'll have next year. I don't think I'm alone in expecting us to be in contention for a BCS title this year, and I don't think I'm the only one who thinks this season would be a failure if we didn't shut Spurrier up with a win in Cola.

Our standards for success, for any year:

1. Win 10 games.

2. Beat Sakerlina

3. Win the ACC Title.

Dabo himself set the bar back last winter when he said this team could contend for a national title, so if he says it, then we'll hold him to that standard in 2013. If this team knocks itself out of title contention with a stunning loss or goes into Columbia unbeaten and loses, then you better believe we'll roast him for it.

We aren't going to be happy unless we hit the three targets and don't lose to someone we have no business losing to on the field. I believe Clemson will accomplish all of them this year and I believe we'll win 11 games this year at a minimum. I don't see FSU beating us at home with their losses, and I damn sure am not going to predict a loss to the cluckers. However, I can't see us going unbeaten either, not over what would be a 14-game season. I'll be happy if we're in the hunt for the national championship and getting the national notoriety for being a fearsome team to play again.

In short, I just don't think its reasonable to expect us to win the national championship. I just expect us to be up there at the end of the year and if a ball bounces our way, or another team blows their shot, maybe we'll get to Pasadena on Jan 6th. I think you should all plan to have a few extra days of vacation to hold over the new years holiday either way though.

I'm not a huge fan of opening up with the big opponents because an offensive team like we have rarely hits on all cylinders until a couple games into the year, and our defensive secondary is suspect. We may get knocked out of title contention on the first day, and I really worry more that the team psyche will get impacted by a loss (close or not) and that they could stub their toe against someone we shouldn't lose to. This is a different situation and much better team than 2008, and I don't think that disaster will happen for the record, but it does give pause.

If we want a special season we must beat Georgia. It can be great without it, but it can be special with the W.

On another note, we're again going to set some statistical bars for ongoing analysis this season. None of them matter like the W's, and we believe stats are an indicator of something and not always proof an argument is true.

On offense, the season statistics over the Swinney years are below:

2009-2012 Offensive Statistics
Category 2009 2009 Rank 2010 2010 Rank 2011 2011 Rank 2012 2012 Rank
Rushing Offense 170.36 40th 139.0 79th 155.85 60th 191.5 36
Passing Offense 192.0 88th 195.62 78th 284.77 21th 321.2 13
Pass Efficiency 127.09 67th 115.3 100 142.32 36th 163.0 4
Total Offense 362.36 74th 334.62 88 440.62 27th 512.7 9
Scoring Offense 31.14 28th 24.0 86 33.62 24th 41.0 6
Sacks Allowed 1.36pg 31 1.38pg 26 2.31pg 86th 2.38pg 85
Overall turnover margin .43 28 -.23 69 .15 T-45th .15 T-50th
Offensive FEI Rank 32 56th 22nd 13

We hit all our marks laid out last season on offense. The Chad hit his plays/gm mark, and has raised it to 90 for this year. I am hoping we raise the rushing rank with a more powerful inside running game, but I'm not sure the backs on the roster are going to get there this year. Much of the 191.5ypg was on Boyd's back, which we know cannot continue to be the case. If this offense can improve anywhere its with a punishing run game, and the coordinator cannot abandon the run when its working when we're behind. Realistically, I think a goal of Top 10 nationally in Total Offense and Scoring Offense are attainable, unless we lose Boyd to injury.

I do want to see less hits on the QB. There need to be fewer called Keepers. The number of sacks allowed must improve. I know that nearly half of the sacks the OL allowed were in 3 football games in 2012, so it should improve, but the worries that allowed them last year are still here. Gifford Timothy is not a great RT; he just moves his feet too slow. Clemson had trouble picking up twists and defensive stunts, along with blitzes up the B-gaps. We blocked with 5 in situations where we obviously should not have (Auburn, FSU, LSU and SC being prime examples). Also, considerable blame can go to Tajh Boyd in this area, as he often walked into a sack or failed to recognize a blitz to help his offensive line out.

Tajh Boyd finished with nearly 3900 yards and a 67% completion rate, 321 ypg, but with 13 INTs. We review the film each week, and I'd put a number of those picks on receivers and not Boyd, but it needs to be cut in half. I'm hoping Tajh cracks 4000 yards in 2013, but if he just holds where he is and the offense remains near the ranks of 2012, we're going to be just fine.

We weren't impressed with the defensive numbers last year. I believe it was one of the worst defenses we've fielded in my lifetime, even worse than Reggie Herring's, but they did improve so there are positives to build on. We expected the defense to finish within the Top 40, and take a TD off the scoring value from '11. I don't care what offense we run, these expectations are not going to change. We hit neither mark, in a conference without potent offenses. I'm not sure what to expect with them this year either. A coordinator's second year often shows the best improvement, so if we're bad again, I'm not going to stay on board with the Venables experiment.

2009-2012 Defensive Statistics
Category 2009 Ntl Rank 2010 Ntl rank 2011 Ntl Rank 2012 Ntl Rank
Rushing Defense 151.50 67th 128.46 28th 176.86 83 156.0 58
Pass Defense 162.79 7th 191.85 22nd 217.5 50 240 73
Pass Efficiency Defense 110.88 21st 116.24 27th 133.47 74 131.2 62
Scoring Defense 20.43ppg 25th 18.77 13th 29.29 81 25 46
Total Defense 314 20th 320.31 19th 394.36 71 396 64
Sacks/Gm 2.57 27th 2.38 32nd 1.85 76 2.6 22
Sacks 36 13th 31 T-28th 24 76 34 T-12
Tackles for Loss 7.29pg 12th 7.38pg 10th 5.07pg 86 6.7 29
Interceptions 21 5th 15 34th 14 31 13 T-43
Defensive FEI 16 15 50

The numbers look better than they should, but the sacks and TFL did improve over the season. The 3rd down defense was surprisingly good for most of the year as well, somewhat counter to what you'd expect when you look at those numbers above.

The most encouraging figure was the rush defense improvement. After FSU showed how lost we were in the front 7, we did start to focus and improve. The DTs stepped up their game starting at Boston College and got better in every game thereafter. 58th isn't good, but we were on pace for 100th+ after FSU. If Venables thinks his front 7 will carry this defense, then they need to be at the 2010 level. Top 30 is attainable if the talent at LB plays at the level they should.

These are my own thoughts on what good defense looks like: On 3rd and short, I think we need to be 40% successful in every game. Hopefully 3rd and long will be 70% for the year. We were basically there in 2012. Scoring defense on championship teams should be in the 14-15ppg range. Total defense should be under 300 yards allowed. NO more plays over 25 yards allowed, and sacks should come up to 1 out of 10 attempts. Interceptions should come at a lower rate, maybe 1 out of 15 attempts.

We're not going to hit all of these marks this year. The secondary is too inexperienced and I'm concerned about every-down pass rush from the End position. One affects the other. Still, I believe Top 40 overall should be a goal in 2013. If the front cracks the Top 30, then Mike Reed should be able to get another 20 yards off that pass defense number.

A top 10 offense and a top 40 defense should equate to an ACC title at a minimum and I don't see enough teams on the schedule that could stop us from 10 wins. SC will be a fight in the trenches again and I think we will win it, so all 3 main goals should get hit.

We're interested in hearing what your criteria will be for a successful season in 2013. What if we go 10-2 with a loss to SC? 11-1 with a loss to SC? Lose the ACC CG? Get trounced in a bowl game, or by Boston College, even after winning all the rest of our games?