Clemson D formidable without LB Maye

The loss of Clemson starting linebacker Brandon Maye will hurt the depth of a position that was already limited in its numbers, but the Tigers have enough talent behind him to compensate for his departure. They'll also give the position a boost with this year's signing class -- especially if Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward choose Clemson.

Maye's backup, Jonathan Willard, is expected to be the front-runner to take over the starting job on the weak side heading into the spring, and Quandon Christian, who played a lot in the Tigers' nickel packages over the past seven or eight games of the season, should continue to build upon his 2010 experience as the starting strongside linebacker. Christian actually has better speed than Maye did.

This has been an offseason of change for Clemson, which hired a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive line coach, and lost standout defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and running back Jamie Harper early to the NFL draft. Still, the combination of good hires and incoming talent are reasons for optimism heading into 2011. This year's team can -- and should -- be better than 2010.