- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time to hand out season grades for Clemson.
OFFENSE: Let's see, where do we begin? Quarterback Tajh Boyd won ACC Player of the Year honors and won American Football Coaches Association All-America honors for yet another record-breaking season. Boyd finished the season with a Clemson-record 4,410 yards of total offense, and ranked No. 5 in the nation in passing efficiency and No. 7 in total offense. DeAndre Hopkins set a new school single-season record with 1,405 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns. And Andre Ellington ran for over 1,000 yards. Oh, and Clemson ranked No. 1 in the ACC in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense. They did it all with Freshman of the Year Sammy Watkins having an up-and-down season, too. If you compare the numbers to last year, Clemson averaged nearly 8 more points per game in 2012; 71 more yards of total offense; 33 more yards of rushing offense; and 39 more yards of passing offense. And the Tigers averaged 81.7 plays per game -- up nearly six over 2012. So I would say this offense improved and was the best in the ACC. GRADE: A.
DEFENSE: The Tigers were not one of the elite groups in the league, but they certainly were better than they were a year ago. In fact, I believe this defense was one of the more improved units across the ACC, especially as the season went on. In the first six games of the season, Clemson gave up an average of 27.3 points per game. That number dropped to 21.2 points per game in the final seven contests. Clemson ended up ranking No. 3 in the ACC in scoring defense, No. 8 in rushing defense and No. 7 in total defense. Those are all improvements over a year ago, when the Tigers ranked in the bottom four in each of those categories. You could certainly see new coordinator Brent Venables getting through to his guys, and there is hope for continued improvement into 2013. Among standouts, the Tigers got excellent production from Vic Beasley and Malliciah Goodman, and Spencer Shuey came on strong in the second half of the season. GRADE: B.
OVERALL: Clemson lost to Florida State and did not make it back to the ACC title game, so that is certainly one reason for disappointment. So is another loss to South Carolina. But in the end, Clemson finished with 11 wins, just the fourth time in school history that has happened. The Tigers had a huge win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. And they finished up ranked No. 9 in the coaches' poll, the first time since the 1990 season that Clemson finished in the top 10 in either of the two polls. The Tigers were one of only two ACC teams to finish the season ranked, mind you. A good year, all things considered. GRADE: A.
1dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna