- Heather Dinich, College Football Reporter
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2012 record: 11-2
2012 conference record: 7-1 (Atlantic Division co-champs)
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Ellington (1,081 yards)
Passing: Boyd* (3,896 yards)
Receiving: Hopkins (1,405 yards)
Tackles: Willard (95)
Sacks: Beasley* (8)
Interceptions: Hall (4)
1. Freshman phenom at tight end: Jordan Leggett enrolled in January, and not a moment too soon. Sam Cooper tore his ACL, an injury that opened the door for Leggett, who had a fantastic spring. He had seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the spring game, and he was impressive in the last two scrimmages. He’s not listed as the starter yet, but he is good enough to get there by the opener against Georgia.
2. Beasley’s a beast. He led the team with eight sacks last year, but really showed consistency in the spring. Twice had interceptions of Boyd where he made athletic plays, and he had 10 sacks in the three scrimmages. Clemson is in need of a big-play guy on defense, and Beasley could be it.
3. Solid behind Boyd. Clemson has found a No. 2 quarterback in Cole Stoudt, who threw for 304 yards in the first half of the Tigers’ spring game. He hardly played in the second half. The depth of the position took a hit when Chad Kelly was injured, but now the backup quarterback question has an answer.
1. Unsettled secondary. The cornerback position is a particular area of concern, but with eight true freshmen joining the team this August, the entire group could look different this summer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least four of those rookies earn playing time this fall, especially prized recruit Mackensie Alexander, who was the program’s highest-rated signee since former defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
2. Center of attention: The Tigers will miss Dalton Freeman, who started 49 straight games at center. Ryan Norton is the new starter, but there’s no replacing the experience Freeman had with making all of the blocking calls and the chemistry he developed with Boyd.
3. Spotlight on Sammy: Watkins is moving to Hopkins’ old position, and all eyes will be watching to see if he looks like the same player who caught the nation’s attention as a true freshman in 2011. So far, so good. Watkins had 156 receiving yards in the spring game and looked like old Sammy.
2012 record: 11-22012 conference record: 7-1 (Atlantic Division co-champs)Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1Top returners:QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, T Brandon Thomas, WR Charone Peake, WR Martavis Bryant, DE Vic Beasley, DE Corey Crawford, LB Stephone Anthony, S Travis Blanks, LB Spencer Shuey; K Chandler CatanzaroKey losses:WR DeAndre Hopkins, RB Andre Ellington, TE Brandon Ford, C Dalton Freeman, WR Jaron Brown, DE Malliciah Goodman, CB Xavier Brewer, CB Rashard Hall, SS Jonathan Meeks, LB Tig Willard, P Spencer Benton2012 statistical leaders (*returners)Rushing: Ellington (1,081 yards)Passing: Boyd* (3,896 yards)Receiving: Hopkins (1,405 yards)Tackles: Willard (95)Sacks: Beasley* (8)Interceptions: Hall (4)Spring answers1.