CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 12 Clemson

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2011 record: 10-4 overall, 6-2 in ACC (1st-tie in Atlantic)

2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 win over Virginia Tech); Orange Bowl (70-33 loss to West Virginia)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 22/No. 22

Head coach: Dabo Swinney (29-19 in four seasons at Clemson)

Offensive coordinator: Chad Morris (second season at Clemson, second as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 59th rushing offense (158.5 ppg); 21st passing offense (282.3 ypg); 26th total offense (440.8 ypg); 24th scoring offense (33.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: six

Defensive coordinator: Brent Venables (first season at Clemson, first as OC)

2011 defensive rankings: 83rd rushing defense (176.9 ypg); 50th passing defense (217.5 ypg); 71st total defense (394.4 ypg); 81st scoring defense (29.3 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Clemson, S.C.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,500; grass)

Last league title: 2011

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
Three of the most productive offensive players at their positions in the country — quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Andre Ellington — are back for another season of havoc-wreaking in the ACC.  Perhaps the scariest part of that returning trio for the conference is last season was the first in Chad Morris’ scheme; with another offseason under its collective belt, that three-headed offensive monster should be downright frightening in 2012.

The Bad
See those numbers a few inches above, the ones that state the Tigers owned the 71st defense in total yards allowed and was an embarrassing 81st in scoring defense?  Yeah, that was bad.  While most people will point to — and laugh at — the 70 points hung on Clemson’s defense by West Virginia in the bowl game, the Tigers gave up at least 30 points to Maryland (45), North Carolina (38), North Carolina State (37), South Carolina (34), Georgia Tech (31) and Florida State (30).  The good in the bad, though, is the fact that Swinney “parted ways” with coordinator Kevin Steele and replaced him with Brent Venables, who comes to the Tigers after overseeing stifling defenses at Oklahoma for the past 12 seasons.  Another issue that most certainly falls into the bad for Clemson is freshman wide receiver sensation Sammy Watkins’ suspension for the first two games of the season, which includes the season opener against Auburn.

The Unknown
As odd as it may sound, it’s fair to ask if there will be any carryover from the 70-33 beatdown at the hands of the Mountaineers to close out the 2011 season.  The biggest plus from that shellacking is that it led to the change at coordinator and, especially with the presence of Venables, any chance of a lingering hangover is a long shot at best.  However, it will be something to watch early on in the season, especially with games against Auburn and Florida State in the first month of the new football year.

Make-or-break game: at Florida State, Sept. 29
The Seminoles were one of the Tigers’ victims in a string of eight straight wins to open the 2011 season, although Clemson would win just two of its final five games as the Tigers spit and sputtered their way through the remainder of the schedule.  Traveling to Tallahassee to face a team that (once again) is expected to be a prominent player nationally, however, is a different animal entirely for the Tigers.  Fortunately for Clemson, it will have three games to get its new defensive legs underneath them, as well as one game to work Watkins back into game shape coming off the suspension.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Tajh Boyd
Boyd flourished in his first season with Morris as coordinator, and 2012 portends even bigger production for the junior.  Last season, Boyd passed for just over 3,800 yards and 33 touchdowns, although the 12 interceptions — some at critical junctures — remain a lingering concern.  Not enough, however, to keep Boyd out of the Heisman mix as continued improvement is not only expected but being counted on to help elevate the Tigers to that next level nationally.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Ex-Penn State K Joey Julius tweets he’s ‘in full recovery’ in ongoing battle with eating disorder

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Monday brought word that cult kicking icon Joey Julius was no longer a member of the Penn State football team.  A day later, we have an update on Julius’ very personal but still public battle with an undisclosed eating disorder.

This past May, Julius revealed on Facebook that he “had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum Place” as part of his ongoing fight with the disorder.  On Twitter very early Tuesday morning, assured concerned fans that he’s “in full recovery” and has “been discharged from treatment for awhile.”

According to PennLive.com, Julius has been treated for an eating disorder at least twice in the last year.

While Julius is no longer a part of the Nittany Lions football team, he’s still in their thoughts, as head coach James Franklin expressed during his turn at the Big Ten Media Days Tuesday.

With decision coming ‘very soon,’ dismissed Duck Darren Carrington reportedly opts for Utes

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Despite the off-field baggage he brings to the table, Darren Carrington‘s talent could very well lead the wide receiver to another shot with a Power Five program — perhaps even one in his former conference.

Earlier this month, Oregon announced that it had dismissed Carrington, a move that came a couple of weeks after the senior was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants. According to a tweet from The Oregonian‘s John Canzano in the middle of last week, those circumstances are doing little to dissuade others as “[m]ore than one Pac 12 coach told me [last Tuesday] he was interested in… Carrington.”

More to the point, Canzano wrote that “the ex-Ducks receiver spent [last Tuesday] at Utah.”

Subsequent to that tweet, Carrington’s father, former NFL wide receiver Darren Carrington, confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend that his son had indeed visited Utah as well as received interest from other unnamed Pac-12 schools. The elder Carrington added that a decision on a new home would be coming “very soon.”

Then, Tuesday morning, word began to trickle out that Carrington had indeed opted for the Utes, although there’s been no official word from the player, his family or his rumored new program.

As Carrington, who expressed disappointment over how his time in Eugene ended, is already a graduate of UO, he would be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, or any other FBS program for that matter — even one in the Pac-12.  Camps all across the country will be kicking off in less than two weeks, which will lead to the Carrington camp expediting the transfer process.

Regardless of where Carrington ends up, his new team will be getting a gifted player with a consistent penchant for finding himself on the wrong side of headlines.

The senior’s 606 yards receiving last year were tops on the team, while his five receiving touchdowns were tied for first. His 43 catches were second on the team as well.

On the flip side, and in addition to his DUII arrest, Carrington was ruled ineligible for Oregon’s College Football Playoff Championship loss to Ohio State a couple of years ago; was cited for open container in October 2015; and was accused of breaking a man’s arm in a Halloween incident last year.

Report: Florida loses incoming frosh LB Nick Smith for six weeks

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Earlier this month, Florida lost one of the most experienced members of its defense to a season-ending injury.  This week, they have reportedly lost one of their youngsters on that side of the ball as well, albeit to one not as serious.

Citing a source close to the program, the Gainesville Sun has reported that Nick Smith underwent surgery on his left knee Monday to repair a torn meniscus.  It’s unclear how or when the linebacker suffered the injury.

As a result of the medical procedure, Smith will be sidelined for a period of at least six weeks.  Such a timeline would not only keep Smith out for the whole of summer camp, but for, at minimum, the 2017 opener Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington as well.

It should be noted that UF has yet to publicly address what if any health issues Smith may need to overcome.

A three-star member of the Gators’ 2017 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 79 outside linebacker in the country.  While Smith has been expected to contribute immediately on special teams, his expected absence early on exacerbates the dearth of available talent in UF’s linebacking corps.

From the Sun:

The loss of Smith is a blow to Florida’s depth at linebacker, a position that returns just four players who have started a game for the Gators.

Versatile playmaker Janarion Grant back to 100 percent for Rutgers

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The opening of the Big Ten’s Media Days Monday brought some welcome news for Rutgers fans.

One of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, Janarion Grant went down with a serious-looking ankle injury — at the end of a 76-yard touchdown — late in the first half of a Week 4 game against Iowa that ultimately ended the wide receiver’s 2016 season.  Grant was in non-contact mode this past spring, leading some to wonder whether he’d be available for summer camp or even the start of the upcoming season.

Yesterday, Chris Ash put any such fears to rest by declaring Grant completely recovered less than two weeks ahead of the start of camp.

“He’s 100 percent… He’s had a great summer,” the head coach said according to nj.com. “He was limited through the spring semester, but this summer he’s been pretty much full go for the majority of the summer. He looks great, he’s in great shape, he’s put weight back on. We’re obviously excited to have him back.”

At the time of the injury, Grant led the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions and was second on the team with 143 yards rushing. His 562 all-purpose yards were tops in the Big Ten entering Week 4 play last year.

He had six touchdowns in those three-plus games and did it in a quartet of ways — rushing (three), punt return (one), kick return (one) and passing (one).

Suffice to say, Grant was named as part of the Hornung Award watch list earlier this month.  He’s on the watch list for the prestigious Maxwell Award as well.