Question #2: Can Clemson Fix The Turnover Issues Of 2004?
Through the first five games of last season, Clemson ranked dead last in the nation in turnover margin. Everyone has noted the interceptions Whitehurst threw, but the defense was not forcing its share of turnovers either. With the hiring of Rob Spence and Vic Koenning, the Tigers will look reverse their fortunes this season.
Coach Koenning’s defense at Troy tied for second in the nation in turnovers (32) and first in the nation in interceptions (25). He inherits a secondary that is not without playmakers. The first step to reversing the turnover battle will be turning Tye Hill’s 21 PBUs into more interceptions. Fellow senior Jamaal Fudge will have more freedom to make plays at free safety this season. Coach Koenning is going to put his players in the best position to make a play. The talent and speed Clemson has in the secondary should flourish under Koenning.
For the offensive side, Coach Spence will institute a low-risk, high reward offense. Whitehurst will be able to hit his wide receivers underneath and allow them to work in the open field. At Toledo, Spence was able to efficiently groom three different quarterbacks. His most impressive effort may have been with Tavares Bolden. Bolden, who was a run first quarterback, quickly turned around to complete 68.7% of his passes under Spence. Whitehurst is the most talented passer Spence has ever had to work with. Under Spence, Whitehurst’s interceptions should decline and his completion percentage should see a significant increase.
In all of the negative talk about turnovers, the steady play of running backs under Burton Burns gets lost. In the last two seasons under Coach Burns, his running backs have lost just one fumble. Burns preaches ball protection daily, and it is obviously paying off. One fumble in two years, along with his ability to recruit, is a major reason Coach Burns has been pursued by other schools such as LSU and South Carolina. His running backs will do their part once again in 2005 to limit the turnovers on offense.
Coach Bowden brought in Coach Spence and Coach Koenning to fix the problems that existed a year ago. Spence has been overwhelmed with questions of turning Whitehurst around, while forcing more turnovers is the big issue outside of personnel Koenning has faced. The two new coordinators on paper are the perfect recipe to completely reverse the Tigers’ turnover issue of 2004.