Despite limping to the 2011-12 finish line, capped with an embarrassing 70-33 loss to West Virginia in last week's Orange Bowl, several ESPN analysts remain bullish on Clemson football's 2012 prospects.
ESPN analysts Robert Smith and Matt Millen each tabbed Clemson as the No. 5 team in the country in their early 2012 preseason polls Tuesday.
With record-setting quarterback in Boyd and first-team All-American receiver in Watkins returning, along with more than 60 scholarship players, Clemson has also appeared in the top 10 of various other early 2012 preseason polls.
Clemson hasn't been ranked in the top 10 of a major poll since 2008, opening that season with a blowout loss against Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
Despite national enthusiasm for Clemson next season, Clemson has numerous questions to answer this spring and summer, charged with replacing both of its starting offensive tackles as Landon Walker and Phillip Price graduate, and improving a defense falling to 81st nationally in scoring, allowing 29.3 points per game.
Clemson finished 22nd in the both the final Associated Press and coaches poll, which were released Tuesday. It is the second time Clemson has finished ranked under Swinney, finishing 24th in the Associated Press poll after the 2009 season. It marks Clemson's highest post-season ranking since finishing the 2007 ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll.
Spring game April 7
Clemson announced Tuesday it will play its spring game on Saturday April 7 at Memorial Stadium. Clemson open spring practice on March 2.
Jersey Shore tops bowl
Fewer people watched the Orange Bowl (7.2 million viewers) than MTV's Jersey Shore or Disney's Jessie, according to the Sports Business Journal. West Virginia routed Clemson, 70-33, in the game, which was the eighth-rated cable show last week, with viewership declining 37 percent from the 2010 game.
Watkins earns honor
Watkins earned another first-team, All-American honor, landing on the Football Writer's All-American team. The Clemson freshman finished with 2,288 all-purpose yards, second best in ACC history. Former Clemson star C.J. Spiller set the record with 2,680 yards in 2009.