CLEMSON -- The New Year is a time for new resolutions. On New Year's Eve, with the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl kickoff just days away, here is a look at what might be Clemson's five most critical resolutions for 2012:
1. Offensive tackles resolve to improve
Perhaps the greatest threat to the offensive gains made this season are the left and right flanks of the Clemson offensive line in 2012. Clemson will lose both starting offensive tackles, and when the Tigers were without left tackle Phillip Price (knee sprain) at N.C. State and South Carolina, pass protection was woeful.
The staff has been disappointed with the performance of the second-team offensive line since August camp, and young players such as Brandon Thomas -- who could move to left tackle next season -- guard Kalon Davis and tackle Gifford Timothy must make considerable improvement.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris especially wants to see improved toughness.
"You've got to hope that Kalon (Davis) would come on," Morris said. "Kalon's got to become more physical. It's hard to mention them all right now and which ones (are improving). Right now, I couldn't tell you. If I start mentioning names, they might think they're starters and they won't work. I promise you I will not be their best friend. It ain't happening. That's an area we're addressing with these young guys."
2. Mike Bellamy resolves to mature
Freshman running back Mike Bellamy is suspended for the bowl game following an undisclosed violation of team rules. Bellamy has been a liability on the field (fumbles and blown assignments) and off the field (griping about playing time) this season. Still, he would not be the first freshman to mature and turn his career around. Bellamy can rejoin the team this spring, and Bellamy's rare speed and Clemson's lack of running back depth mean the staff might have to be patient with him. If everything goes right, Bellamy could become the team's second-most dynamic skill player after receiver Sammy Watkins.
3. Give Swinney a contract extension
In an unusual contract arrangement, an assistant coach, Morris, is under contract through 2017, while head coach Dabo Swinney's deal is through 2014.
Having just three years remaining on a deal can be a detriment to a head coach on the recruiting trail.
Swinney has proven to be an adept recruiter, he has the nation's best APR rating among football coaches and also proved he can identify quality assistants by hiring Morris. Clemson officials have indicated they will meet with Swinney about his contract, but Swinney said those talks have not yet begun.
"It's up to them," Swinney said. "I don't really make that call. I just listen or reciprocate or whatever, but I don't have many years left. ... The ball is in their court."
4. Tajh Boyd resolves to find another level
Complacency and regression are enemies of success. Clemson witnessed some of that this season as the offense slumped in November after a record-setting period in September and October.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd's performances mirrored those of the offense. In the first eight games of the season, Boyd threw for 24 touchdowns against three interceptions before struggling in November. If Boyd can extrapolate his first-half numbers over an entire season, he could be a Heisman Trophy candidate.
"Honestly, I don't think I'm anywhere near my potential," Boyd said. "It's going to be that much more of a springboard for me in the offseason, knowing what's going on and knowing the system."
5. Clemson regains Linebacker U status
Clemson will have lost an incredible amount of defensive line talent over two years by the time the 2012 season opens. A year after losing underclassman Da'Quan Bowers in the second-round of the NFL draft, Clemson will lose two more talented linemen in Andre Branch (11 sacks) and Brandon Thompson, a projected first-round pick. Clemson will be hard-pressed to replace that D-line production.
But perhaps where the defense could enjoy a considerable production leap is at linebacker. Freshman Stephone Anthony improved enough to take over as the starter in the nickel package this season. Fellow five-star linebacker Tony Steward is expected to be ready for the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Tig Willard has become a solid contributor and Lateek Townsend could provide a pass-rush presence. Clemson was once the ACC's Linebacker U and maybe this crop can regain that label.