The cover of the team's spring football program, distributed to giddy fans, contained Clemson's upcoming season slogan.
"It's About The Pride."
Coach Tommy Bowden wants to make sure pride doesn't get trumped by overconfidence. After saving his job, while his players proved their mettle in salvaging a season, the Tigers seek a higher plateau.
"The way we finished last year (with four victories by a combined 108 points), some people were putting the 'Clemson's Back!' headline on our season," Bowden said.
"We won't be back until we show more consistency. We need to have consistency in terms of nine and 10-win seasons and contend for BCS bowls. That's what we strive for at Clemson."
Still, the team's 9-4 finish, which including stunning routs of Florida State -- the first victory over the hated Seminoles since 1989 -- and a Peach Bowl win against Tennessee put the Tigers' faithful in a good mood.
Can it last? The Tigers do return their talented quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, but there are graduation losses and some other attrition that speaks to more rebuilding efforts.
"We lost some talented players on both sides of the ball, especially at wide receiver and the defensive line," Bowden said. "You can evaluate their loss by looking at the statistics. But it is hard to measure the impact from a leadership standpoint."
The Tigers, who return 14 starters, have to replace three of their top four receivers. One possibility is Chansi Stuckey, a converted quarterback, who will join with Airese Curry, a rising senior who has not lived up to expectations.
Bowden is demanding Clemson find a way to rush for 2,500 yards as a team. It's only happened once in his five seasons. The hope is a tougher offensive line, under demands from Brad Scott, former offensive coordinator, will help get it done.
But while the offense appears improved, Clemson coaches still fret over the defense. The Tigers lost three of four defensive line starters to graduation. Overall, the depth and talent still needs upgrade. It's been the top malady in this program for many years.
The Tigers haven't proven they can stop teams on a weekly basis. During the team's first intrasquad scrimmage, the offense scored seven of eight times in a goal-line drill. That's never a good sign.
"You want to see somebody say, 'Enough's enough.' Didn't really see that," Bowden said. "To me, that involves intensity and setting a standard on defense."
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