Clemson Football: Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker
The Clemson Tigers began their second session of spring practice last week. Rightfully so, much of the talk so far is about the quarterback battle.
However, the Tigers are replacing much more than just quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Fortunately for Clemson, the defense—the front four, at least—is mostly set. Granted, there are openings with linebackers Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian now gone, but talented and experienced senior Tony Steward should successfully replace Shuey.
Meanwhile, the secondary has several talented playmakers. Led by a pair of redshirt freshmen, Mackensie Alexander and Adrian Baker, the Tigers appear to be set on the back end for the next few years.
The offensive line lost left tackle Brandon Thomas, but head coach Dabo Swinney has been pleased with his projected starting five so far this spring, according to Kerry Capps of OrangeAndWhite.com. Isaiah Battle could be a future star at left tackle.
So what are the top position battles this spring, and how are they shaping up?
Yes, you guessed it. Quarterback tops the list of spring position battles—and for good reason. Clemson is replacing a player who rewrote the record book during his four seasons on campus.
Senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and true freshman Deshaun Watson are the contenders.
Stoudt appeared to be the front-runner when spring practice began, but offensive coordinator Chad Morris said last week the battle for the starting quarterback position remains wide open. Furthermore, he said he hopes one of the contenders will begin to separate themselves during Monday's scrimmage.
Per David Hood of TigerNet.com:
It's still a three-person race. All three of them are working extremely hard, and all three of them have had their days and all three have had some not-so-good days. We will have a better understanding after Monday and try and settle in with a guy for the rest of the week after Monday's performance. We will gauge it and judge it and go from there.
While the scrimmage is big for all three quarterbacks, don't expect the position to be settled until this summer.
From James Davis to C.J. Spiller to Andre Ellington to Roderick McDowell last season, the Clemson Tigers always produce talented running backs.
Can that trend continue in 2014?
McDowell wasn't quite as talented as his predecessors, but he finished 2013 with 1,025 yards on the ground. Morris' scheme is designed for the running back to put up big numbers.
Who will step up this fall?
Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard are the most experienced returnees. Both suffered injuries last season, which allowed McDowell to become the featured back.
Howard has been good in spring practice thus far. As a senior, he is in a similar position to McDowell a year ago.
C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman are the most intriguing options, though.
Davidson is fast and possesses the ability to break a long run every time he touches the ball. Gallman, however, could potentially become Clemson's top back. He is, overall, the Tigers' most explosive back. He is also the most complete runner on the roster.
Much like running back, Clemson has produced some great receivers over the years. DeAndre Hopkins was a first-round pick in last year's NFL draft, while Sammy Watkins is expected to be a top-five pick in this year's draft.
The 2014 Tigers may struggle to replace Watkins and Martavis Bryant's production from last year, but there is no shortage of talent among this year's receivers.
Sophomore Mike Williams could replace Bryant as Clemson's top red-zone threat. He possesses the size (6'5", 205 pounds) and athleticism to really challenge defensive backs. Morris was displeased with Williams early in the spring, but that appears to be changing. Per Hood:
I was disappointed in Mike Williams early on. I was disappointed in his performance. I was expecting a lot more out of him being a veteran guy. But the last two practices, he's been better than he was the first couple of weeks. He is still far from where he needs to be, but he seems to be better with it.
Germone Hopper was expected to be a big part of the team's WR rotation in 2014, but he didn't get off to a good start when he was told to take the rest of spring practice off to focus on academics.
Senior Adam Humphries will likely lead the team in receptions in 2014. He's a reliable route-runner, has great hands and will earn the trust of each of the three quarterbacks.
Charone Peake, who is recovering from a torn ACL and not participating in spring drills, may also be a big part of Clemson's plans in 2014. However, his lack of participation has opened the door for freshmen Artavis Scott, Kyrin Priester and Demarre Kitt.