One month to game day and I’m going to give you all the news fit to print on the big boards (re: the stuff the little guys pay for). This is pretty much a flash news style that should not infringe on any posted copyright laws or other such potential problems. Please excuse the short hand in the mean time and enjoy.
As everyone knows, summer practices have been initiated and with them comes some position changes. With the announced position changes come one that seems to be a Clemson tradition, that being a QB moving to another position. The player filling this prophecy is Michael Wade, who probably pulled a Coleman and asked the coaches for a move after seeing the depth ahead of him this year as well as in the future. The QB forces include Cullen Harper, who seems to have an immeasurable gap on the rest of the competition as of now, followed up by the proclaimed Clemson savior: Willy Korn. Next year Harper and Korn should still be around only to have a third QB, Kyle Parker, who has just finished off an elite 11 camp with more than enough compliments on his performance. Needless to say, Wade seems to have made a good choice, the only problem is that he has moved into a position that may be developing depth that will push him out as well. Wade is slated to start playing as a safety this season.
Speaking of safeties, Wade fills a hole that has been created by another position move. That being of Sadat Chambers from CAT safety to running back. This move was prompted by the fact that Tommy’s concerns with Ray Ray’s ability to balance his already grueling task of raising his kid brother, school work and fulfilling his team duties. This move would put additional depth at the RB position of course and Chambers came out of HS with high credentials at the position so it should be a smooth transition. The safeties will also be bolstered by incoming freshman talent, Scotty Cooper who could also play at the LB position if they become too thin.
The third move is of Kevin Alexander from linebacker to bandit end. He will fall behind Gaines Adams prodigy (no seriously the kid follows everything that Gaines did when he was in school) Ricky Sapp and Kwam Williams. Not much there really, just spreads out some talent for depth at the position.
Speaking of defense, as mentioned before, this team is stacked with talent. The freshmen and sophomores are running rampant in taking positions and pushing juniors and seniors to second team. The talk of the town is DeAndre McDaniel who, after blowing up spring practice, headed home for personal training before coming back for the summer session. McDaniels is being called a heat seeking missile who is just speed looking to hit something….hard. From what I have heard, he bent more than a few receivers in half through spring training and scrimmage. Most publications are calling for him to beat out either Clemons or Hamlin by the end of the summer for a starting position.
In the corners you have voids left by seniors and virtually filled by their seconds, Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler. Butler had an exceptional, almost Justin Miller, freshman year with a few picks and overall excellent play as a true freshman. This may come in handy as the corner position is picking up talent and competition is fierce for the starting position. Along with the “seasoned” Chancellor and Butler you have Byron Maxwell, true freshman Marcus Gilchrist and Haydrian Lewis vying for positions. Most publications have Chancellor and Butler moving back with Gilchrist and Maxwell taking the starting positions and Lewis playing a 3rd man role for extended depth. Overall, the secondary has more than enough young talent to play well this year, the only question is can they handle the “real time” play as not many of them have been on the playing field for much if any time at all.
Returning linebackers are pretty much the three horsemen with Billie, Watkins and Clay. Watkins, being the only “returning” linebacker also comes in as the leading tackler on the team. Billie comes off a season that never was due to injuries incurred in the last practice of the summer in ’06. Clay comes off a bout with depression after losing his sister to an auto accident that pretty much numbed him through the end of last season. All three have commented that they are ready to play and look forward to terrorizing the ACC with their speed and almost unhealthy appetite to disembowel the ball carrier. The front three are backed up by younger but rising talent: Kavell Conner and Josh Miller. This position, although strong in the front, does not have the ability to go through what it went through the previous year with injuries and mental anguish. Cross your fingers and hope that the front three see starts in all 12+ games this year. If that happens, you can look forward to the Tiger run defense ranking in the top of the ACC.
The D-Line contains a bunch of returning starters, sans the currently stated irreplaceable Gaines Adams. Ricky Sapp may have something to say about that though as he takes Gaines’s spot on the line and has taken his responsibilities seriously by bulking up over the off season. He maintains his speed but takes away the one weakness from last year, his light weight which allowed O-lines to keep him at bay when they beat him on the outside. Sapp is backed up by Kwam Williams and the newly transfered Kevin Alexander. Sapp is mirrored by Philip Merling who is already being slated as an all ACC lineman and has emerged as a leader on the Defensive side of the ball. Inside the two are Dorrell Scott and Rashad Jackson who return and should hold their spots. Jackson was noted as being “unstoppable” in the spring, hoepfully that continues into the fall.
Read more on the D HERE
On the O side of the ball, you have the QB controversy with Harper and Korn battling it out as well as everyone outside the team looking at the potential of a Florida Leake/Tebow tandem. The problem there is that Leake and Tebow had different styles of play while Harper and Korn are pretty similar in their skill sets. Not to worry though as Tommy has confirmed that Willy will see the field more than backups in the past to reduce the potential meltdown that occured last year with the QB ranks and experience.
Unlike the mirroring of the Florida QB’s, the RB’s are looking to the west coast and possibly accessing USC’s past playbooks. Bowden and Spence are determined to get Davis and Spiller on the field together as much as possible to increase the chances of the big breaks by defusing the defensive concentrations on one single back. With Spiller in motion or the slot, Davis in the backfield and WR’s on the outside, defenses will not be so courageous in crowding the box as they were at the end of last season. The only problem that lies in the plan is the increased field time yields increased potential of injury to one of the star backs. Hence the move of Chambers to RB, increasing the stables just in case. Davis has recovered from all injuries and looks to make an impact in his junior year (although he continuously states that he will stay for a degree) and Spiller spent the offseason improving his speed (yes he is faster) with the track team and fellow speedster Jacoby Ford. Spiller has even received some press on a potential Heisman candidate. Along with the RB’s are the unsung heroes, the fullbacks. Alex Pearson ad Paul Macko should ssplit time in this slot but look out for a potential unheralded freshman possibly playing some at FB as well. Chad Diehl could fill a bunch of positions on the team, but from an interview that I read, he seems to want to play a position whose focused on hard hits. He has the build to be a FB or LB and should be a pleasant surprise in the near future.
Wide receivers seemed to have taken a hit after the departure of Chansi Stuckey as no one neared his numbers last year. But then you have to look at the melt down that occured and how much the ball was actually tossed towards the end of the year as well. Aaron Kelly is said to have stepped up into the lead position for the WR’s and has shaken his weaknesses from the previous year to become a Youngblood-esque threat. Add Kelly’s height and ability to catch the tall ball to his counterpart Jacoby Ford’s speed and ability to get the long ball and you have a deadly combination in the air. The jokes running rampant last year on the boards started “Jacoby is so fast…..” when in all reality he was so fast that he couldn’t make the plays. His routes weren’t that crisp and he could out run Proctor’s passes with ease. With the emergence of Harper and his arm strength as well as Ford’s offseason work with his hands and routes it seems that he has become a viable threat. Along with Kelly and Ford are the returning Tyler Grisham and Renderick Taylor. Grisham, who has become a posession receiver and “most complete receiver”, will continue to play the flats as he has proven that he has trusty hands (ok I know the VT game he dropped that one pass) and got alot of looks in the spring game. Taylor will hopefully make it through a season without injury and live up to his LB scaring potential when he gets the ball. Murmurs also have Taylor in the backfield, fulfilling the J-Back position from last year. Incoming freshman Xavier Dye will challenge all incumbents and has natural skills that have shone already on the field.
And then there is the O-line. Aside from the lack of experience at QB, which seems to have the confidence of all the coaches now, this corp is the “concern” on the team. With all but one starter graduating last year, the line is young and lacking in the experience field. Barry Richardson is slated to go early in the draft at the end of the year which is a good thing as he is on Harper’s blind side. Every other position is young but seems to be forming bonds and have improved greatly through the voluntary workouts in the summer. Along with the O-line come the tight ends who can thank Thomas Hunter and his performance over the past season for the success that will develop here. Before Spence, I don’t think Clemson HAD TE’s. After Spence and his spread out offense TE’s are starting to look to Clemson for potential scholarships. Clemson has a pretty good stock of TE’s with Robinson, Barry, Palmer and incoming talent Brian Linthincum. Palmer will lead the pack but look for Linthincum to climb up the charts after he enrolled early and performed quite well at the spring game (36 yrd TD).
More on the O-Line HERE
Special teams……Clemson…….oxymoron. Clemson may have lost one of their coaches when he left for Alabama but they gained a special teams specialist by hiring Andre Powell from UNC. He has gone through every player on the roster and found the guys who fit each special teams position the best. According to some media you can plan on seeing Jacoby Ford, CJ Spiller and Marcus Gilchrist who had an extraordinary career in high school in the return game. Yes Clemson may have walk ons for the kicker and punter but they have edged out the scholarship kids so they have to be good.
That’s all I got right now, I can’t type anymore. Most of this was probably noted on TNet but some of it came through big sites. Hopefully I didn’t trod on any toes, I applogize if I somehow did.