Clemson Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker
The Clemson Tigers are in position to have their best season in program history.
It seems like everything is lining up perfectly for head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff, as this may actually be the year Clemson is thrown in to the national championship conversation.
But before we get carried away, the work must be put in during spring practice. Success never comes to any team that isn't willing to sweat it out in the early months, and that is what Clemson is hoping to do through the next several weeks.
Spring practice recently kicked off and it is all in preparation for the game on April 13, 4 p.m. ET in Memorial Stadium.
In the meantime, Clemson must address issues on defense and tweak the skill positions on offense with a few star players planning a future in the NFL.
Here is everything you need to know about the 2013 Clemson Tigers during spring practice.
Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.
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Update: April 15
Clemson had a mixed bag of goodies during the spring game with a little bit of good and bad. The good news is that the offense is looking better than ever with wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant both performing well.
The bad news is that there were plenty of injuries taking place, including a serious injury to quarterback Chad Kelly, as head coach Dabo Swinney told Cory Fravel of 247Sports.
“It looks like a torn ACL. We will see the MRI results to make sure. It was tough. We had a purple jersey on him, but he got hurt making a cut and the leg gave way. I am very disappointed and I know Chad is. Travis Blanks (involved in the play) did nothing wrong."
Other injured players include Kalon Davis and Sam Cooper, but Swinney doesn't believe those are serious, according to the report.
“I don’t believe Kalon Davis and Sam Cooper have severe injuries, but we will get a report on them. They were both knee injuries as well. That was a bad run there early in the game (all three knee injuries took place within the first 20 plays of the game."
Update: April 11
Dabo Swinney wants to see more consistency out of the offensive line, according to Kerry Capps of Orange and White.
"It's not all about who's the tallest or fastest or who can jump the highest. If it was all about that, I never would have played. It's all about who's going to be dependable and accountable and responsible."
Also, as the spring is getting ready to wrap up, that confidence is still riding high. Quarterback Tajh Boyd told Andrea Adelson of ESPN that he will continue to work this offseason to be the best quarterback in the country this year.
Head coach Dabo Swinney also recently spoke to ESPN and seems ready to help this Clemson program turn the corner as well.
Update: March 15
We have good and bad news for the Clemson Tigers before entering spring practice. The not so good news is that linebacker Justin Parker has decided to call it quits on his football career. According to Kerry Capps of Orange and White, due to chronic knee pain, he just knew it was time to give up the sport.
“He said that he just can't do it anymore with his left knee," Swinney said. "He's kept a lot to himself. He's been playing with pain. He said he wakes up with pain every day.
As for the rest of the team, the head coach couldn't be more proud before the team enters spring break. He told Capps that the team had practiced as well as he has seen and the physicality that the coaching staff was looking for was also there.
We're going to open up with a top-five or top-10 team, and we've tried to create that atmosphere. Said Swinney, whose Tigers worked in controlled scrimmage situations on Wednesday. Today was as good a practice as we've had in a long time - outstanding, and very physical.
Clemson will now take the next several days off before resuming practice on March 25.
Update: March 11
In some early surprising news of spring practice, defensive coordinator Brent Venables has decided to keep Stephone Anthony at the middle linebacker position. Last season was a tough year for the defensive player, as he lost his starting job and struggled to see playing time for the remainder of the year due to solid play from Spencer Shuey.
According to Kerry Capps of Orange and White, this is what Venables had to say:
He's is the prototypical middle linebacker. Said Venables of Anthony, who emerged as a starter midway through his freshman season in 2011. He's really comfortable. He's just now getting comfortable at Mike. I would hate to put him in a position where he now has to start over.
In news that shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, wide receiver Sammy Watkins has now moved to the '9' spot within this Clemson offense. This means the speedy wideout will have the task of replacing DeAndre Hopkins. According to Kerry Capps of Orange and White, Charone Peake will also replace Jaron Brown, while Adam Humphries and Germone Hopper are currently battling for the other spot.
It is all part of trying to figure things out for offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
We're trying to do some new things and tweak and change and try to get better, based on our studies of ourselves this past season. Morris said. We want to put our best on the field, so we're making moves and putting Sammy out at what we call our 9-man. Adam is working at the two-man, where he played last year, along with G-Hop. And Charone has had a really good two days. We have to continue to push him and keep him going.
Update: March 7
Tajh Boyd has already proven himself to be one of the best quarterbacks in all of college football. However, throwing for more than 8,000 yards and 73 touchdowns in his career simply isn't enough to satisfy the senior.
According to Andrea Adelson of ESPN, Boyd is setting the bar even higher for the upcoming season.
"AP All-American, every category — no ifs, ands or buts about it," Boyd said. "I mean, there’s a lot of reasons I came back. A lot of it was for the team. I feel like we have the opportunity to make some history but it’s going to take a lot of work. Individually, I want to be the best quarterback in the country. I don’t want to be the No. 2, 3, 4. I want to be the No. 1 quarterback. It’s going to take a lot of work. We want to be the No. 1 team and we just have to continue to grind and take it from there."
Boyd certainly has the ability to get the job done and Clemson fans have to love the confidence coming from its leader.
Defensive end Vic Beasley showed last season what he could do in a limited role as a pass-rusher. Now that he is expected to see even more playing time, he has decided to add on a few more pounds.
According to Kerry Capps of Orange and White, the talented defensive lineman is shooting toward a goal of anywhere between 238 and 245 pounds.
"If he can get there, it's like anybody else at 270," Swinney said. "He's that strong and powerful."
Key Offensive Battles to Watch
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Star running back Andre Ellington is no longer around to guarantee 1,000 rushing yards.
While the offense should remain in good hands with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins leading the way, the Tigers still need a reliable runner to help remove some of the pressure.
Roderick McDowell is the favorite to land the full-time starting role, but that is a major step for someone who only has 129 carries combined in his first three years. Other guys who will be added to the rotation are D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks, two players who saw limited playing time last season.
The good news is that the top three backs that are likely to split playing time have at least had a chance to get their feet wet.
The problem that they will all face is making a strong enough impact before a few talented 2013 recruits step on campus in the fall.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Roderick McDowell and Zac Brooks
Actual Winners: TBD
Clemson has one of the more talented wide receiving corps in the country. The issue the team faces is that the position is so deep that some of these guys are going to have to sacrifice playing time.
A battle for starting spots is certainly on the table with both DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown no longer on the roster.
We know Sammy Watkins is going to continue to be the No. 1 option, but where does Boyd turn next?
Well, Charone Peake really made the most of his sophomore season hauling in 25 passes. Adam Humphries was another who had a solid sophomore season—he caught a solid 41 passes.
You also have Martavis Bryant. He only caught 10 passes last season, but four of them went for touchdowns. This doesn't even include adding Matt Porter and Daniel Rodriguez to the mix, as well as redshirt freshman Germone Hopper.
Clemson is set at wide receiver; the question is who is going to step up?
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake
Actual Winners: TBD
Key Defensive Battles to Watch
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While defense for this Clemson team as a whole was an issue, it was the secondary that didn't provide any favors.
The cornerback spot needs some serious help, especially if this team is looking to take that next step and begin competing for a national title.
It would be surprising if Bashaud Breeland didn't lock down one of the spots, as he showed bright spots throughout last year and proved he could become a legitimate cover man. That is, of course, if he is fully recovered from last season’s injury.
As for the other cornerback position, reach your hand into a hat and pull out a name.
Darius Robinson will try and prove that he really isn't as bad as he appeared to be last year. Garry Peters will try and build off of some of the momentum he had last year. Martin Jenkins is another name you can throw into the mix, as he looks to bounce back from an injury filled season.
Whoever you give the best shot to be the starting cornerback, he better really make an impact. Once MacKensie Alexander steps on campus in the fall, it may be over for all of the potential candidates.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Bashaud Breeland and Darius Robinson
Actual Winners: TBD
Clemson really turned it on towards the end of the year, but the pass rush wasn't as consistent as you would have liked to see.
Corey Crawford will continue to start at defensive end, but could find himself in a battle with Vic Beasley if he doesn't end a starting spot on the other side.
Regardless, Beasley should see increased playing time after finishing fourth in the ACC with eight sacks in limited action. Some of the younger lineman such as Roderick Byers and Tavaris Barnes will also try to position themselves for more reps.
Shaq Lawson of the 2013 recruiting class also enrolled early so he could get a head start on the competition and make an immediate impact. As for defensive tackle, it is going to be interesting to see how guys like Carlos Watkins and DJ Reader continue to develop.
Prediction on Who Wins the Job: Corey Crawford, Josh Waston, Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley
Actual Winners: TBD
Early Enrolees Report Card
Shaq Lawson, 4-Star DE: Lawson is easily one of the better recruits from the Tigers class. He is effective against the run and has the size at 6'4", 265 pounds to make an immediate impact. He is a solid tackler in the open field and does a good job of chasing down ball carriers.
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Lawson has looked good early on and has thrown himself into the mix for serious playing time along the defensive line.)
Ebenezer Ogundeko, 4-Star DE: Ogundeko can play either outside linebacker or defensive end for the Tigers. He has great initial quickness and does a good job of finding the football. Because of this, he should develop into a solid pass rusher for the Tigers and help out in an area the defense struggled a year ago.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Ogundeko is another defensive lineman who has performed well. Much like Lawson, he should make a strong case to enter the rotation once fall camp rolls around.)
Jordan Leggett, 3-Star TE: Leggett spent much of his time playing wide receiver at the high school level, but should be able to make the transition to tight end. This is someone who should provide matchup problems for opposing defenses and with room to continue to bulk up, he is far from a finished product.
Post Spring Practice Grade: B (Leggett had a terrific spring game, as he hauled in seven receptions for nearly 100 yards. If coaches weren't paying attention to him before, they are now.)
Jadar Johnson, 3-Star S: Johnson is just an athlete who is capable of playing either side of the ball. However, with his ball skills and overall athleticism, he should end up playing defense for Clemson. He is somebody who could develop into a ball-hawking safety over time.
Post Spring Practice Grade: C (Johnson missed the spring game due to a dislocated elbow. Hopefully he will be ready to go once fall camp begins.)
Sleepers to Watch
Germone Hopper, WR: Hopper should make a big splash this season just because of everything he brings to the table. He isn't the biggest athlete in the world at 5'11", but has the ability to play either running back or wide receiver.
He has terrific hands, impressive top end speed and knows what to do with the ball after he secures the catch. Hopper is great at making defenders miss in the open field and should help provide this offense with yet another playmaker.
I expect him to continue to rise up the depth chart.
Justin Parker, LB: Parker missed all of last season with a groin injury, but should be ready to fight his way back into the rotation.
This is somebody who had a lot of upside coming out of the 2010 recruiting class, but has yet to really live up to any expectations. However, if you are looking for an athletic linebacker that moves well and is solid at securing the tackle, Parker is it.
With linebacker depth in question, he should finally be able to make up for lost time.