Clemson Football: 5 Post-Spring Depth Chart Impressions
The post-spring depth chart for the Clemson Tigers has officially been released, and this is the first look that many can get at a team that many think has BCS National Championship potential.
As with all depth chart releases, there are some surprising and some not so surprising aspects revealed on the depth chart. Remember that the depth chart is always subject to change, especially in summer and fall camp.
The key to the release of depth charts is to pay attention to the position battle and see where it may stand heading into summer and fall camp and whether that player can hold on or not. The fact that the recruits are arriving adds an extra element as to whether a talented freshmen could even claim that position if they're able to absorb enough of the playbook. And heading into summer and fall camp, the Tigers have by no means any complete resolutions at several key positions.
Competition on Left Side of Offensive Line
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Last season, the offensive line was the biggest concern heading into the season opener. Now, while the line must replace only one starter, the left side remains an enigma.
The coaches have stated that they would like Isaiah Battle to claim the starting spot at left tackle, which would allow Brandon Thomas to kick inside to left guard, where he seems to be a more natural fit. However, the promising sophomore is listed as the third tackle behind Eric MacClain, a converted tight end who showed promise during the spring in his first offseason as an offensive lineman.
To top it off, David Beasley and Kalon Davis are listed as co-starters at left guard. Beasley came from behind to win the position last season, but the competition has opened up between these two again. Whether Davis can take that next step and shrug off his inconsistencies will be something to watch in summer and fall camp.
Emergence and Youth at Tight End
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The season-ending ACL injury to projected starting tight end Sam Cooper has thrown a huge twist into the Tigers' plans at tight end. With the loss of Cooper, Stanton Seckinger, who converted from wide receiver, claims the top spot on the depth chart.
What is interesting is that freshman Jordan Leggett, who has been the biggest surprise of spring practice, claimed the No. 2 spot over redshirt freshman Jay Jay McCullough. With the injury to Cooper, Leggett's already diminishing chances of a redshirt are out the window, and he will most certainly see plenty of action in 2013.
Their ability to block on the line of scrimmage remains in question. Leggett comes in as the biggest of the three at 235, followed by McCullough at 235 and Seckinger at 210, although coaches hope to have them back in the 225 to 230 range and Leggett in the 240 to 245 range.
Shaping Up Along the Defensive Line
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Vic Beasley's pass-rushing ability seems to have finally gained enough resolve to keep him as the starter on one side, but Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes remain deadlocked on the other side for the remaining defensive end position.
Both players have starting potential, and Crawford has not necessarily become a guarantee with his play last season. Barnes and Crawford both have the ability to spark the pass rush that was inconsistent last season, and one that could have helped a struggling secondary that later became thinner due to injuries.
On the interior, Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson have emerged as the main guys, with DJ Reader and Deshawn Williams rounding out the rotation along with Carlos Watkins as the fifth man in the rotation. This is probably one of the deepest groups on the team outside of receiver and linebacker.
Interesting Shakeup at Linebacker
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From a depth standpoint, linebacker is one of the deeper positions the Tigers have in 2013, after going seasons where it was one of the thinner positions on the team. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has liked what he's seen out of the linebacker rotation during the spring.
One of the surprising aspects about this initial depth chart was the lack of listed co-starters at the Will position, where there seemed to be a crowd with Tony Steward, Kellen Jones and now Spencer Shuey, who has been working at the position since the start of spring practice.
Shuey has found himself atop the depth chart, followed by Steward and then Jones, who has been turning heads since last season when he worked on the scout team. Despite being listed as the third-team linebacker, Jones is expected to see the field, and his ability in this defense could boost the Tigers' front seven.
The Will position is perhaps one of the more active positions at linebacker, a spot where former starter Jonathan "Tig" Willard was one of the more productive linebackers for the Tigers last season.
This will be an interesting position to watch, especially with Steward waiting for his chance to shine after entering Clemson as a highly rated linebacker coming out of high school and struggling through ACL injuries.
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Talk about a position left unresolved. The cornerback position is still up for grabs, with both spots listing players as co-starters.
On one side, Garry Peters and Bashaud Breeland are listed, while Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins man the other co-starting position.
At safety, defensive coordinator Brent Venables has said that Travis Blanks and Robert Smith have solidified themselves, and was pleased with their progress during the spring.
The corner position was inconsistent during the course of the 2012 season, and was hit with injuries to Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland late in the season that made an already thin position lacking depth even thinner.
With the current uncertainty at corner, this makes the arrival of the Tigers' incoming freshman class, which consists of eight defensive backs, and includes the likes of 5-star cornerback Mackensie Alexander, even more interesting, and how the starters are determined could hinge upon how long it takes the freshman to become acclimated and absorb Venables' defense.
The battle at corner should be the main position battle during summer and fall camp, and fans should be able to breathe easier with more numbers and depth at the position.