Clemson Football: 5 Tigers Poised for 2013 Breakout Seasons on Offense
We have finally reached the 100-mark milestone until college football returns. And for Clemson, that means 100 more days until it hosts head coach Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs in Death Valley. With the Tigers returning much of their talent that made them a 10-2 team in 2012 and won them the Chick-fil-A bowl against LSU, many have pegged them as a legitimate BCS National Championship contender, and the Tigers are aiming to do just that in 2013.
Of course, much of the attention will go toward the Tigers' two All-Americans in senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and junior receiver Sammy Watkins, who had a rougher sophomore year due to an early suspension and nagging injuries afterward. But a strong spring showing by the Fort Myers native eased much of the Clemson fanbase that he will return to his 2011 form, when he was arguably the best freshman player in college football.
But besides these two dynamic players, which Tigers could be poised for a breakout season in 2013?
TE Jordan Leggett
The 2013 freshman tight end made noise early during spring practice after he enrolled early in January and took full advantage of participating in spring practice. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris and head coach Dabo Swinney praised Leggett's ability during the spring and his potential in this offense. (h/t OrangeandWhite.com)
At 6'6, 235 pounds, Leggett provides some pretty favorable matchups as a flex tight end, similar to what the Tigers previously had with both Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford.
He further showed his ability with his performance in the spring game, catching seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, which was enough to put him second behind Stanton Seckinger on the post-spring depth chart.
And with the season-ending ACL injury to projected starter Sam Cooper in the Orange and White spring game back in April, Leggett will certainly have his opportunity to see the field. And with the role the tight ends have in Chad Morris' offense, Leggett could get plenty of looks in the passing game.
C Ryan Norton
In any offense, besides the quarterback position, the center is arguably the smartest position on the field, as he calls out the blocking assignments and protection schemes for the offensive line. He has just as much information to process as the quarterback, which is why it's important for a quarterback and his center to have good chemistry with one another and be on the same page.
With the departure of four-year starter Dalton Freeman at center, Ryan Norton steps in to fill the position at center. Coaches praised Norton's progress last spring, and he saw time at both guard and center last season. (h/t OrangeandWhite.com)
He saw early competition from freshman Jay Guillermo, but he has held him off for the time being to claim the starting spot at the end of the spring. With the center position being the only position to replace on the line, Norton has the opportunity to continue the Tigers' productivity at what was their most consistent position last season.
If Norton can develop the kind of chemistry Freeman had with Boyd the last two seasons, the offense will be as strong, if not stronger, than it was in 2012.
TE Stanton Seckinger
Because of Sam Cooper's ACL injury, Seckinger finds himself atop the depth chart at tight end, trailed by freshmen Jordan Leggett and Jay Jay McCullough. Cooper's injury brings a sudden amount of untested youth to the position.
But what fans could expect from Seckinger could be similar to what they got from Brandon Ford, who, like Seckinger, was a converted wide receiver and became one of Tajh Boyd's most reliable targets in the passing game.
Seckinger, like Leggett, should excel as a flex tight end and give an already loaded Tiges' passing game even more targets, especially in the red zone. Seckinger showed flashes in mop-up duty and was productive enough during the spring to not be overtaken by Leggett at the end of the spring. The key for Seckinger will be putting on more weight.
WR Martavis Bryant
If the spring game was any indication, Bryant has the best opportunity to become one of the best receivers in the ACC behind Sammy Watkins in what looks to be arguably the strongest receiving corps in college football.
There aren't many receivers that have Bryant's impressive combination of both size and speed, measuring at 6'5", 200 pounds and being clocked at 4.4 speed. Bryant has been slowed by some nagging injuries and his focus off the field and in practice, but the light appears to have come on this offseason, and has even been praised by Swinney for his improved focus on and off the field. (h/t ESPN.com)
Including Bryant, the Tigers have three receivers who could be legitimate No. 2 threats behind Sammy Watkins, and Bryant could claim that role with his big-play ability, especially as a deep threat for Tajh Boyd.
Of course, while Charone Peake and Adam Humphries have quickly become facets of the offense, Bryant has not quite become as incorporated into the offense, but his progress this offseason could change that.
Running Back Rod McDowell
Replacing All-ACC running back Andre Ellington, a consecutive 1,000-yard rusher for the past two seasons, is a tall task, but projected starter Rod McDowell is up to the task after serving as the No. 2 rusher last season behind the workhorse running back.
McDowell has waited patiently for an opportunity to prove himself, and found it in 2012 after overtaking the oft-injured DJ Howard for the No. 2 spot behind Ellington. He would occasionally spell Ellington and did so in the form of 450 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
He showed good burst between the tackles and proved himself in the spring, and sits atop the depth chart as the presumed day one starter when the Tigers face off against the Georgia Bulldogs.
While the question will remain whether the Tigers will use McDowell as the primary running back or use more of a running back by-committee approach, he will become one of the main options in the Tigers' rushing attack. And if previous Clemson running backs are any indication, McDowell will keep the Tigers' running game afloat.