Clemson Football: 4 Players to Watch in Tigers' Spring Game
It's finally time for football as Clemson plays its annual spring game on Saturday in Death Valley.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Tigers.
Who will replace Tajh Boyd at quarterback? Will head coach Dabo Swinney choose experience or go with a dynamic true freshman who could be the future of the program as soon as this year?
The Tigers lost several talented stars from last year's Orange Bowl-winning team. Aside from Boyd, receiver Sammy Watkins is the most glaring loss. Watkins was the best receiver in college football last year and the greatest in school history.
Here are four players—or positions—to pay close attention to this Saturday.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson
Cole Stoudt, a senior, is the natural choice to replace Boyd. He's been the primary backup for three years, has a strong grasp of the offense and has the most experience of the three competitors.
However, the player to watch is true freshman Deshaun Watson.
It's widely presumed that Watson is the quarterback of the future for Clemson. But the future could be now.
Coaches have been adamant that the race to be Clemson's starting quarterback remains tight. The spring game will give Stoudt, Watson and sophomore Chad Kelly their first major opportunity to create some separation.
This could be a make-or-break chance for Watson. If he turns some heads in the spring game, he could possibly elevate himself above his competitors. If he struggles, he could be in for a redshirt year.
Freshman Wide Receivers
When you lose a player like Watkins, you cannot replace him with one player. Not to mention, the Tigers also lost Martavis Bryant to the NFL draft. Between the two players, Clemson lost 142 receptions, 2,292 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Senior Adam Humphries returns, as does sophomore Mike Williams. If the season began today, those two would likely start. However, Clemson needs someone other than Humphries and Williams to step up.
With Charone Peake rehabbing a torn ACL and missing spring practice and Germone Hopper not allowed to compete due to academics, three freshmen who enrolled in January now have an opportunity to make an impact.
Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester should be featured heavily in Saturday's spring game. All three are extremely explosive, and at least one could be in store for a breakout performance.
Offensive Tackle Isaiah Battle
Lost in all of the talk about Boyd and Watkins leaving was the departure of standout left tackle Brandon Thomas. Thomas, who became a starter early in his sophomore season, developed into a two-time All-ACC selection and will be difficult to replace.
Battle, though, has the potential to be a star.
At 6'7", 281 pounds, Battle has ideal size and the type of length coaches love in offensive tackles. Built like a tight end, Battle moves like one, too.
Watching him battle against defensive end Vic Beasley should be fun to watch in Saturday's spring game. The defensive line is one of Clemson's strengths, and Battle will have his hands full.
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander
Mackensie Alexander was Clemson's top recruit in 2013, per 247Sports (subscription required). Alexander was expected to play immediately last season, but an injury in fall camp led coaches to redshirt him.
That should benefit Alexander greatly in 2014.
According to defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Alexander has been a standout performer so far this spring, per David Hood of TigerNet.com:
I would just say MacKensie is the one because we lost a couple of starters at a position that we're thin. He's had a nice first seven, eight practices. Adrian Baker has as well. They give you reason to believe by the end of fall camp that we'll have some guys ready to play, as far as guys who have not been on the field for us.
Sports Illustrated predicted Alexander will be one of college football's breakout stars in 2014.
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