Clemson Football: Top Performers from the Tigers' Spring Game

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistApril 18, 2014

Clemson Football: Top Performers from the Tigers' Spring Game

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    Clemson senior quarterback Cole Stoudt
    Clemson senior quarterback Cole StoudtRICHARD SHIRO

    Clemson's annual spring game is now in the books. While the most noteworthy topic surrounding Clemson football this week was the dismissal of sophomore quarterback Chad Kelly, the spring game saw several Tigers stand out in a big way.

    The White squad, led by senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, easily won the game by a score of 24-5.

    While he played well, it was the defense that left Death Valley buzzing.

    Both the Orange and White squads combined to allow just 588 total yards on 132 plays for an average of less than 4.5 yards per play. 

    Is this a sign of things to come? Or was the offense's inability to consistently move the ball a direct result of several key departures on that side of the ball?

    The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

    So what players stood out the most? Here are some of the Tigers' top performers from Saturday's spring game.

Quarterback Cole Stoudt

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    Once Kelly was dismissed from the team, head coach Dabo Swinney made it known that Stoudt would be Clemson's starting quarterback for the season opener at Georgia, per Coy Wire of Fox Sports: "It should be pretty obvious that he won the job. He's a great leader who is highly respected by his teammates. He never once complained. He was always ready when we needed him. He's earned it and he will be named the starter."

    Stoudt played well in the spring game. He was 8-of-13 in the first half for 98 yards and finished the game 15-of-23 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Of the three quarterbacks who played, Kelly included, Stoudt was by far the best on the field. 

    He has earned the right to be the starter this fall. 

Running Backs

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    Senior running back D.J. Howard
    Senior running back D.J. HowardRAINIER EHRHARDT

    This year's crop of running backs may not have a C.J. Spiller in it, but five runners could make an impact in 2014.

    Senior D.J. Howard finished with nine carries for 59 yards in the spring game. If he can stay on the field, he could start next season. His 13-yard touchdown run gave fans a glimpse of the type of runner he is. 

    But the Tigers' most impressive runner last weekend was redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman. He led all Tigers rushers with 61 yards on nine carries while also catching two passes for 28 yards. He may be the most complete back on the roster.

    Don't forget about C.J. Davidson either. He rushed five times for 44 yards in the spring game.

    Also, Zac Brooks and Kurt Fleming are in the mix, too. 

Tight End Jordan Leggett

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    Jordan Leggett
    Jordan LeggettRAINIER EHRHARDT

    Offensively, no player was more impressive last weekend than sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett.

    He led all Clemson receivers with seven catches for 59 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown reception. 

    With a lack of experienced receivers outside of senior Adam Humphries, offensive coordinator Chad Morris will involve the tight end more in the offense next season.

    And Leggett may be the most dynamic pass-catcher on the roster. At 6'5", 240 pounds, he possesses the size and athleticism that teams covet in tight ends. He has a wide catch radius and outstanding hands.

    Has he matured? He was suspended one game late last season for breaking team rules. With Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant gone, Leggett has an opportunity to be Clemson's top receiver in 2014. 

Defensive Ends Vic Beasley and Tavaris Barnes

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    Vic Beasley returned to Clemson in 2014 because he thought the Tigers had a chance to be special on defense next season.

    If his performance, along with fellow senior defensive end Tavaris Barnes, is any indication, opposing quarterbacks are in trouble this fall.

    The pair combined for 10 tackles in the spring game, including six sacks. Barnes had five tackles for loss. 

    Keep in mind, the Orange squad's offensive line isn't going to remind anyone of Florida State's group, but you can't ignore how frequently Barnes and Beasley got to the passer. 

    Beasley was an All-American last season and finished tied for second in the nation with 13 sacks. His presence will continue to benefit Barnes. Expect Clemson's defensive line to be one of the best in the nation next season at getting to the quarterback. 

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander

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    Freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander
    Freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander247Sports

    Perhaps no player on Clemson's roster has opened as many eyes this spring as redshirt freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander. 

    It seems like every time Swinney or defensive coordinator Brent Venables speaks, Alexander receives effusive praise almost immediately. 

    David Hood, who covers Clemson for, spoke with Venables after the spring game and asked him what players stood out on defense. Alexander was one of the names he mentioned. 

    "I think that we'll have a chance to be really strong there in the back end," Venables said, per Hood. "I thought Mackensie (Alexander) really played pretty consistent, and he did some really good things all spring."

    Alexander will likely start from Day 1 at cornerback for the Tigers. He would have played last season, but an injury in fall camp led Swinney to redshirt him. 

    Don't be surprised if he is one of the nation's top freshmen next season.