Clemson Football: 4 Things We Learned About the Tigers This Spring
Spring practice is over for the Clemson Tigers, and now the countdown to the beginning of the 2014 season has officially begun.
If the annual spring game was an indication of what 2014 will be like, the Tigers will be scary on defense. Clemson's defense, led by Vic Beasley, consistently collapsed the pocket in last week's spring game.
Was the defense's performance a result of the inexperience on offense, or will this be the year Clemson's defense carries the team?
Before the spring began, coaches felt the quarterback battle could last all the way through summer before the Tigers head to Athens to play Georgia on August 30. However, with Chad Kelly dismissed from the team, head coach Dabo Swinney went ahead and named senior Cole Stoudt the starter.
While Clemson answered one major personnel question this spring, others will remain unresolved until fall camp. Here are four things we learned from Clemson's performance this spring.
Stoudt Is the Man
When Stoudt was named Clemson's starter after the spring game, you couldn't help but be happy for the senior.
As the backup to arguably the greatest quarterback in school history for the last three years, Stoudt rarely saw the field. But when he did, he excelled. Stoudt attempted 119 passes, completing 72 percent of them and throwing eight touchdowns versus only one interception.
You'd think that would've been enough to get the nod before spring practice started. But Clemson had a pair of talented youngsters also in the mix in sophomore Chad Kelly and freshman Deshaun Watson.
Stoudt outplayed Kelly in the spring, though, and Kelly's behavior in the spring game sealed his fate with the program. A shoulder injury during a scrimmage limited Watson, leaving Stoudt as the last man standing.
He earned it.
There Is Depth at the Skill Positions
Sammy Watkins, Roderick McDowell and Martavis Bryant are gone, but Clemson is far from barren at the skill positions.
Senior Adam Humphries is the Tigers' leading receiver. He should play in the slot and lead the team in catches. Germone Hopper, Mike Williams and Charone Peake also return at receiver. Peake is recovering from a torn ACL but should be ready for the 2014 season.
Hopper could be a star, but he must get his academics in order.
The Tigers also have three true freshmen who participated in spring practice at wide receiver. While it seems inconceivable that all will play in 2014, there are enough questions at receiver to believe they will each get an opportunity.
Keep an eye on sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett. He was the team's top receiver in the spring game and has an outstanding combination of size and speed. He will be a big part of the offense this fall.
At running back, the Tigers may not have one back that will carry the ball 25 times per game, but they have five backs who could all play a role.
Zac Brooks, D.J. Howard and C.J Davidson appear to be the leaders to start, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman. He has the big-play potential that offensive coordinator Chad Morris loves.
Defense Will Be Good
Senior defensive end Vic Beasley returned to Clemson for his senior season in part because he felt the Tigers could be unstoppable on defense in 2014. Clemson returns all of their top defensive linemen from last season.
In the spring game, Beasley and fellow senior defensive end Tavaris Barnes, playing for the White squad, combined for 10 tackles and six sacks.
Even with the the team split into two squads for the spring game, the Orange squad, comprised mostly of backups and younger players, held the first-string offense to just 24 points.
There are questions in the secondary, but that group doesn't lack talent. The front seven should be among the best in the country, and that will allow a youthful secondary time to adjust to the college game.
Youth Will Be Served
The Tigers lost a lot of talent from last year's Orange Bowl-winning team. In addition to the departure of Watkins, Bryant, McDowell and Tajh Boyd, the Tigers also lost Brandon Thomas, Bashaud Breeland and Tyler Shatley.
Spring practice gave several Tigers their first taste of college football. Watson, Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Artavis Scott were among several true freshmen who practiced this spring.
However, it's a pair of redshirt freshmen cornerbacks that have garnered most of the attention.
Mackensie Alexander was one of the top recruits in the country last season, per 247Sports. An injury during fall camp last season led coaches to redshirt Alexander.
In addition to Alexander and Baker, freshman Dorian O'Daniel, sophomores Ben Boulware, Mike Williams, Shaw Lawson and Jayron Kearse are expected to contribute significantly for the Tigers in 2014.