Position-by-Position Preview of Clemson's 2014 Roster
Preseason college football magazines are starting to hit newsstands, which means one thing; football season is right around the corner.
Spring practice is complete, and position battles have already been decided for several schools.
For the Clemson Tigers, however, a lot of work remains.
Yes, the Tigers know who their starting quarterback is, but who will replace Sammy Watkins at wide receiver? Or Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley along the offensive line?
Two months remain until fall camp begins, but here is a position-by-position preview of Clemson's 2014 roster.
Tajh Boyd may be gone, but the Tigers feel they are in good shape at the quarterback position for 2014 and beyond.
Senior Cole Stoudt is the team's unquestioned starter. Stoudt, who has attempted 119 career passes and completed 72 percent of them, beat out Chad Kelly and true freshman Deshaun Watson in spring practice. Kelly was subsequently dismissed from the team following the spring game, and Watson suffered from a shoulder injury during part of the spring.
That's not to say Stoudt didn't win the job—he did. He was the most consistent performer throughout the spring and deserves an opportunity to lead the team for an entire season.
While he isn't as mobile as Boyd, Stoudt has surprisingly good mobility.
Watson is the future of the program, and head coach Dabo Swinney would probably prefer to redshirt him in 2014.
Roderick McDowell continued the trend of talented Clemson running backs rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2013. McDowell is now gone, but the Tigers may actually be even better in the backfield.
Senior D.J. Howard, junior Zac Brooks and a pair of freshmen, Wayne Gallman and C.J. Fuller, lead a bevy of talented runners in 2014.
Howard and Brooks are the only experienced runners. Each brings a different style to the table.
Gallman, though, may be the most intriguing of the bunch. He is fast, but he is also surprisingly powerful. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Gallman was "as dynamic and electric a back" that he's ever seen, per Tony Crumpton of TigerNet.com (h/t Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com).
There may not be a C.J. Spiller or Andre Ellington among this bunch, but as a whole, the running back group has great potential.
Losing Watkins and Martavis Bryant would likely cripple most teams. For the Clemson Tigers, that may not be the case.
Yes, Clemson will miss Watkins, but the team has outstanding depth at the wide receiver position.
Senior Adam Humphries is the team's leading returning receiver. He caught 41 passes last season and is best suited to playing the slot. He runs precise routes and has terrific speed.
Sophomore Mike Williams could be the next great Clemson receiver. At 6'3", 205 pounds, Williams is big, fast and has strong hands. Coaches are hoping Williams has improved his route running.
Sophomore Germone Hopper and junior Charone Peake both expect to play a big role this fall. Peake is coming off a torn ACL, while Hopper was sent home early from spring practice to focus on his academics. If both players get things in order before the season opener at Georgia, each player will be in line to start.
Junior Stanton Seckinger was Clemson's primary starter at tight end in 2013. By all accounts, Seckinger did a solid job. A former receiver, the slight Seckinger moved to tight end and started 10 games last season.
Seckinger will likely play a large role this fall, but it's sophomore Jordan Leggett who has most Clemson fans excited.
Leggett, a 6'5", 240-pound sophomore, possesses the combination of size and athleticism that teams covet in today's tight ends. He had a strong performance in April's spring game. Look for him to be a featured red-zone target this fall.
Unlike most positions on offense, the Tigers return all of the top performers from a year ago. Expect Morris to feature more multiple-tight end sets in 2014.
Losing Brandon Thomas was a tough blow for Clemson's offensive line. Fortunately for Swinney, the Tigers feature a group of experienced linemen that should step in this fall and continue the strong offensive line play that was a staple in recent years.
Junior Isaiah Battle will be Clemson's left tackle. Battle is big (6'6", 280 lbs) and athletic with long arms. He gets sloppy with his technique at times, but if he masters that aspect, he could be an All-American lineman. Battle has that type of ability.
Juniors Shaq Anthony and Eric Mac Lain bring experience to the offensive line. They will compete to start at right tackle. Mac Lain can also play inside. Anthony could be the starter here because Mac Lain missed much of spring practice with a lingering toe issue.
Center should be in good hands with junior Ryan Norton battling it out with sophomore Jay Guillermo. Norton has 13 career starts, and if he doesn't beat out Guillermo at center, he could be moved to guard.
Senior David Beasley should be the left guard. A two-year starter, Beasley will miss the season opener at Georgia due to suspension. However, keep an eye on massive senior Kalon Davis, who split time with Beasley last season. Beasley could be an all-ACC guard if he focuses on controlling his weight and stays out of trouble
Davis is in line to start at left guard if he doesn't beat out Beasley. He is an outstanding run-blocker.
Clemson's defensive line should be very good in 2014. It is likely the team's strongest and deepest position.
Led by senior defensive end Vic Beasley, the Tigers will get to the quarterback early and often in 2014. Beasley, an All-American in 2013, will team with fellow seniors Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes and sophomore Shaq Lawson to lead a strong group of pass-rushers.
At defensive tackle, the Tigers are nearly as deep. Seniors DeShawn Williams, Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson form a strong group on the inside with junior D.J. Reader. Reader is a natural nose tackle and requires double-teaming on nearly every snap he's on the field.
Clemson's defense will be much-improved this fall. The Tigers should be able to both rush the passer and stifle most team's rushing attacks.
Is 2014 the year Stephone Anthony finally becomes a star?
That's not to say Anthony has been a disappointing player, because he hasn't. But Clemson fans always expect even more from the talented senior. He started all 13 games last year after starting a combined 10 games in his first two years on campus.
Anthony can do it all. He is athletic, rangy and smart. He can rush the passer or drop into coverage with ease.
Senior Tony Steward and sophomore Ben Boulware fill out a strong linebacking corps. Replacing Spencer Shuey won't be easy, but Boulware looks ready for the added responsibilities.
Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Dorian O'Daniel. O'Daniel will be a star—it's just a matter of time.
For all of the talk about how good the defensive line will be, most prognosticators feel the secondary could be Clemson's Achilles' heel.
And that's not for a lack of talent, but experience.
Expect the Tigers to feature a pair of second-year players in Cordrea Tankersley and Mackensie Alexander at cornerback. Alexander was one of the nation's top recruits—per 247Sports— in 2013, but he redshirted last season. He was outstanding all spring and is poised to make a major impact.
Seniors Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins will compete with another talented freshman, Adrian Baker, for time at cornerback.
Sophomore Jayron Kearse is the big, physical safety teams are suddenly wanting again after the success of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and Kam Chancellor. Kearse has impressive size (6'4", 205 lbs), agility and ball skills. And yes, he is a physical force.
Senior Robert Smith is a steady presence in the secondary and should be a good mentor for all of the young, talented defensive backs on the current roster. Expect him to start at one of the safety positions.