Clemson Football

Power Ranking Clemson Football's Positional Units for 2014

Zach GillilandFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

Power Ranking Clemson Football's Positional Units for 2014

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Everyone knows how good Clemson’s defensive line is supposed to be this year, but not everyone is on board with the other position groups, like running back, just yet.

    This list ranks the Tigers’ positional units for 2014, showing which areas are strong and which ones may need a little help this fall.

9. Special Teams

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Top Player: Bradley Pinion, punter

    Question Mark: Ammon Lakip, kicker

    With the departure of Chandler Catanzaro, this group will undergo a big change at the kicker position.

    Catanzaro, the school’s leader in points, was among the best kickers in Clemson history. Now Ammon Lakip will have the challenging job of kicking in the shadow of Catanzaro. Bradley Pinion is tied for first in school history in punts inside the 20, so bringing him back gives this unit a definite strength.

8. Offensive Line

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Top Players: Ryan Norton, Kalon Davis, David Beasley

    Question Marks: Joe Gore, Shaq Anthony, Isaiah Battle

    This group lost Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley from a year ago. Both were solid starters for the Tigers.

    David Beasley and Ryan Norton have started a combined 32 games, but the question mark lies with the other three starters. Isaiah Battle and Shaq Anthony have a combined 17 starts.

    Joe Gore, who will battle with Anthony at right tackle, has played in 12 games but has no starts in his career.

    This group could perform well in 2014, but right now there’s just a lack of experience outside of Beasley and Norton.

7. Running Back

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Top Players: D.J. Howard, Zac Brooks

    Question Marks: Wayne Gallman, Tyshon Dye, C.J. Davidson

    The running back unit for Clemson is a very interesting one. The Tigers have four or five guys who could all do well this season and get the majority of the carries, but the problem is finding one who stands out above the others.

    D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks are the upperclassmen of the group and have the most experience, although redshirt freshmen Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye may be the better combo.

    There’s no telling how well this group will perform because there isn’t one standout guy yet; therefore, for now the running backs wind up near the middle.

6. Defensive Back

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Top Players: Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Garry Peters, Robert Smith, Cordrea Tankersley, T.J. Green, Martin Jenkins

    Question Mark: Jadar Johnson, Adrian Baker

    Mackensie Alexander has not played a down for the Tigers but has tons of hype surrounding him. Cordrea Tankersley played special teams last year, but doesn't have much experience at cornerback.

    Both are expected to have immediate impacts for the Tigers this fall, along with sophomores Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green.

    Defensive back is another group that is a mystery. It’s hard to separate the top players from the question marks because no one player stands out.

    Alexander and Tankersley have a lot of potential, but they don’t have much experience at this point. Kearse played well at the end of last season but is still just a sophomore.

    The defensive back group, like the running backs, could be a boom-or-bust unit, depending on how well the younger guys play. The Tigers have a bright future with Alexander, Green, Tankersley, Baker and Kearse, but Dabo Swinney will need them to play beyond their experience in 2014.

5. Quarterback

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    Top Players: Cole Stoudt, Deshaun Watson

    Question Marks: Nick Schuessler, David Olson

    Cole Stoudt has been reliable in his Clemson career as the backup, but now the spotlight will be on him.

    I still consider this group to be a strength despite the lack of experience thanks to Stoudt's consistency. The senior has thrown only one interception in his 22-game career and has completed 72.3 percent of his passes.

4. Linebacker

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Top Players: Stephone Anthony, Travis Blanks, Korrin Wiggins, Tony Steward, Ben Boulware

    Question Marks: T.J. Burrell, Dorian O’Daniel

    Stephone Anthony will be among the top linebackers in the nation next year, so that’s a plus for this unit. The linebacker group will not be the strength of the defense, but it shouldn’t be a weakness either.

    It will be Tony Steward’s first year as a starter, so his position is unpredictable at this point. Also, Korrin Wiggins, Travis Blanks, Dorian O’Daniel and T.J. Burrell will battle for the nickelback position this summer.

    This group has the chance to be something special in 2014, but right now it’s tough to predict how well the two new starters will perform.

3. Tight End

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Top Players: Jordan Leggett, Stanton Seckinger, Sam Cooper

    Question Marks: Milan Richard, Cannon Smith, Jay Jay McCullough

    This group has the potential to be very special this fall. Jordan Leggett looked good in the spring game, and Stanton Seckinger and Sam Cooper also return from last year.

    Obviously, the three guys that who played very few snaps, or none at all, make up the question marks for this group. Milan Richard and Cannon Smith could possibly redshirt this season, and Jay Jay McCullough will push for playing time this summer.

2. Wide Receiver

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    Top Players: Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Mike Williams

    Question Marks: Germone Hopper, Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester, Artavis Scott, Trevion Thompson

    Yes, five guys are listed as question marks, but only because they haven’t proved themselves yet. All were big-time recruits and are loaded with potential, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if any of these five had breakout years for the Tigers.

    Charone Peake, Adam Humphries and Mike Williams will be the three main guys in this group and will likely see most of the targets. The Tigers will need a couple of guys from the other five to excel in 2014.

    Even though there’s not a lot of certainty for this positional unit, it will be among the strongest groups for Swinney’s squad.

1. Defensive Line

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Top Players: Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford, Grady Jarrett, Shaq Lawson, Tavaris Barnes, Josh Watson, Deshawn Williams, D.J. Reader

    Question Mark: Carlos Watkins

    There is little debate that this will be Clemson’s strongest positional unit in 2014. The defensive line could be among the best in school history, and it will be one of the best in the nation next season for sure.

    Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett headline this group, but guys like Shaq Lawson and Tavaris Barnes are undervalued. Lawson had four sacks last season as a freshman, and Barnes performed well in the spring game with five sacks.

    The only question mark I see in the two-deep is Carlos Watkins, only because he hasn’t played much.

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