Clemson Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp
With fall camp approaching, the long wait of the summer is almost over. Be patient Clemson Tigers fans—it’s almost here!
There are position battles at major positions, and fall practices will play a huge role in determining the starters. Which players involved in those competitions will enter fall camp as starters?
Place Kicker: Ammon Lakip
Punter: Bradley Pinion
There isn’t much to debate on special teams, if everything goes smoothly. Ammon Lakip waited behind Chandler Catanzaro and will now get his chance to shine.
Bradley Pinion has done a great job punting the ball for the Tigers, so there’s not much to wonder about there either.
Starters: Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson, Corey Crawford
Backups: Shaq Lawson, Carlos Watkins, D.J. Reader, DeShawn Williams, Tavaris Barnes
The Tigers have so much experience and talent on the defensive line that there’s inevitably competition for spots. Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett aren’t going anywhere, but the other defensive end spot could be a competition to watch.
Senior Tavaris Barnes showed up in the spring game with five sacks, and Shaq Lawson emerged for the Tigers last season as a freshman. Corey Crawford is talented and will be a big part of what the Tigers do defensively, but someone else will need to step up against Georgia.
Remember, Tigers fans, that Crawford is one of the four players suspended for the Georgia game for a violation of team rules.
The other defensive tackle spot is also unsettled at this point. Seniors Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams are both great candidates to win it, but Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader will also provide solid competition.
Starters: Charone Peake, Adam Humphries, Mike Williams
Backups: Artavis Scott, Kyrin Priester, Demarre Kitt, Germone Hopper
The Tigers have three returning receivers who figure to head into fall camp as starters. Charone Peake, Adam Humphries and Mike Williams all have the potential to be the No. 1 target for Cole Stoudt this season.
There are also some talented freshmen who will look to compete for solid playing time, maybe even a starting job at some point. Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester all enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Trevion Thompson was a big-time recruit who will be in school for fall camp.
It’s possible that Dabo Swinney would redshirt one of the young receivers, but that’s not a given. Germone Hopper is a wild card at this point. He was sent home early from spring practice, but if he gets motivated, he has the talent to be successful.
Starter: Cole Stoudt
Backups: Deshaun Watson, Nick Schuessler, David Olson
The quarterback job belongs to Stoudt. That’s pretty clear at this point. The senior has earned the right to be in this position and will lead the Tigers into Athens for the season opener.
Don’t count on him being the only quarterback who sees the field, though. Swinney has made it clear that Deshaun Watson will play, even as early as the Georgia game. Clemson’s head coach seems very impressed with how quickly Watson has been able to pick up the offense.
Nick Schuessler and David Olson will battle it out for that third spot, but we saw a lot of Schuessler in the spring game, so my hunch is that he gets the nod there.
Starters: Isaiah Battle, David Beasley, Ryan Norton, Kalon Davis, Shaq Anthony
Backups: Eric Mac Lain, Jay Guillermo, Tyrone Crowder, Joe Gore
There’s flexibility with a few of the guys being able to play inside or outside, so naming a set five is very tough at this point. Swinney can plug guys in as he sees fit because of that flexibility.
Ryan Norton is a starter, no doubt about that. Isaiah Battle will likely be the man at left tackle. Kalon Davis will also likely fill one of the remaining spots. The post-spring depth chart listed him as the starter at right guard.
The suspensions of David Beasley and Shaq Anthony versus Georgia could hurt the consistency and chemistry on the offensive line. Swinney will need to find a consistent five to start, but also two guys who will be able to contribute in the season opener.
Jay Guillermo is a guy to watch as fall camp progresses. Norton is pretty safe at center, but Guillermo could find himself at one of the other spots. Anthony and Joe Gore are far from finished in their competition, but Anthony has five starts in his career, so experience wins again here.
Starters: Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward, Travis Blanks
Backups: Ben Boulware, B.J. Goodson, Korrin Wiggins, T.J. Burrell, Dorian O’Daniel
Two of the linebacker spots are pretty clear heading into fall camp, but the nickelback position is wide open. Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward will be starters, and I chose Travis Blanks to fill that third spot.
After spring, the depth chart listed the position as a tie between Blanks, T.J. Burrell, Dorian O’ Daniel and Korrin Wiggins. Blanks has the most experience of the four, and he has shown glimpses of being a great player.
Moving Blanks up closer to the line of scrimmage will be a big difference for him, and it will help him to get more pressure on the quarterback.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of continued competition at the position, but if I have to pick one guy right now, it's Blanks.
Starters: Mackensie Alexander, Cordrea Tankersley, Jayron Kearse, Robert Smith
Backups: Garry Peters, Martin Jenkins, Jadar Johnson, T.J. Green
Throughout this article, you’ll see that I give the edge to upperclassmen in most situations. There’s no way that’s happening here, though. Mackensie Alexander and Cordrea Tankersley have really stood out to the coaching staff and will be your starters going into fall practices.
Garry Peters is another one of the players suspended for the Georgia game, so the Tigers need to prepare a young guy to start anyway. There has been a lot of positive talk about Alexander, and there’s no doubt in my mind he starts at Georgia.
Martin Jenkins and Peters are both seniors and will be asked to step up, but I’m not sure they can overtake Tankersley, who was named a starter after spring practice.
Jayron Kearse finished the year strong at safety, and it’s safe to say that he holds that spot through fall camp. Robert Smith is a senior, so he will get the edge over T.J. Green early. Green has a really bright future with the Tigers, but Smith will get his chance when practice begins.
Starter: Sam Cooper
Backups: Jordan Leggett, Stanton Seckinger
Sam Cooper, the senior, will likely be given the opportunity to prove he should be a starter. It’s become clear to Tigers fans that Jordan Leggett has the most potential in this tight end group, so he is certainly a factor for playing time.
You can’t forget about Stanton Seckinger either, who made some big catches last season for the Tigers. When the Tigers head into the 2014 season, I don’t think the situation changes. Cooper will likely be the starter, but he won’t contribute as much in the passing game. He will primarily be a run-blocker, while Leggett and Seckinger are brought in for passing downs.
Starter: D.J. Howard
Backups: Wayne Gallman, Zac Brooks, C.J. Davidson
D.J. Howard gets the nod going into fall camp because of his experience. Despite not having game experience, Wayne Gallman could really rise up the charts in camp if he plays like he’s capable of. The redshirt freshman led all rushers in the spring game and appeared to be the best choice in the competition.
Howard was listed as the starter coming out of spring practice, but with more reps, Gallman will have the chance to stand out to the coaching staff. If I had to bet right now, I’m thinking Howard goes into Athens as the starter just because he’s a senior. It would not surprise me at all to see some of the other guys such as Gallman, Zac Brooks or C.J. Davidson start to stand out and gain more carries, though.