Clemson Football: 4 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

Clemson Football: 4 Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp

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    Defensive end Shaq Lawson
    Defensive end Shaq LawsonRICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    For college football players around the country, fall camp is just days away. A new season represents a fresh start for some and new opportunities for others.

    Post-spring depth charts are nice and give the media something to talk about, but the real depth chart is made in August. 

    For the Clemson Tigers, several young players are eager for their first crack at stardom. While most starting positions on the team are settled, that doesn't mean a player can't shine and make the coaches second-guess their decisions.

    Younger players including sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett and freshman corner Mackensie Alexander starred in spring practice, creating massive expectations for themselves. 

    Who's ready to step up and become the talk of fall camp? Here's an early peek at four players who will open the eyes of coaches and fans in August.

Running Back Wayne Gallman

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    Wayne Gallman
    Wayne GallmanCredit: 247Sports

    Wayne Gallman was almost an afterthought when he originally committed to Clemson in 2012. High school teammate Robert Nkemdiche was the No. 1 player in the country, per 247Sports (subscription required), and a player the Tigers desperately wanted.

    Nkemdiche did commit, but he backed out a few months later.

    Gallman stuck with Clemson, and head coach Dabo Swinney couldn't be happier.  

    Entering a season in which Clemson's top rusher is gone, Gallman is competing with three other players for the starting position. No running back on the roster possesses his skill set. He's fast, has good size at 6'1" and 200 pounds, and he breaks tackles with ease. 

    Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard may lead the pack at the moment, but look for Gallman to get coaches excited this fall and force his way into the lineup.

Wide Receiver Germone Hopper

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    Wide receiver Germone Hopper
    Wide receiver Germone HopperRICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are gone. With them go 143 receptions, 2,292 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    Clemson's leading returning receiver is Adam Humphries. He caught 41 passes in 2013.

    There's a big hole at wide receiver this fall.

    Humphries and Mike Williams will fill two starting positions. Junior Charone Peake figures to be the other starter, but sophomore Germone Hopper won't make it easy.

    Hopper was sent home this spring to focus on his academics. If he takes care of that, he will be squarely in the mix at receiver this season. He is lightning-fast and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He will also be in the mix as a punt returner.

    Hopper will force the coaches to take notice if he has solved his personal issues.

Defensive End Shaq Lawson

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Clemson is deep at defensive end. The Tigers return all of the top defensive ends from 2013, including All-American Vic Beasley.

    The Tigers are so deep, in fact, that sophomore Shaq Lawson will be the team's fourth defensive end this fall.

    As a freshman last season, Lawson played in all 13 games and tallied 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. 

    The coaches know what they have in Beasley, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes. They also know Lawson may be the most talented pass-rusher on the roster.

    Look for defensive coordinator Brent Venables to find ways this fall to get Lawson on the field—especially on third down.

Cornerback Adrian Baker

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    Much of the talk about the secondary has centered on Mackensie Alexander and sophomore Cordrea Tankersley, and rightfully so. Both will start at cornerback this fall ahead of seniors Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins. 

    However, another freshman, Adrian Baker, will also push for playing time.

    Baker impressed coaches last fall before a groin injury forced him to have surgery and led to a redshirt season. 

    Swinney was very complimentary of Baker this spring, per the Anderson Independent-Mail:

    Adrian probably would have played for us last fall had he not got hurt. His body’s changing, he really took advantage of his redshirt season to put on some good weight and muscle mass. He’s very skilled and very conscientious.

    Sounds like a player the coaches will certainly be watching this August.