|by David Hood|
Let’s start with the offensive line – it’s no surprise to see Isaiah Battle at left tackle, and David Beasley and Ryan Norton are at the left guard and center spots, respectively. Kalon Davis apparently showed the coaches enough during the spring that he has the right guard spot, and that’s not a surprise either.
However, we all know the issues the Tigers had at right tackle last season. Giff Timothy got hurt, Shaq Anthony was inconsistent and Battle eventually moved over to that spot. Eric Mac Lain was anointed as the starter heading into the spring and was having a good camp before being sidelined by a foot injury. Gore and Anthony are listed as co-starters at that spot heading into the summer, and Mac Lain is listed as the backup (along with Reid Webster) at left guard. Keep in mind – Beasley and Anthony will both miss the Georgia game, so it will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out once they put the pads back on in August.
Tyrone Crowder, a highly-touted member of the 2013 recruiting class, is listed as a backup (along with Webster) behind Davis at right guard.
Senior Sam Cooper gets the nod over Jordan Leggett and Stanton Seckinger at tight end. However, it’s hard to read a lot into this move. Cooper is the better blocker; Leggett and Seckinger are the better receivers. Whoever gets the most playing time in the fall will likely depend on the matchup and how much the Tigers are running the ball.
Senior D.J. Howard gets the summer nod as the starter, and he looked good in the spring. His backups – as expected – are C.J. Davidson, Wayne Gallman and Zac Brooks. This might be a running back by committee to start the season.
Youth will be served
There are eight freshmen listed on the depth chart, and six of those are on the offense. Five of the six freshmen on offense are at wide receiver or backfield positions. Three are at the wide receiver spots as backups, Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester. Gallaman is a freshman among four listed at running back and Deshaun Watson is the second-team quarterback.
During January, you would have looked at Clemson’s depth chart at this position and guessed the big question might be who was going to replace Vic Beasley if he had declared for the NFL. However, Beasley returned and it all seemed pretty well set that Beasley and Corey Crawford would once again be the starters on the opposite ends of the line. Not so fast……Crawford was one of four players that will be suspended for the opener against Georgia, and senior Tavaris Barnes had his best spring as a Tiger. In fact, it looks like Barnes has it figured out, and he’s playing for a paycheck following this season. Barnes posted on social media before last season’s home finale that it would be his last time running down the hill – he later said he was preparing to enter the draft – but decided to come back for a final season. Crawford and Barnes are listed as co-starters heading into the summer. And before you start thinking this might be mind games by the coaches, check out this stat: In 1,396 snaps over his Clemson career, Crawford has four sacks; in 597 snaps, Barnes has two sacks. Beasley has 21 sacks in 864 career snaps. In other words – has Crawford done enough to just be handed the position? Nope, and Barnes will push him every step of the way.
Who is gonna play the SAM/Nickel?
There are four co-starters listed at this position – T.J. Burrell, Travis Blanks, Korrin Wiggins and Dorian O’Daniel. Blanks was injured during the spring, but should be ready by fall camp. This is the position that he manned during his freshman campaign, and he struggled at safety before being injured last season. Wiggins was outstanding whenever he was on the field, and O’Daniel and Burrell showed enough during the spring to earn co-starter honors. This battle will be fun to watch in the fall.
There are no surprises at the safety spots – we knew Robert Smith and Jayron Kearse were the starters, and that Jadar Johnson and T.J. Green had good springs as their backups. However, how about the corner spots? Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told me midway through camp that Cordrea Tankersley – a big, physical corner at 6-0, 195- was doing enough to be considered the starter at one spot. Tankersley still has a starting hold at one spot, and his backup is listed as Martin Jenkins, who has battled the injury bug throughout his Clemson career.
The other corner spot is manned by freshman MacKensie Alexander. Alexander was deemed to be a contender for a starting spot last fall, but injuries forced a redshirt. He came out during the spring ready to prove he belonged, and he is listed as the starter ahead of Garry Peters, another player who will be suspended for the opener. Don’t expect either of these to change once the fall begins.
•The depth chart has 51 different players on the offense and defense (not counting special teams), 26 offensive players and 25 defensive players. The 51 players include 18 seniors, 12 juniors, 13 sophomores and eight freshmen. Six of the eight freshmen are on offense and just two on defense. One of the freshmen is MacKensie Alexander, who is listed as a starting cornerback, the only freshman listed as a starter. (Dorian O’Daniel is listed as one of four co-starters at a linebacker/nickel back position). Clemson has started just one freshman at cornerback over the course of the season since 2002 and that was Bashaud Breeland in 2011. He started seven of 14 games that year.
•Clemson is deepest at the defensive line where all nine players listed on the two-deep are lettermen who have played at least 200 snaps in their careers. The group has played in a combined 266 games with 91 starts. They combined for 69 tackles for loss last year helping Clemson to a number-one ranking nationally in that category. The nine players have averaged 760 plays of experience entering the 2014 season. Six of the nine have already played at least 30 games.
•There are 12 returning ACC players from 2013 who had at least 10 tackles for loss last year and five of the 12 are on Clemson’s defense. Those are Vic Beasley (23), Stephone Anthony (13.5), Grady Jarrett (11), Corey Crawford (10.5) and Shaq Lawson (10).
•The 2014 Clemson summer depth chart has seven players who have played at least 1000 snaps from scrimmage in their careers. The leader is Stephone Anthony with 1,553. Others are Corey Crawford (1396), Adam Humphries (1328), David Beasley (1227), Ryan Norton (1118), Grady Jarrett (1112), and Travis Blanks (1038).
•While the players returning to Clemson’s defensive line have 91 career starts combined, Clemson’s offensive linemen has 49. The leader is David Beasley with 19 starts in 30 games played.
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com