Saturday, July 5, 2014 10:23 AM
Ten to Watch: Charone Peake ready to leap into competition
by David Hood
Senior Writer

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Clemson football team heading into fall camp, if not the biggest question, is who will step forward as the playmaker and go-to-guy in Chad Morris’ offense.

Could it finally be Charone Peake’s time to shine?

Gone are playmakers like Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Roderick McDowell. During his time at Clemson, Peake has labored in the shadows of Nuk Hopkins and Watkins, watching and waiting while his two teammates turned All-American caliber seasons into first round NFL Draft selections.

Peake was a part of the highly-regarded 2011 signing class that included Watkins and Bryant, but both of those have moved on to the riches and pressure of the NFL while Peake tries to recover from a torn ACL suffered early last season.

Peake had eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in two games in 2013, and appeared to be well on his way to living up to the praise that head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris had heaped on the Dorman product after a productive summer and fall practice.

That all changed when Peake tore his ACL in practice the second week of September. He needed surgery and was out for Clemson's last 11 games. However, Peake was granted a medical waiver to restore his eligibility and will have two more years remaining with the Tigers.

During the spring, Peake told TigerNet that the beginning of his rehabilitation was harder than expected.

“I'm not going to lie,” he said. “It hurt me a little bit. It really hit me at the Orange Bowl, standing on the sidelines watching a really good game and not being a part of it. But once rehab got started, I got stronger and everything has been going pretty good since then.”

Peake said that the fact that he performed so well during the previous spring and summer and seemed poised for a breakout season made the injury even harder to take.

“During last summer and fall camp I improved so much," he said. "I feel like it's still in me, too. It shouldn't be a problem with the red-shirt and two years (of eligibility) left. That'll be on me. I think I'll build my confidence, get my cuts right and plant more off my left knee during the summer before camp gets here. I'm already moving a lot and can sprint. I'm already working on some side-to-side stuff, too. I'm going to be 100-percent by the time the summer hits. When we start drills with the team, I'll be ready."

Peake began catching passes and running routes late in the spring, and he appeared to walk and jog without any trouble at Dabo Swinney’s high school camps.

However, he has not just worked on his health – he has become a mentor and leader to a talented group of younger players that include Artavis Scott, Kyrin Priester and Demarre Kitt.

"Oh they look good, all of them. They look like college players now. Physically, they're all ready to play right now,” Peake said. “If someone goes down, one of them needs to be able to move over to a spot. We'll need them all. I’ve taken on more of a role of a coach,” he said. “We can look at film and see what they are doing wrong, and then we can teach them.”

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com