|Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 9:12 AM- -|
As you probably know, I love the spring game. It is a chance to see newcomers and guys that will have bigger roles next season. It is a chance to see who has taken big jumps in their development. Heck, it's just another chance to see Clemson football.
Today I wanted to look at some storylines to follow on defense for Saturday. Tomorrow we will look at the offense.
Over the last two years, Clemson has lost Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford, Tavaris Barnes, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd at defensive end. The staff has recruited well, but this is perhaps the most inexperienced group on the field. Clemson will have three sophomores and three freshmen on the depth chart at defensive end.
Austin Bryant emerged in his true freshman season. When Lawson went down in the Orange Bowl, Bryant played extremely well. He is the most experienced of the defensive ends and the one that is probably the most well-rounded.
Richard Yeargin has shown some signs and continues to grow into more than just a pass rusher. Yeargin is getting bigger and stronger and is competing for the starting spot.
Maybe the most talented defensive end, with the most potential, is Clelin Ferrell. He is a terrific athlete and has a huge upside. Chris Register has made some strides this spring. He has a chance to help, but could use a big fall camp. LaSamuel Davis is a true freshman in this spring, but he has to increase his strength to gain more playing time in the future.
This may be the most talented group on the field Saturday.
You have seen the dynamic playmaking ability of Christian Wilkins, who may be the best player on defense. You have seen steady play from Carlos Watkins and Scott Pagano. Saturday you may want to watch Albert Huggins, who is poised to make a big jump next season.
Jabril Robinson, Gage Cervenka, Sterling Johnson and Nyles Pickney are talented defensive tackles as well, but the big story Saturday will be Dexter Lawrence. The nation's number-two ranked prospect is a mountain of a man who has been hard to move. This is a physical freak that has a chance to be the next Tiger great.
Ben Boulware will probably play as hard as he did in the national title game, but I have seen enough from him and won't spend a lot of time watching him Saturday. The others will be the story. Dorian O' Daniel is a great talent who will be counted on more this fall. Kendall Joseph is finally healthy and has had a good spring. Jalen Williams is undersized but finds the football. And I am big fans of high character guys like J.D. and Judah Davis.
However, the story Saturday at linebacker will be the freshmen and red-shirt freshmen. This will be our longest look at Chad Smith, Shaq Smith, and Tre Lamar. These three highly-rated players are fighting for their spots on the depth chart, and we get our best looks at them this Saturday.
Depth and experience are a big concern in the secondary. There will be so many new faces in the secondary this Saturday. Cordrea Tankersley has shown us all we need to see, but other corners like Mark Fields and Marcus Edmonds will be the next in line. I also want to see Denzel Johnson's progress.
At safety, I like Jadar Johnson and Van Smith because they appear to be more sound in their assignments. I want to see Tanner Muse and his development at safety.
I think this defense can be as good as we have seen the last two seasons. Saturday will give us the last chance to evaluate what we see on this side of the ball until the team reassembles in the fall.
The Brad Hughes All-State Insurance Agency
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