Eight down. Seven to go. What have we learned so far in spring practice?
|Monday, March 27, 2017, 7:52 AM- -|
Eight down, seven to go.
Spring practice resumes for he Clemson football team today, and the team will hold its final six practices before holding the spring game on April 8th. With seven practices in the book, what have we learned?
Not a lot. The biggest questions we had going into the spring revolved around the quarterback and running back spots, with lesser questions surrounding the linebacker rotation, position battles in the secondary and finding a starting punter.
Let’s take a look at what we could – the key word being could – learn as spring practice passes the halfway point.
I get asked the same question several times a day: Who is going to be the starting quarterback? All I can do is shrug my shoulders. We have had less access to practice and players than in years past, and all we’ve seen of “practice” was a session where players did calisthenics and then went outside and for special teams work for a few minutes. That’s it. And that was the first practice.
As media access continues to diminish, all we can do is listen to the coaches and talk to those who are allowed into practice to get an idea of how things are progressing. Right now, it sounds like none of the players battling for that spot are stepping to the forefront. We’ve heard that all of the quarterbacks – Kelly Bryant, Tucker Israel, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson have all had their moments, but all have suffered from inconsistencies.
The guess is that this competition will last long into fall camp.
It sounded like the first half of spring practice ended where we left off at the end of last season – C.J. Fuller slightly ahead of Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice in the pecking order. Feaster told us two weeks ago that he feels comfortable with the playbook and is completely healthy, but knows he has to improve in other areas if he wants to play.
“In order for me to get on the field, I have to be able to pass block,” Feaster said. “Coach (Tony Elliott) explained that to me, and I said yes sir. I am putting in the overtime and going to work and getting my body ready just to have a shot to win it.
“He just wants me to focus on getting better every day, and if I get better then eventually I will fight for that top spot. He talked about academics and staying out of trouble and that everything matters.”
Just going by what we’ve heard, Milan Richard seems to be leader at the turn. However, we’ve also heard good things from Cannon Smith, Garrett Williams and freshman J.C. Chalk. Also, D.J. Greenlee has drawn rave reviews from head coach Dabo Swinney and seems to be making a push or playing time. Shadell Bell made the move to tight end from wide receiver, and he's also drawn rave reviews from his head coach and coordinators. It will be interesting to this group in the spring game.
Justin Falcinelli hasn’t done anything to lose the job, but Gage Cervenka is pushing for playing time. Look for Falcinelli to exit the spring in the top spot, but Cervenka will continue to push into the fall.
This group has gone just like we expected – Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, Ray-Ray McCloud and Trevion Thompson appear to be ahead of Diondre Overton, Cornell Powell and T.J. Chase at this point. The final eight practices will be big for everybody – kids names Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers arrive this summer.
Kendall Joseph has been cross-training at both the MIKE and WILL spots, while Tre Lamar has worked mostly at MIKE. That sets up an intriguing possibility, with Lamar starting in the middle and Joseph moving to the weakside spot manned by Ben Boulware last season. Dorian O’Daniel seems to be entrenched at the Nickel/SAM spot, and the rest of the linebackers are playing the different spots and are hoping to find a spot somewhere in the rotation. This is another area where we likely won’t know anything until fall.
We’ve heard nothing but positive reports from the corners, and if I had to guess right now I would say that Ryan Carter and Mark Fields are the leaders to start at corner, with Trayvon Mullen coming in at 1A. But K’Von Wallace is impressing folks, and veteran Marcus Edmond is still in the mix.
Tanner Muse and Van Smith have been getting most of the attention, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see this as the starting duo in the fall. However, Denzel Johnson is still firmly in the mix, and Isaiah Simmons has moved between Nickel/SAM and safety.
The only one we really heard about over the first eight practices was Will Spiers. Spiers has improved since starting school last year, and winning the starting job also means taking over an open scholarship. This one could be decided by the end of the spring.