Position battles to watch


by - Senior Writer -
Demont Buice rushed 18 times for 102 yards in the spring game.
Demont Buice rushed 18 times for 102 yards in the spring game.

CLEMSON – The temperatures are sweltering and the mid-summer sun beats down relentlessly on Clemson each day of the week.

Yes, that means that school is getting to start back, and people are taking their last-second vacations. But that also means that football is back, and it’s time to put the talk of NCAA violations, immodest coaches, the nation’s mounting debt and the major league baseball trading deadline on the backburner for a while.

College football practice begins this week, and Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers will once again return to the practice fields behind Jervey as they begin preparation for the 2011 season. Practice begins on Friday, and even though the temperatures are blazing right now, the competition for some of the spots on the Tiger football team will be just as hot.

Swinney has said that as many as 24 or 25 redshirt freshmen and true freshmen will be battling for jobs, creating the kind of environment of true competition that Clemson hasn’t seen for a while.

The following are some of the position battles that TigerNet will be keeping a close eye on, starting Friday.

OFFENSIVE LINE – There are several battles to watch within the offensive line. Starters are set at left guard [ David SmithDavid Smith

Offensive Line

#73 6-5, 315

Greenville, SC

View Full Profile ], center [ Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman

Offensive Line

#55 6-5, 285

Pelion, SC

View Full Profile ], right guard [ Antoine McClainAntoine McClain

Offensive Line

#74 6-5, 330

Anniston, AL

View Full Profile ] and right tackle [ Landon WalkerLandon Walker

Offensive Line

#72 6-6, 310

North Wilkesboro, NC

View Full Profile ]. Fifth-year senior Phillip PricePhillip Price

Offensive Line

#79 6-5, 300

Dillon, SC

View Full Profile , a 6-5, 300-pounder left spring camp with the starting nod at left tackle, but he will be pushed by sophomore Brandon ThomasBrandon Thomas

Offensive Line

#63 6-4, 300

Spartanburg, SC

View Full Profile . Price played just 98 snaps last season, while Thomas, backing up former starter Chris HairstonChris Hairston

Offensive Line

#61 6-7, 325

Winston-Salem, NC

View Full Profile , was on the field for 136 snaps.

New line coach Robbie Caldwell is also going to have to spend a good deal of camp trying to find depth with his unit. Mason CloyMason Cloy

Offensive Line

#62 6-3, 295

Columbia, SC

View Full Profile is a former starter and a reliable backup at center or guard, and the loser of the left tackle battle will be able to provide depth at either guard or tackle. That leaves the unproven Kalon DavisKalon Davis

Offensive Line

#67 6-4, 345

Chester, SC

View Full Profile [left guard], Matt SandersMatt Sanders

Offensive Line

#54 6-6, 320

Crestview, FL

View Full Profile [right guard] and Gifford TimothyGifford Timothy

Offensive Line

#70 6-6, 335

Middletown, DE

View Full Profile [right tackle] to all prove they have what it takes to play. David BeasleyDavid Beasley

Offensive Line

#68 6-4, 325

Columbus, GA

View Full Profile and Reid WebsterReid Webster

Offensive Line

#77 6-4, 290

Woodstock, GA

View Full Profile could also push for playing time, and out of the incoming freshmen, Spencer RegionSpencer Region

Offensive Line

# 6-6, 330

Cullman, AL

View Full Profile looks the most ready to play.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE – The defensive end rotation seems set with Andre BranchAndre Branch

Defensive End

#40 6-5, 260

Richmond, VA

View Full Profile and Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman

Defensive End

#97 6-4, 265

Florence, SC

View Full Profile listed as starters and Kourtnei BrownKourtnei Brown

Defensive End

#90 6-5, 250

Charlotte, NC

View Full Profile and Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford

Defensive Line

#93 6-5, 275

Chatham, VA

View Full Profile listed as their valuable backups. The starting spots at the defensive tackle spots are also set, with seniors Brandon ThompsonBrandon Thompson

Defensive Tackle

#98 6-2, 310

Thomasville, GA

View Full Profile and Rennie MooreRennie Moore

Defensive Tackle

#94 6-4, 270

Saint Marys, GA

View Full Profile . The intriguing battle here, however, involves Moore and the depth behind him.

Moore is a high-energy guy that moved to tackle from end last year, but Moore is more of pass-rushing specialist than a run-stuffer. At just over 270 pounds, he lacks the size that Jarvis JenkinsJarvis Jenkins

Defensive Tackle

#99 6-4, 315

Clemson, SC

View Full Profile brought to the middle last season, and that has led to speculation that if teams are running the ball successfully against the Tigers, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele could move to a 3-4 defense, with Thompson manning the middle.

That opens the door for redshirt freshman Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes

Defensive End

#6 6-3, 265

Jacksonville, FL

View Full Profile , but he also moved over from end and ended the spring at just 265. Tyler ShatleyTyler Shatley

Defensive Tackle

#43 6-3, 295

Icard, NC

View Full Profile (295) and Josh WatsonJosh Watson

Defensive Tackle

#91 6-4, 270

Wilmington, DE

View Full Profile (270) are also going to push for playing time, and Shatley has the size to be a force. The lack of depth at the tackle spot also means that freshmen DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams

Defensive Line

# 6-1, 295

Central, SC

View Full Profile and Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett

Defensive Line

# 6-2, 282

Conyers, GA

View Full Profile might avoid redshirts. It will be interesting to see who ends up where on the depth as September approaches.

RUNNING BACK – A healthy Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington

Running Back

#23 5-10, 190

Moncks Corner, SC

View Full Profile is the starter at running back, but who backs him up will certainly be of concern to Clemson coaches and fans alike. Roderick McDowellRoderick McDowell

Running Back

#25 5-9, 185

Sumter, SC

View Full Profile is the lone returnee with experience, finishing 2010 as the team’s third-leading rusher after a 32-carry, 160-yard campaign. But he was pushed in the spring by redshirt freshmen Demont BuiceDemont Buice

Running Back

#24 6-0, 220

Gadsden, AL

View Full Profile and D.J. HowardD.J. Howard

Running Back

#22 5-11, 190

Lincoln, AL

View Full Profile . The spring game did nothing to sort the three out, either. McDowell finished with 12 carries for 100 yards, Howard was 11-for-97 and Buice was 18-for-102.

Look for Buice to settle into more of a short-yardage role, however, as the coaches try to take advantage of his 225-pound frame. Add in highly-touted true freshman Mike BellamyMike Bellamy

Running Back

# 5-10, 187

Punta Gorda, FL

View Full Profile , and offensive coordinator Chad Morris has a lot to choose from behind Ellington. Again, the next 29 practices should determine a true pecking order, but Morris has already said that he plans to use all his backs.

LINEBACKER – Upside versus experience.

That small phrase captures perfectly the battles that will be occurring at linebacker this August. The Tigers brought in two 5-star recruits in Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony

Linebacker

# 6-2, 220

Wadesboro, NC

View Full Profile and Tony StewardTony Steward

Linebacker

# 6-2, 225

St. Augustine, FL

View Full Profile , and two others in Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend

Linebacker

# 6-2, 197

Bennettsville, SC

View Full Profile and B.J. GoodsonB.J. Goodson

Linebacker

# 6-1, 215

Lamar, SC

View Full Profile that are almost as talented.

Trying to hold down their starting positions are Corico HawkinsCorico Hawkins

Linebacker

#42 5-11, 230

Milledgeville, GA

View Full Profile , Tig Willard and Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian

Linebacker

#34 6-3, 215

Lake View, SC

View Full Profile , while 2010 reserves Justin ParkerJustin Parker

Linebacker

#8 6-1, 225

Port Royal, SC

View Full Profile and Daniel AndrewsDaniel Andrews

Linebacker

#41 5-11, 190

Jacksonville, FL

View Full Profile try to hold off the new guys plus redshirt freshman Vic BeasleyVic Beasley

Tight End

#3 6-2, 225

Adairsville, GA

View Full Profile .

Junior Corico Hawkins started last season and ranked third on the team in tackles (71) and second in tackles for loss (10), but a healthy Steward will push for playing time immediately. Steward has talent, size and attitude, a must-have trifecta for a championship-caliber middle linebacker.

An early prediction says that experience wins out in the short run, but upside takes over before too long.

WIDE RECEIVER – Morris has been critical of his returning receivers in the preseason, including questioning the dedication and work ethic of a few. The one thing a veteran doesn’t need is a coach questioning his resolve, especially with so many talented newcomers taking the field Thursday.

Jaron BrownJaron Brown

Wide Receiver

#18 6-2, 200

Cheraw, SC

View Full Profile and DeAndre HopkinsDeAndre Hopkins

Wide Receiver

#6 6-1, 195

Central, SC

View Full Profile have fairly solid holds at their spots for now, but Bryce McNealBryce McNeal

Wide Receiver

#7 6-1, 180

Minneapolis, MN

View Full Profile and Marquan JonesMarquan Jones

Wide Receiver

#26 6-0, 195

Columbia, SC

View Full Profile will be challenged for the slot position from day one by Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins

Wide Receiver

# 6-2, 200

Fort Myers, FL

View Full Profile . Watkins has that special blend of size (6-1, 190), speed [a spectacular 4.3 40 time], footwork and hands that could make him a starter against Troy.

Brown made some big plays in 2010, but he still finished with just 35 receptions in 13 games, for 435 yards and four scores. Newcomers Charone PeakeCharone Peake

Wide Receiver

# 6-4, 210

Roebuck, SC

View Full Profile and Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant

Wide Receiver

# 6-4, 195

Anderson, SC

View Full Profile are both tall and talented, and Bryant possesses the kind of breakaway speed that coaches drool over. Brown has to have the camp of his life to hold these two off.

KICKER - A year ago, Christ Church’s Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro

Punter / Kicker

#39 6-2, 205

Greenville, SC

View Full Profile burst onto the scene in fall camp and took over the kicking duties, winning the job over senior Richard JacksonRichard Jackson

Punter / Kicker

#19 6-0, 195

Greer, SC

View Full Profile and sophomore Spencer BentonSpencer Benton

Punter / Kicker

#13 6-2, 195

Myrtle Beach, SC

View Full Profile . Catanzaro made a respectable 14-of-22 kicks in 2010, but it was the misses and when they occurred that drew the most attention. A missed 32-yarder in a three point loss at Auburn; two missed field goals (44 and 36 yards) in a six-point loss at Boston College; and two missed field goals (34, 38) in a three-point loss at Florida St.

This season, Benton will most likely handle the kickoff duties, leaving Catanzaro [who did make all 34 of his PAT attempts] to battle freshman kicker Ammon LakipAmmon Lakip

Punter / Kicker

# 5-11, 175

Alpharetta, GA

View Full Profile for the starting job. Catanzaro has said he made a few small tweaks to his kicking motion, and feels confident he can be the same kicker that won the starting job this time last year, but once again he will have to go out and prove it to the coaches.

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