Five Mid-Camp Questions Facing The Tigers


by - Correspondent -
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Five Mid-Camp Questions Facing The Tigers

1. Should anything be read into Tommy Bowden's Saturday comments about Willy Korn making up ground on Cullen Harper?

Maybe a little, since it's the first time the head coach has given any such indication about the quarterback spot. But make no mistake. At this point Harper is still the clear cut No. 1 on the depth chart. While Korn has shown a knack for getting the ball into the endzone during Clemson's scrimmages, he's doing most of his work with the second team offense vs. the second team defense. In fact, on Saturday he took zero snaps with the first team. So while the numbers (9-of-15, 122 yards, 2 TDs) are impressive, they must be kept in perspective.

2. Is there a major worry at the center position?

Define major. The biggest problem now with No. 1 center Barry Humphries and his backups is consistency. As Bowden pointed out after Saturday's scrimmage, Dustin Fry had been around so long that you almost took his play for granted. But Fry was young once, too, and went through his own growing pains. The difficulty here is that center is where each play starts, and if anything goes wrong on the snap of the ball the entire offense grinds to a halt. Is Humphries talented? No question. He has more raw talent than Fry. But the question remains how long it takes for Humphries to gain that much needed consistency. With Florida State looming in just over two weeks, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

3. How good can Vic Koening's defense really be?

Potentially better than any unit in Bowden's tenure. Yes, the defense lost an incredible playmaker in the graduated Gaines Adams. And how quickly his backup from a year ago, Ricky Sapp, realizes his immense potential remains to be seen. But besides that and perhaps a lingering question or two at cornerback, Clemson's defense is solid - potentially spectacular. Phillip Merling, who plays opposite bandit end Sapp, looks poised to be the next dominant lineman for Koening. The linebacking corps, with the return of Tremaine Billie and Antonio Clay, could be the best in the conference. And Michael Hamlin is a future NFL playmaker in the secondary. The pieces are all there. Koening just has to fit them together.

4. Is Mark Buchholz the answer at kicker?

So far, yes. The Tiger soccer player-turned-place kicker has been a model of consistency so far in fall camp - something Jad Dean definitely was not in 2006. And, based on his performance so far, he could be a long-distance weapon for Clemson this season. His 54-yard kick in Saturday's scrimmage may have been good from 60, according to those who witnessed it. The biggest question with Buchholz is how he'll handle being a two-sport performer. Will playing both football and futbol be a distraction? If not, the junior could ease many fears around Clemson's camp.

5. Is the team ready to play now?

No. But it shouldn't be. With the opener still two weeks away, Bowden has his team on a definite plan of progress this fall. Make no mistake, though. This next week becomes crucial for both the players and the coaching staff. After this week is game week. So much must come together over the next seven days. After that, it's time to game plan for Florida State. Come Sept. 3, it's time to play. Ready or not.

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