Five breakout players during the spring


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Mullen returns an interception for a touchdown in the spring game
Mullen returns an interception for a touchdown in the spring game

CLEMSON – Spring practice is a time for coaches to evaluate the talent on hand, and there are times when those players do enough to warrant repeated mentions.

With that in mind, TigerNet takes a look at five players that had a breakout spring based off of player interviews, coach interviews, and the spring game.

Tee Higgins

Higgins caught 17 passes for 345 yards in 2017, a year in which the Tigers had lacked success in the downfield passing game. A mid-spring interview with wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott revealed that Higgins wasn’t in the top two spots on the depth chart.

We heard he was a different player over the last few weeks, and he responded with a huge spring game, catching four passes for 118 yards and two scores.

“Tee Higgins had an unbelievable day. I asked him if he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I didn’t know what was going on,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney joked. “He said, ‘Nah, I’m just trying to be your starting 9-man.’ I said, 'That’s a good answer and a good way to do it,' but a great day for him.”

Higgins averaged nearly 30 yards per catch and connected with Trevor Lawrence for a 50-yard score early in the first quarter.

Later in the first quarter, he caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Johnson.

Amari Rodgers

Rodgers had more catches than Higgins last fall, catching 19. He will be a major cog in the offense this season, but where he will provide a spark is in the return game. He looked like a different player during the practices we were able to watch, and he showed off his new moves during the spring game. We have a story coming on him later – and the NFL player he’s been working with – but there is no doubt he grabbed the attention of the coaches during the spring.

“Amari Rodgers has been on fire this spring,” co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said. “He’s very business-like. He practices like a pro, goes about his business and is very serious about it. He’s disappointed if he doesn’t do it exactly right and he gets in the film room to be a master of the details.”

TRAYVON MULLEN

Mullen earned high praise from head coach Dabo Swinney during the spring, and he had a long interception for a touchdown during the spring game.

"Trayvon did a great job breaking (the receiver), and kind of took it," Swinney said after Mullen's interception for a touchdown helped the Orange team beat the White team, 28-17. "Good to see him finish it, too. He ran away from everybody, so a great job."

The Tigers are thin in the secondary but Mullen’s emergence gives Brent Venables a lockdown corner, essentially shutting off one side of the field.

Justin Foster

Clemson has so much depth that players tend to get overlooked. One of those is Justin Foster.

Clemson’s starting defensive line is the best in college football and has a chance to be historically good. But it doesn’t stop with Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence, and Foster has a chance to make a name for himself this season.

Foster played linebacker in high school, but his size (6-4, 265) prompted a move to defensive end. He played in nine games a year ago, but with the influx of 5-stars at his position was overlooked by many heading into the spring.

By all accounts, however, Foster was one of the bright spots in the spring and showed off his moves in the spring game. He will provide valuable depth this season and will look to do enough to be one of the favorites to earn a starting spot in 2019.

JOHN SIMPSON

Clemson lost starter Taylor Hearn after last season and someone needed to step in and provide a presence at that spot. Enter Simpson.

Simpson has played a lot of football for the Tigers over the last two seasons – he played both guard positions for the Tigers in 2017 and has 15 knockdowns in 460 snaps over 21 games in his career. Simpson stepped in and it appears has all but locked up a starting spot at left guard. His physical presence will be needed, but he is more athletic than Hearn and might help open up the offense.

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