Position battles to watch


by - Senior Writer -
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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

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], center [Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
Offensive Line
#55 6-5, 285
Pelion, SC

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], right guard [Antoine McClainAntoine McClain
Offensive Line
#74 6-5, 330
Anniston, AL

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] and right tackle [Landon WalkerLandon Walker
Offensive Line
#72 6-6, 310
North Wilkesboro, NC

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]. Fifth-year senior Phillip PricePhillip Price
Offensive Line
#79 6-5, 300
Dillon, SC

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, 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

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. 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

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, 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

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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

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[left guard], Matt SandersMatt Sanders
Offensive Line
#54 6-6, 320
Crestview, FL

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[right guard] and Gifford TimothyGifford Timothy
Offensive Line
#70 6-6, 335
Middletown, DE

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[right tackle] to all prove they have what it takes to play. David BeasleyDavid Beasley
Offensive Line
#68 6-4, 325
Columbus, GA

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and Reid WebsterReid Webster
Offensive Line
#77 6-4, 290
Woodstock, GA

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could also push for playing time, and out of the incoming freshmen, Spencer RegionSpencer Region
Offensive Line
# 6-6, 330
Cullman, AL

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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

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and Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman
Defensive End
#97 6-4, 265
Florence, SC

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listed as starters and Kourtnei BrownKourtnei Brown
Defensive End
#90 6-5, 250
Charlotte, NC

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and Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Defensive Line
#93 6-5, 275
Chatham, VA

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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

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and Rennie MooreRennie Moore
Defensive Tackle
#94 6-4, 270
Saint Marys, GA

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. 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

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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

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, 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

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(295) and Josh WatsonJosh Watson
Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 270
Wilmington, DE

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(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

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and Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
Defensive Line
# 6-2, 282
Conyers, GA

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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

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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

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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

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and D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
Running Back
#22 5-11, 190
Lincoln, AL

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. 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

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, 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

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and Tony StewardTony Steward
Linebacker
# 6-2, 225
St. Augustine, FL

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, and two others in Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend
Linebacker
# 6-2, 197
Bennettsville, SC

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and B.J. GoodsonB.J. Goodson
Linebacker
# 6-1, 215
Lamar, SC

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that are almost as talented.


Trying to hold down their starting positions are Corico HawkinsCorico Hawkins
Linebacker
#42 5-11, 230
Milledgeville, GA

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, Tig Willard and Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian
Linebacker
#34 6-3, 215
Lake View, SC

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, while 2010 reserves Justin ParkerJustin Parker
Linebacker
#8 6-1, 225
Port Royal, SC

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and Daniel AndrewsDaniel Andrews
Linebacker
#41 5-11, 190
Jacksonville, FL

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try to hold off the new guys plus redshirt freshman Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
Tight End
#3 6-2, 225
Adairsville, GA

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.

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

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and DeAndre HopkinsDeAndre Hopkins
Wide Receiver
#6 6-1, 195
Central, SC

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have fairly solid holds at their spots for now, but Bryce McNealBryce McNeal
Wide Receiver
#7 6-1, 180
Minneapolis, MN

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and Marquan JonesMarquan Jones
Wide Receiver
#26 6-0, 195
Columbia, SC

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will be challenged for the slot position from day one by Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Wide Receiver
# 6-2, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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. 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

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and Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant
Wide Receiver
# 6-4, 195
Anderson, SC

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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

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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

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and sophomore Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
Punter / Kicker
#13 6-2, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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. 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

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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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