1) Tramaine Billie vs. Antonio Clay
This has been the most talked about and most competitive battle of the spring. Billie remains the starter by Clay is right on his heels. Both of these players will want to close the spring on the highest of highs. Going into the fall, the edge may ultimately go to Clay. The defense does not miss a beat on the field, but if you look at the linebackers Clemson is recruiting under Koenning’s system, it stands to reason the bigger Clay will win out.
2) Cullen Harper vs. Tribble Reese
This has turned out to be a surprise. No one expected Reese to close the gap on Harper this spring. Harper had been ahead since day one, and Reese had not shown the dedication he needed. Quietly, Reese has turned over a new leaf. Harper has the strongest arm of all the quarterbacks, and he remains the second string quarterback, but over the last two weeks, Reese has performed well and earned some reps with the twos. Reese will have to continue his work ethic over the summer and into the fall to challenge Harper, but this could get more interesting in August.
3) Defensive Tackles
New defensive line coach Chris Rumph is still waiting for separation at defensive tackle. This is not a position without talent. Several young players like Joch McKissic, Rashaad Jackson, and Dorrel Scott, received valuable playing experience last season. Antwon Murchsion and Etta Etta-Tawo have proved they are worthy of being in the rotation. In August, senior Donnell Clark will return to the mix after tearing his ACL.
4) Haydrian Lewis vs. Chris Chancellor vs. Ray Ray McElrathbey vs. Sergio Gilliam
Lewis and Gilliam won this battle last season, but Chancellor and McElrathbey could be ready to make a move. Chancellor lacks size, but he may have the best cover skills on the team. He has great hips, and he just knows how to find the football. McElrathbey has NFL speed, and he was really just learning the position last season. He is an outstanding athlete, but he has to stay sharp on his assignments. Gilliam has the experience factor, but he has to work his way out of the doghouse. Koenning was not pleased with Gilliam’s lack of improvement last season, something Koenning took the responsibility for as Gilliam’s position coach. Lewis maybe the best system fit. He is a very good zone coverage corner. His weakness lies in run support and tackling. This is a close battle behind starters Duane Coleman and CJ Gaddis, which will carry over into the fall.
5) Chris Clemons vs. Chris Russell
Clemons has held the advantage all spring. Russell is still shaking some rust off from his long lay off. This battle has chance to be closer in August. Both players are talented, but Clemons has held the upper hand. Clemons had a chance to learn behind Jamaal Fudge last season. He had the chance to go out there and make mistakes and learn from them. Clemons has bounced around in his first two seasons at Clemson, but he has found his home at free safety. Russell does not lack talent, but his time away from the field has been a factor. If he can close out with a strong O&W performance, this could be a battle Coach Bowden talks about everyday during fall camp.