Spring Report Card: Secondary
With the departures of Justin Miller and Travis Pugh, Clemson's secondary could have been poised to take a major hit. However All-ACC candidates Jamaal Fudge and Tye Hill return to anchor the secondary. CJ Gaddis made the move over to cat safety, and Sergio Gilliam was the incumbent at the other corner.
One of the biggest surprises of the spring was the play of the redshirt freshmen in the secondary. Chris Clemons is making a strong push to challenge Gilliam. Clemons is very solid in coverage, and he is a very physical corner. Roy Walker and Michael Hamlin both showed the ability to play either safety position. Walker will most likely back up Gaddis, while Hamlin plays behind Fudge. Both are big hitters that can play up near the line of scrimmage as well as drop back in coverage.
Gaddis appears to be settling in at the cat safety. As noted he will be pushed, but Gaddis is more focused than he has ever been in a Clemson uniform. He is accepting his role as a defensive player and is starting to shine. Gaddis still may be the best athlete on campus and may have unlimited potential. This spring he started to become more of a team player, and also became involved in the return game.
Hill and Fudge have never received the credit they deserve. Hill has been battle tested for the last two seasons playing opposite Justin Miller. Hill proved he is an outstanding cover corner. This spring he established himself as a leader on this defense and continued his solid play at corner.
Fudge has been overlooked by much of the world outside of Clemson. Once again, Fudge looked this spring like one of the premier safeties around. This is first spring at free safety, but there was no drop off only improvement. Expect big things from Fudge in 2005. No one else may be ready to recognize him as an All-ACC player, but we will here. A big hitter, who has a knack for finding the ball, Fudge will excel in 2005.
Gilliam played well, but make no mistake he is being pushed by Clemons. Still not sure Gilliam has the greatest hips in the world, may be better suited at receiver or safety. He played solid this spring, but I expect Clemons to win the battle in the fall.
Brandon Croley is ready to see the field, but he will benefit from playing behind Tye Hill one more. Croley has a lot of talent and he could be a special player, but he is a bit of a gambler and just needs a little more maturing.
This secondary has a chance to be really good. Ideally, you would have one or two more corners that could really step in and play. Ramon McElrathbey, Chris Chancellor, and Haydrian Lewis will get strong looks in the fall.