The Clemson secondary has clear holes to fill in 2006. Tye Hill will most likely be a first round pick in this Saturday’s NFL Draft. Jamaal Fudge was a three year starter, who could be counted upon on every play.
Duane Coleman and Michael Hamlin finished 2005 as starters and they return in 2006. CJ Gaddis has starting experience, but with a move back to corner, he is still looking to shed the label of an athlete without a position. Chris Clemons gained experience behind Fudge, but his coverage skills are in question.
Coming into the spring, Hamlin and Coleman were the only ones, who had their starting roles nailed down. Coleman had a solid spring, as he continues to learn the position, which is a good sign because he played pretty well down the stretch in 2005. Coleman started emerging, as a leader on the defense. Everything is on pace in the classroom for Coleman to receive his extra year of eligibility.
Gaddis played well in the spring game, and he had a solid spring. The big key for Gaddis is to stay focused. Gaddis must stay in the film room and maintain his work ethic. The talent is there, but Gaddis must prove that he is dependable.
The young cornerbacks have talent, but they lack experience. Haydrian Lewis played last season, and he fits well in the zone coverage scheme. His tackling must improve. Chris Chancellor and Ray Ray McElrathbey have a chance to be very good.
Chancellor may have the best coverage skills of any corner on campus. His size will be in question, as long as he is wearing a uniform. The bottom line is Chancellor has proven he can cover, and he will be on the field in 2006. McElrathbey has struggled picking up the coverages, but he has the biggest upside of any member of the secondary. If he cannot adjust by the fall, a move to offense is not out of the question.
Hamlin has a chance to breakout and have an All-ACC caliber year. He will be the anchor of the secondary. Hamlin is capable of playing both safety positions, but for the time being, he is the starter at CAT safety. Sadat Chambers and Roy Walker are battling to play behind Hamlin. Chambers was very impressive last season, as a freshman, and he continues to provide the big hit in practice. Consistency will be the key for Chambers this fall.
Walker has battled injuries since he stepped on campus at Clemson. Last season, Koenning was unable to play Walker because of missed assignments. He had his best effort this spring, but he and Chambers will see competition from Darius Gaither in the fall.
Clemons is the starter at free safety. Clemons has the potential to be very talented and effective in this system. He has little trouble in run support, but his coverage skills leave room for improvement. He made good strides in the spring, but his coverage skills remain a question going into the fall. Chris Russell is behind Clemons on the depth chart. Russell is filled with potential, but he has been hurt by the time off from football. Russell could make some noise at the beginning of fall camp. True freshman DeAndre McDaniel will put his name in the mix at free safety come August.
Overall, this group made strides in the spring. The experience is the biggest concern going into the fall.