As Tigers turn their attention to Auburn, depth chart will speak volumes

How will Swinney, Morris, Venables shuffle the deck for Georgia Dome opener?

Clemson offensive lineman Shaq Anthony listens to head coach Dabo Swinney during practice August 9.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson offensive lineman Shaq Anthony listens to head coach Dabo Swinney during practice August 9.

Out of the shadows steps David Beasley.

Into the spotlight slips Shaq Anthony.

Those weren't names we were hearing much of when the Tigers opened preseason drills two weeks ago.

A lot can happen in two weeks, it turns out; and we'll get a better look at exactly what has happened in the next day or so when Dabo Swinney releases his depth chart for the Auburn game.

Nothing should be of more intense interest to Clemson fans than how things are shaking out on the Tigers' work-in-progress offensive line.

Two players who at the end of spring practice appeared solid in their positions - Gifford Timothy and Kalon Davis - likely won't be on the field for Clemson's opening series in the Georgia Dome. Timothy is still rehabbing after knee surgery, while Davis stepped back during the first two weeks of camp and has been passed by Beasley.

Anthony, meanwhile, is battling Joe Gore for Timothy's place in the starting lineup.

However Swinney and position coach Robbie Caldwell end up shuffling their deck, the Tigers will go into their season opening test with three starting offensive linemen who've played NO significant snaps at their current positions.

Nearly the same can be said - with the exception of DeShawn Williams - about the Tigers' interior defensive line.

That's why, as the Tigers' opening date with Auburn at the Georgia Dome approaches, Clemson folks have every reason to have a nagging feeling of anxiety mixed in with their excitement.

Memories of a dark, early-season night in Atlanta in 2008 begin to creep in; when a favored Clemson team, ranked just a bit higher than this year's team is ranked, squared off in the Georgia Dome against an Alabama team considered to be of questionable top-25 material.

The Crimson Tide, of course, used the Tigers as a stepping stone on a juggernaut run that has since resulted in two national titles, and they did it by dominating, nearly from the first snap, Clemson's offensive and defensive fronts. Nothing else really mattered.

That was then, and this is now, of course. But for the Tigers, both for this game and this season, it's really all about the trenches. If Clemson can hold its own up front from the get-go, and then continue to improve and develop as the season progresses, then this has all the makings for another pretty good year, and perhaps even better than that.

But if the Tigers struggle in the trenches, they'll face a long, uphill grind.

The upcoming depth chart will give us a glimpse of the coaches' thinking as they try to put together a winning combination, as well as at least an initial indication of which first-year freshmen will play this season.

One area of particular interest is the 'nickel' position in what appears to be evolving as a 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables could well list two starters at the position - Quandon Christian and Travis Blanks, one player stretching the versatility of the position from the linebacker side, the other from the secondary.

There is also the question of backup quarterback. If Cole Stoudt is listed alone as Tajh Boyd's backup, that could be interpreted as a sign that the coaching staff will try to redshirt Chad Kelly.

Another player to watch for on the depth chart is junior Martin Jenkins, who Swinney suggested on Saturday might redshirt because of nagging injuries. Swinney already announced that junior linebacker Justin Parker is taking the season off to get himself back to full-speed physically.

On all those subjects and more, Swinney's single-page depth chart will speak volumes.

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Comments » 1

STIGER1083 writes:

Ok this is a negative article! The Clemson culture has changed. First off I've won 2 national championships in football did not play for Clemson but always was a fan and always will be one! I've got a point to prove here, Swinney is not Tommy Bowden. That game would have been much closer if Tommy Bowden had not started Jamie Harper at RB because of a recruiting promise for him to fumble it right back over to BAMA now your down 14 what do you do...Tommy does nothing no aggressive play calls same stupid ineffective bubble screens with an OLine that was really soft and those guys were still soft last year at times.
Dabo came in and said enough crap the best players play. If Spillers the best player in NCAA I'll just give him the ball...well that worked good didn't it, but it wasn't enough he cut into his own pay to hire the coaching staff he needed and he's recruited legit players hard nose players. Mark my word Grady Jarrett,Watson, & Willaims will be tough up from on the D, that section will be fine after all most of them played quite a bit in the rotations last year they just didn't per say "start". Now the Oline thank God that those softies are gone. over the past few years Swinney has done an amazing job recruiting linemen & that gets overlooked by the fact he also got the best talent you could get at the skill positions and LB. These guys aren't smashed livermush... these guys are more talented then what was in place & they have for the most part had a year learning the system, so they will be more efficient after a couple of games. These guys have played football before and you act like they are just gonna let the d come right on in! I bet you they will in the end be much tougher than last year that one guy getting hurt every play. I know Shatley's gonna knock people off the ball he strong and tough B. Thomas needs to learn that mean as well. I think Beasley can hold his own. The only reason there is the shake-up is because guys are playing much better than expected, on a higher level, and are pushing each other.
Swinney knows this! He's seen this work at BAMA! Swinney has got this team's mind right and they are hungry you can see it in the interviews.
Just a lil fact for you though in 2008 I think Alabama went on to be #1 whipping almost everyone.....so..... yeah just think about this article. Swinney is excited cause the players he recruited and his staff, are now touching the field. That started last year it went pretty good didn't it! I think Venables is a great hire & I tell you this he's shut FSU down before a few times. I really think Clemson is on the verge of Greatness if they just get the right mindset to play to the excellence standard not to the competition and if they do that what WV did in the Orange Bowl, Clemson has the talent to do every sat against anyone! So just know that this ain't the old Tommy Bowden Clemson... That Overrated stuff is simply an FSU thing now!

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