Can Sammy Watkins become the new Nuk Hopkins?
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is hoping so as he shuffles a small, but talented group of wide receivers to get his best players on the field.
Two days into spring practice, Watkins - a first-team All-American and national freshman of the year in 2011 - has moved to Hopkins' old position ('9' in Clemson's offensive terminology), while Adam Humphries and freshman Germone Hopper are working at the Tigers' '2' spot.
Charone Peake, meanwhile, has moved up into the position vacated by Jaron Brown.
So far, Morris likes what he's seen, both from his wide receivers and from the offense in general.
Spring Practice Report - 3/8
Good energy early in camp
"We're trying to do some new things and tweak and change and try to get better, based on our studies of ourselves this past season," Morris said. "We want to put our best on the field, so we're making moves and putting Sammy out at what we call our 9-man. Adam is working at the two-man, where he played last year, along with G-Hop. And Charone has had a really good two days. We have to continue to push him and keep him going.
"It's only two practices, but we've had some really good energy. We're seeing a lot of guys who are battling. But we'll know more once the pads go on."
The Tigers held their second session in shorts on Friday. They'll put on pads for the first time on Saturday, and then will work again Monday and Wednesday before adjourning for spring break. When they return, they'll have nine practices spread over three weeks prior to the Orange-White spring game on April 13.
Morris said he's seeing good competition developing between rising junior Cole Stoudt and redshirt freshman Chad Kelly for the backup quarterback spot, and is hoping that one or both can put some pressure on two-year starter Tajh Boyd.
At running back, Morris said projected starter Rod McDowell has picked up where he left off last season, when he emerged as an effective backup to Andre Ellington.
"Hot Rod had a good 2012 in the role that he was in behind Andre," Morris said. "I'm expecting him to be the guy to carry the load."
Morris is looking for D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks to make moves similar to the one McDowell made a year ago.
"D.J. is a guy who really needs to come on," Morris said. "His fall last year wasn't nearly as productive as the year before. He's a guy who must come on.
"Zac Brooks has gained a little bit of weight, and we're anticipating big things out of him because he's no longer a freshman. He's gotta hang onto the football. That's going to be the big emphasis, as it is every day.
"And we've got some good ones coming in, too."
On the offensive line, Morris said he'd like to see rising sophomore Isaiah Battle emerge as the starter at left tackle, allowing the option of senior Brandon Thomas moving elsewhere. Thomas moved to right tackle in Clemson's bowl victory over LSU after starter Giff Timothy was injured, while Battle took over on the left side and held his own against one of the better defensive lines in the country.
"We'd like for Isaiah to take that job, and that's our goal for the spring," Morris said. "Hopefully, he assumes that role. It doesn't matter how bad I want him to take it, he's got to want it. And with that comes maturity - he has to be mature enough to handle it, and not just on game day."
Morris said he wants to come out spring practice with a firm idea of what each player brings to his position.
"Our goal is to make sure we've got a complete evaluation coming out of spring, and make sure we know where they are, from a mental standpoint even more than physical," Morris said. "We want to challenge them and move them out of their comfort zone."