Team-building resumes: with spring break over, Tigers get back to business

Secondary should get a numbers boost as Garry Peters, Jadar Johnson, Travis Blanks rejoin the mix

Clemson's Dabo Swinney during the first day of spring practice in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Dabo Swinney during the first day of spring practice in Clemson.

A year from now, Clemson's spring football practice will be a high-drama affair, as Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly battle for the Tigers' starting quarterback position.

While there's no lack of urgency this time around, with hopes high and a season-opening match-up against Georgia looming, there is also a businesslike feel to Clemson's off-season preparation.

With their offensive and defensive coordinators beginning their third and second seasons, respectively, and with most of their personnel pieces in place, the Tigers will get back to work on Monday when spring practice resumes after an 11-day break.

Tajh Boyd and Kelly are back from California, where they spent part of their spring break week in training at George Whitworth's quarterbacks camp. Meanwhile, Stoudt is coming off what Dabo Swinney described as his best five practices since he's been at Clemson.

The Tigers' three running backs - Rod McDowell, D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks - have all been productive in practice so far, while redshirt freshman Germone Hopper has joined a wide receiver rotation led by Sammy Watkins and Adam Humphries, along with Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant. Watkins moved to DeAndre Hopkins' position during the Tigers' first five practices, and is expected to remain there.

On the offensive line, a large group of rising sophomores and juniors are competing. Ryan Norton has filled Dalton Freeman's spot at center, while the coaches are watching closely to see if rising sophomore Isaiah Battle can win the left tackle spot, thus allowing the group's only senior - Brandon Thomas - to move elsewhere.

The coaches say that offensive line competition intensified significantly during the first two weeks of practice, mirroring what was seen last season on the defensive front.

The defensive end positions have followed suit this spring, with Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley leading a group that includes first-semester freshmen Shaq Lawson and Ebenzer Ogundeko.

The Tigers also have depth-building competition at linebacker, where Stephone Anthony (mike), Spencer Shuey (will) and Quandon Christian (sam) ended the first segment of spring practice atop the depth chart. Pushing for playing time are Tony Steward, Kellen Jones, B.J. Goodson, and T.J. Burrell.

Numbers are thin in the secondary, but the group will get a boost when the expected return of Garry Peters, who sat out the first five practices because of study hall-related issues, and Travis Blanks, who missed time two weeks ago because of a mild concussion. The Tigers are also hoping to have first-semester freshman Jadar Johnson back from an elbow injury.

Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland are currently running first-team at the corners, with Blanks and Robert Smith at the safety spots. Martin Jenkins has worked both sides at safety, as well as at nickel back. Johnson, Ronald Geohaghan and Taylor Watson are working as backup safeties.

The Tigers will practice four times this week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday - and then will work on Thursday and Friday next week.

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