It's back-to-work time for the Tigers as spring practice resumes today

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables huddles with his defense during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables huddles with his defense during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

There's still work to do: on-going position battles, mistakes to be corrected, decisions to be made.

Missing as the Tigers begin the second 'half' of spring practice, however, is any sense of desperation because of glaring holes not-yet-filled.

Up and down the lineup, on both sides the ball, the Tigers appear to have the pieces in place to pick up where they left off last season.

The Tigers will go back to work Monday afternoon for the first of their final nine practice sessions, leading up to the Orange-White spring game on April 12.

Dabo Swinney described the Tigers' first five practices as productive and workmanlike, spanning the 'get ready' and 'tranformation' phases that will set the stage for Clemson's 2014 season.

Here's a quick review of how things stand going into the final three weeks of spring drills:

Quarterback: The competition among senior Cole Stoudt, redshirt sophomore Chad Kelly and first-semester freshman Deshaun Watson is ongoing, wide open, and apparently not headed to an early conclusion. The coaches gave the trio their first taste of live (full-contact) scrimmaging prior to spring break, and there's sure to be more of that as the Tigers progress toward their April 12 Orange-White game.

Running back: Swinney says he's looking for "a complete player" to emerge from the spring, and he's good things to say so far about Zac Brooks, D.J. Howard, Wayne Gallman and C.J. Davidson. Brooks looks to be the early leader, but Gallman, Swinney said, has been "awesome."

Wide receiver: Adam Humphries, Mike Williams and Germone Hopper are still first in line, but the coaches have already begun working first-semester freshmen Kyrin Priester, Artavis Scott and Demarre Kitt at multiple spots. Charone Peake's return and Trevion Thompson's arrival in July will make Jeff Scott's group even deeper and stronger.

Tight end: Danny Pearman knows what he's got at tight end in Sam Cooper, Stanton Seckinger, Jordan Leggett and Jay Jay McCullough, and the second half of spring practice will be all about perfecting execution and defining roles.

Offensive line: Cross-training has been the name of the game so far this spring. Similar to two years ago when Tyler Shatley moved from defense to offense and was installed in spring practice as the Tigers' starting right guard, Eric Mac Lain is getting the same chance this spring at left guard, and he could also figure into the rotation at right tackle. It's the same with Kalon Davis, currently the right guard starter who's also working some at right tackle. Shaq Anthony and Joe Gore are also in the thick of the right tackle mix, while Jay Guillermo and Ryan Norton are working at both center and guard. It's unlikely that a set-in-stone starting five will emerge from the spring, but the coaches will go into fall camp knowing who they can count on in various roles.

Defensive tackle: Dan Brooks' spring objective is two-fold - continue honing veterans Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson, DeShawn Williams, DJ Reader and Carlos Watkins to a fine edge, while working Rod Byers and redshirt freshman Scott Pagano into the mix. No question marks here, just business as usual.

Defensive end: The loss of Corey Crawford for the Georgia game means that Shaq Lawson and Tavaris Barnes are competing for the starting job against the Bulldogs opposite Vic Beasley. Keep an eye on Kevin Dodd - for whom Swinney predicted a breakthrough season a year ago before he was forced to redshirt by injury - as well as sophomore Martin Aiken and redshirt freshmen Ebenezer Qgundeko and Dane Rogers. Like the defensive tackle spot, there's a two-tiered storyline at defensive end.

Linebackers: Stephone Anthony is set in the middle, and the 'will' spot is Tony Steward's until someone beats him out. Backup competition should be keen during the second half of the spring, with Ben Boulware, B.J. Goodson, Chris Register trying to work their way into the mix. The 'sam' position is in transformation, manned by players with both the physicality and athleticism to stay on the field in every-down situations. Korrin Wiggins and TJ Burrell have the most experience, while redshirt freshman Dorian O'Daniel picked up rave reviews during the first segment of the spring.

Cornerbacks: With Martin Jenkins sitting out the spring after shoulder surgery, and Garry Peters suspended for the Georgia game, there's a sense of urgency to get the Tigers' new wave of corners ready for early action. Swinney says Mackensie Alexander - the Tigers' highest-rated signee since Da'Quan Bowers in 2008 - has been "as-advertised," while Adrian Baker has wowed the coaches with his playmaking ability. With Cordrea Tankersley, Marcus Edmond and Ryan Carter also competing, the most consistent of the newcomers will likely rise to the top during the second half of the spring.

Safety: Robert Smith and Jayron Kearse have emerged as the mainstays at safety, and that's not likely to change over the second half of the spring. Jadar Johnson and Taylor Watson are among those next in line. Travis Blanks will be available in August, but Swinney has said he's most likely to be plugged in at the sam/nickel position, which could free Wiggins to provide safety depth. The Tigers added just one safety to the mix via the 2014 recruiting class, in Jefferie Gibson.

Placekicker: News of Ammon Lakip's improved range and consistency was one of the bright spots of the first half of spring practice.

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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Comments » 1

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

No mention of Kellen Jones in the linebacker segment. Anybody know of his status or did i miss something?

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