Please help us welcome our newest contributor CJ Cribb into the fold. This is his first of what we hope to be many more articles here on the site.
I have been a Clemson fan for my entire life. More than fifty years. Over that half a decade, there has been a lot of excitement, as well as a lot of disappointment. From Charley Pell to Danny Ford. From Ken Hatfield to Tommy West. And of course, from Tommy Bowden to Dabo Swinney. The highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.
It is hard to believe spring ball is already just around the corner, but that is in fact the case. One thing spring practice in Clemson will have a lot of this year, is competition. As much as I can remember in quite some time. Players will be competing for some starting jobs, as well as backup roles across the two deep.
With only one offensive lineman returning from 2019, much of that competition will come there. After Jackson Carman at LT, nothing is set in stone. Players such as Jordan McFadden, Matt Bockhorst, Cade Stewart, and Will Putnam will all be battling for starting spots. Blake Vinson will be looking to to get in the mix. Throw in a lot of freshman talent from the 2020 class and watching how the two deep unfolds should be fun.
There is also a starting spot up for grabs at receiver. After Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers, there are second year guys like Brannon Spector, Joseph Ngata, and Frank Ladson competing for playing time.
Then there is Cornell Powell. 2020 will be his fifth and final season, and if he is going to have an impact, it is now or never. With the receiving room not being as deep, Powell should have every opportunity to prove himself. For four years we have been told the talent is there, now is the time to showcase it.
2020 also looks to be the season the Tigers have a TE that can stretch the field in the passing game for the first time since Jordan Leggett. As good as the offense has been since Trevor Lawrence took over as QB, having that added dimension should make it even better.
Braden Galloway and Jaelyn Lay gives the offense not one, but two, big targets that can create mismatches in the passing game over the middle of the field. There is also Davis Allen, who like Lay, will be a sophomore next season, and can play the role of H-Back. Think Garrett Williams, but more of a receiving threat.
With Travis Etienne deciding to return for his senior season, a starting spot that was thought to be open, isn’t. There is still playing time behind him up for grabs though. The backups in this offense have always gotten their share of carries, and next year should be no different.
This could be a make or break season for Lyn-J Dixon, who will be entering his third season in the program. Second year backs Chez Mellusi and Michael Dukes should be pushing him hard. As we all know, the coaches make every effort to keep ETN fresh, so again, there will be plenty of carries for the reserves.
Then there is former five star recruit Demarckus Bowman. He isn’t an early enrollee, so he won’t be present for spring ball, but it will be interesting to see just how quickly he can digest the large amounts of information that will be thrown at him during camp. How quickly he can learn the playbook will dictate how fast he sees the field, and how much he sees it.
Last, but not least on the offensive side, is quarterback. Now that Chase Brice is going to be a Duke Blue Devil, the backup spot is there for the taking. Taisun Phommachanh now has a year under his belt after redshirting his freshman season. However, DJ Uiagalelei did not come to Clemson to ride the pine.
Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the number one overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, and knowing that, the coaches might want to have Uiagalelei as prepared as possible to take over in his sophomore season. That means having him as QB2, and getting him into as many games as possible, similar to what they did with Brice the last two seasons.