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What to look for--Spring practice, golf, baseball

We will begin with golf and baseball updates.  Clemson golf is currently fourth in the Augusta State Invitational, despite playing without Ben Martin, who is preparing for next week's tournament at Augusta National.  Freshman Corbin Mills lead the team, carding -9 through the first two rounds of the tournament.  The Tigers are currently at 16 under, trailing tourney host Augusta State, who currently sits at 32 under going into Sunday.

Former Tiger Sam Saunders has seen some success on the Tour this year, and was often highlighted last week at his grandfather's tournament at Bay Hill.  The King repeatedly talked about Sam needing to find his own identity and his own game as he tries to make it on the top pro circuit moving forward.  This ESPN article reflects those sentiments and how Sam is trying to mold himself into a full time member of the PGA Tour.  We are also including a PGA Tour interview transcript that shows how much he and his grandfather have worked together to improve his game (since he left Clemson in '09).  These articles and interviews indicate the increased seriousness and preparation placed on his golf game over the past 3-6 months.  It should be noted that the former Tiger has made three cuts so far this year, including a 17th place finish a few weeks ago in the Honda Classic and a 50th place finish at Bay Hill last weekend. 

Clemson baseball dropped the second game in the BC series Saturday evening, losing 11-5 to the Eagles.  The Tigers will need a win Sunday to take the series and get some much needed momentum after a tough two week stretch.  I don't need to remind the board that the Tigers are 2-6 since sweeping Va Tech a couple weeks ago. 

Now, on to Spring practice and what you should look for as the Tigers move towards Saturday's annual Spring Game.  After the jump, you will see some key aspects that you should pay attention to as this week progresses.

The most glaring item on the docket is Clemson's offensive line.  The situation has gotten to the point that Coach Swinney can no longer remain openly positive in the optimism-filled Spring atmosphere.  Dr. B gave us a good overview of these issues yesterday.  We will assume that Mason Cloy will be back and play with similar results as last season.  Still, the Tigers will need improvement up front, and really have no quality, proven depth with which to work this fall.  We still are not confident guys like McClain and Walker can provide the consistent play necessary based on past experience.  I am also leery of the conditioning of this group and how they will hold up without the aforementioned needed depth.  For a recap on how we got into this mess, click here (I also suggest looking into the assessment embedded in this article regarding this same crap from the '08 season). 

We are seeing an unacceptable trend of piss poor preparation within the depth chart.  2010 is not the first Spring that we have seen this problem and the constant (and often ineffective) adjustments that have to be made because of this.  Further, I am not pleased with the (lack of) development of this group and the level of play we have seen here over the past decade or so.  This ineptness forced many young players into service too soon, often burning a precious opportunity to redshirt.  Such conditions not only puts inexperienced bodies on the field, but robs future squads of talented, experienced players who should be taking snaps.

So, with that speel out of the way, the backups on the line should be closely examined.  We could be in deep crap if anyone else has anything go wrong up front.  We still could be in bad shape if we don't see some improvement out of some of last year's contributors OR if Mason Cloy does not come back healthy and at the same level as a year ago.

The second big spot to watch would have to be the linebackers.  Jonathan Willard has received hella run this Spring and has the coaches salivating over his increased understanding of the defense and being all over the place.  We will need Tig, Brandon Maye, Corico Hawkins, and maybe Justin Parker next season to shore up the only real weak point of the '09 unit.  I have been disappointed with what we have seen to this point out of Scotty Cooper.  I was all jacked up about Cooper when he came to Clemson, and still have high expectations for him this fall.  I think necessary observations that should be made this week involve understanding what Kevin Steele expects out of this group from an X's and O's stand point.  As has been proclaimed numerout times here, we expect the learning curve for the linebackers to really pick up here in Steele's 2nd year as D-Coordinator.

I don't have to (nor will I) go too deep into the QB slot.  With Kyle Parker a little banged up, expect to see a good bit of Tajh Boyd with the first team.  Talent and ability are not the issue for Boyd, his understanding and implementation of the offense are.  Be sure to note Boyd's progressions and decision making skills when watching him play.  The game speed is steadily increasing, and Boyd is having to process a lot of information and make a lot of (correct) decisions based on (relatively) new information based on the Swinney/Napier offense.

I will not comment too much on the defensive backs.  You will see a lot of different guys on the field.  I have a lot of confidence in this group and think we will be fine here, even having to replace both starters at the corners. 

The receiving corps is the big one.  Please notice the fundamentals including the ability to actually bring in balls when checking out this group.  We have a lot of potential here (Brown and McNeal are the first names that come to mind) and some experience in Dye and Ashe.  We may (again) get our best receiving option out of the TE this year.  There is no doubt Dwayne Allen has the skills to be a real badass, and may be relied upon to carry Clemson's passing game (especially early in the year).

The Napier/Swinney offense will get plenty of scrutiny from us this fall.  Things that will be of interest will be the choice of formations and our ability to run the football.  I will be particularly interested in where two guys line up, Chad Diehl and Dwayne Allen.  Will we see more two-back, power attack looks that incorporate Diehl?  I sincerely hope so, as CD has proven to be a tough football player willing to deliver great blocks and play tough football.  Will we see Allen in a traditional TE set (on the line in a 3-point stance) or will this staff try to flex him and use him out of a two point stance (and more as a receiver).  I am hoping that he will contribute well in both running and passing situations.  As discussed earlier, Allen is extremely talented and has all to tools to be a superstar TE both here and in the pros.