Spring practice starts today and Clemson has numerous questions ahead of what could be an interesting 2015 season. While some news outlets have gone on to predict how great Clemson will be this year, there are enough question marks that those are rather optimistic takes to say the least. But Clemson's success in 2015 is going to be determined by 3 big things; the QB situation, replacing the defense, and our OL. For spring practice these are the three questions we hope to see answered.
1. Who backs up Watson?
The fear in 2015 is much like 2014, what happens when Deshaun Watson gets injured. Given his injury history over the past 18 months, it is hard to be confident in Watson's ability to stay healthy. Of course, that is even assuming he is healthy enough to start the season at quarterback. Watson, Dabo, and everyone associated with the team are saying all of the right things, but you'll have to forgive us for being a bit skeptical about a significant knee injury to a Clemson player.
This spring will give us an opportunity to see freshmen Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel battle for the backup job. While Nick Schuessler will return as well, his inability to beat out Cole Stoudt makes me think he's not really competing for the backup job here. For Bryant and Israel the loser of the competition is likely to redshirt while the winner could see some substantial playing time this fall.
We've said several times here that Bryant has the higher ceiling but Israel may be the more ready QB right now. We'll see how true that is as well as how hosed we might be with another Watson injury. Regardless of who wins the competition the fact that both players are on campus for spring practice could end up being invaluable for the 2015 season.
2. So about that defense...
Clemson is losing 9 starters from the 2014 defense. I don't want to hit panic button completely, but it is going to cause problems this year. Before spring practice begins we are thinking this might be similar to the 2012 defense. Certainly we have some talent, but depth could be the big issue, especially on the defensive line. If our defensive line fails to produce this fall it will be hard for the secondary to do well, even with all of the talent we have back there.
The big question is if anyone will step up for big man Grady Jarrett. Though we all know and love Vic Beasley, Jarrett was the most important man on Clemson's DL and his absence will be profound. Even if it takes 2 or 3 players to fill his position Clemson needs to find a way to do it. Failing to do so will absolutely kill Clemson this year.
3. Musical Chairs at OL
Jay Guillermo will miss spring practice due to an unspecified injury, other than that it appears like spring practice will be devoted to determining just how much our QBs will be running for their life and if our RBs get hit for a 2 yard loss or a 1 yard loss. Even with an excellent recruiting class at OL, there are plenty of question marks for Clemson at the position. We have an overall lack of talent and depth, two things that can spell disaster together.
It is going to be interesting to see how much progress Jake Fruhmorgen and Mitch Hyatt will make this spring. Those two have the best chance of cracking the two deep, which says more about our poor OL than anything. Hopefully at least one is going to be good enough to legitimately play this year, and maybe the rest of the OL will have some sense knocked into them to properly perform. Stranger miracles have happened after all.