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Clemson Tigers Spring Practice Tidbits

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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some of the main pieces of information I have been able to pick up from Spring Practice. Remember, these are just opinions from folks who have been to practice, so don't take anything here as gospel truth. These are perspectives that are entirely subjective, but I think give insights into how the team is progressing.

DEFENSE

First, Christian Wilkins is an absolute possibility at DE. Last year some analysts scoffed at the idea that Wilkins would ever be at DE and that it was something that had no real substance (basically that people like me who were saying it could legitimately happen were just making wild assertions). Well, Christian Wilkins is a natural at DE and based on talent could be your starter.

The current trio of potential starters aren't bad with Yeargin, Bryant, and Farrell, but they all have a learning curve when it comes to being the full-time guy. As Dabo said, your most experienced guy is Austin Bryant. Coach Brooks wasn't too keen on taking Wilkins away from the interior because he is a potential All-American there but this guy named Dexter Lawrence has been so good that it just makes sense. Wilkins will always work situationally at DE, but he provides much-needed depth and a security blanket for the coaches in case of disaster. I think Chris Register will stick at DE and could provide some depth if he really dedicates himself, but right now that isn't a great option. Xavier Kelly will have a chance to contribute but he will have that learning curve as well.

Dexter Lawrence. (drool....) I'm not saying anything you haven't been hearing, but it is all legit. WAR DADDY.

If he stays healthy he will play more snaps than Wilkins did last year and have just as big, if not bigger, of an impact. He has been dominant. That isn't a jab at our offensive line either. He is that good. No one should move as fast as he does at his size. Second team O-lineman just don't have much of a chance. Hard to move off the ball and elite short range quickness for a DT. Smart, instinctual. Since he came in early he will learn the defense and be ready to roll opening day.

What is ridiculous is that I actually like what I see from some of the other guys too. Albert Huggins is making serious strides. He is moving around a little better and starting to adjust to playing with leverage on the interior. Jabril Robinson has been able to add just a bit more good bulk to his frame. I thought he would be stuck around 270ish and then add some bad weight but that isn't the case. These guys can play good snaps for us this year. Nyles Pinckney is going to have a kind of Huggins trajectory (with the benefit of the redshirt year), but he is absolutely a player in the future. I would go ahead and move Sterling Johnson to Tackle because we have such great depth.

The problem on defense is obviously the secondary. Van Smith and Jadar Johnson look solid at your starting Safeties but behind them, it is very green and inexperienced. There is talent there with Tanner Muse and Denzel Johnson, but it is raw. Johnson is at Safety and not at Corner. I've heard good things about both of the backups, but a lot of coaching is needed before they can be relied on. The emergence of Johnson is a big positive for depth at the position, however.

Same with CB. Cordrea Tankersley is solid and will basically play as many snaps as he possibly can. Behind him is Mark Fields who should be cementing himself as a starter, but he needs more consistency. Physically ready, but hasn't garnered the complete trust of coaches. Makes some great plays and then has some mental lapses.

Marcus Edmond is playing there (his problem is holding up against the run at the point of attack more than anything, we will see if he dedicates himself completely to football this offseason--still needs to add 5-10lbs of muscle mass) and Ryan Carter moves from Safety depth to Corner depth. Carter will give you depth at CB, Safety and Nickel. He is still limited by his height but he isn't going to bust often at any of those positions.

Everyone is seeing Wiggins with his big brace on and writing him off. His recovery time is slower than some of our other miracle, holy water guys, but he isn't late. The summer is where he needs to round into shape. I maintain that Wiggins is still a huge piece of the secondary in August. It is a concern that he is still limping around, but wait another couple of months before rendering any verdicts. We need him at Nickel/Safety.

At LB Kendall Joseph is your main storyline. I said this last year that he was poised to have a big year and was surprised that it didn't happen. The Fall camp injury really set him back, his knee just wasn't healthy. This Spring he is setting himself up to be the starter. Lamar and Smith look the part but they have the most to learn at LB. Joseph has been impressive lined up with Boulware.

Dorian O'Daniel will play a lot more this year. He still has times where he gets a little lost but overall should show out. I know everyone on the staff loved that Blanks knew the defense inside and out last year, but I maintain that his limited athleticism because of the knees cost us at times (of course, Blanks amazing drive to will himself back on the field deserves everyone's praise and admiration, a real Clemson man--I'm not trying to belittle his contribution). I think an improved O'Daniel gives you an upgrade at SAM and he will be able to stick on the field this year. The coaches have always wanted more buy-in from Dorian and more attention to detail. Chad Smith is learning to handle is weight still and putting it together. We should be fine at LB.

My worry is that we will get torched by a good QB. In the Wed. scrimmage Watson did just that, he surgically dismantled the secondary. Of course, that is a Heisman candidate but the secondary and the pass rush are currently issues. You mix that with some LBs/Safeties still unsure of where to fill in run support and you get gashed. Luckily we are in the ACC and most QBs can't do that.

OFFENSE

Mike Williams is going to have a very good year. He looks like a million dollar contract and hasn't lost anything with regards to speed, hands, etc. He and Deshaun are also developing some solid chemistry.

Kelly Bryant is doing just fine. Why is there a worry about Bryant fully taking over the #2 spot as the backup QB? Why would the coaches ever want to do that? It would alienate Dr. Schuessler and could lead to him transferring. When the chips are down Bryant is your #2 guy. He is a great runner, better than Watson in terms of speed and size, but continues to need more seasoning as a passer. He doesn't have great touch on passes and is up and down. The game is beginning to slow down for him, though. Making better reads and actually going through progressions. Still a long way to go, but decent.

On the offensive line things are coming together. Tough to tell at this stage where the line is at. We aren't blowing guys off the ball and getting a ton of push consistently, but it is one of the better DT groups in the country. Tyrone Crowder was challenged at the beginning of the Spring to take hold of his starting position. He is still rounding into form after his injury but there is no question he is the better option over Morris at RG. Coaches are trying to push Crowder to take his game to a higher level. Morris is really an important piece for depth, though.

Taylor Hearn is your current LG and I don't have any reservations saying that right now. This guy is going to make me continue to eat crow. Looks like he has cut some weight since last year as well. The only problem is he is really your only legit Tackle depth right now. Jake Fruhmorgan is coming along but is going to have some bumps in the road. Behind Fruhmorgan and Hyatt there is a steep dropoff. Morris can play there but it isn't great. Falcinelli is your backup Center and an interior guy who is solid (one of the guys the coaches think they can 'win' with). But then you have Noah Green who is still swimming and struggling with some injuries and Pollard and Anchrum as true freshman. Giella is also coming along, but still has a learning curve.

I've said it before but watch out for Anchrum as your underrated recruit from this year. Long and well-schooled in fundamentals. Coaches seem to think they have 8-9 guys who they can win with, but Tackle is still a question. Anchrum is taking a lot of the 2nd string LT reps.

Ray-Ray needs to fix his fumbling issues but he is already bigger than last year. If he can fix the fumbling then he will factor prominently in the kickoff return duties.

Dye is looking so much better than last year. It looked like he had lost so much last year that he might not get any meaningful snaps at Clemson. That is no longer the case and he and Choice are battling for those second team reps.

Leggett is going to be even better this year. Behind him, you have a fierce battle brewing. Milan Richard is starting to put it together. I think TE is like LB on the defensive side of the ball in this scheme. At TE, you need to know a lot of details and be very multiple. You need to have your blocking fundamentals down and also know where you need to be to block on every play. Then you also need to know how to flex out and run routes. It is a lot to process, especially if you have never been a WR. Leggett played early because he was basically a big WR in high school and struggled with the blocking. Milan is finally getting the details down (it is really about building trust with the coaches--if the TE screws up then plays get blown up and QBs injured).

Williams is still tough as nails and continues to progress as a route runner. Williams will see an increase in playing time this year. Cannon Smith is also working on getting faster and route running. Very glad Leggett came back to ride one last year with Watson, but the future is bright at the position.

I know I am missing a lot of things so ask away in the comments. Overall, the secondary is a concern along with generating a consistent pass rush. On offense, the only real concern is depth at Tackle. Not a bad position to be in this Spring.

Staying healthy is really the major concern. In fact, let's just cancel the Spring Game. (Just kidding, but I'll be on pins and needles the whole time)