Turning the corner - Offense

With the open of fall camp now just over a month away, CUTigers.com takes a look a class by class look at four players on the offensive side of the ball who could turn the corner.

The offense, which is under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris, will feature a veteran offensive line and a first-year starter at quarterback.

SENIOR
OT - Phillip Price - The former walk-on entered spring practice as the starter at left tackle and never relinquished control of the job, not for one snap. Price heads into fall camp as the starter over Brandon Thomas.

Price joined the team as a walk-on tight end in 2007. After wearing a redshirt, he played in two games during the 2008 season, registering six snaps against The Citadel and two against S.C. State. Price was moved to offensive tackle just days into the start of fall camp in 2009. As a sophomore, he played in every game on special teams and had 10 snaps as a reserve tackle.

Last season was his most productive one. Price played 98 snaps over 13 games (one start), many of which were an extra tight end. Against Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, Price graded out in the high 80's.

Lauded by coaches for his mean-streak, Price will have to sustain one more push from Thomas during the preseason if he's going to open the season as the starter.



JUNIOR
C - Dalton Freeman - It's no secret around Clemson that Freeman has emerged as one of the top offensive linemen on the team.

A redshirt sophomore in 2010, Freeman was second on the team with 58 knockdown blocks. He led or tied for the team lead in snaps among offensive linemen in eight games. His 80.6 film grade was third-best on the team.

Freeman has logged 1,358 snaps in 26 games (22 starts) at Clemson. Each of his last 22 appearances were starts.

He exited the spring fourth on the team in bench press with a max of 425 and tied for sixth with 28 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

The corner he could turn this fall is on a different scale than Price. Freeman is on the verge of making a name for himself as an all-conference performer and known commodity on the national level.



SOPHOMORE
QB - Tajh Boyd - For Clemson to see a marked improvement in 2011, it starts with the play at quarterback. Boyd knows it. That's the kind of pressure that comes with playing the position.

Though it took almost a full quarter before things started to click, Boyd took ownership of the team in relief of Kyle Parker at the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December, nearly leading Clemson to a fourth quarter comeback victory over South Florida.

Boyd entered and exited spring practice as the starter. And that will be the case again in fall camp. It's only a matter of seeing how he performs with the live bullets on game day.

To this point, the biggest knock on Boyd has been his ability to make the right decisions with the football. He has the tools—big arm, confidence, leadership qualities—to lead a team.

In September, everyone will see if Boyd is ready to live up to the five-star billing he received as a high school senior.



FRESHMAN
WR - Sammy Watkins - Former Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier sure could have used Watkins last season. Aside from DeAndre Hopkins and a few flashes from Jaron Brown, the Tigers' offense lacked a spark in the wide receiver corps.

Watkins should be among a few to help provide that this fall.

The No. 5 wide receiver in the 2011 class, according to Scout.com, Watkins had 54 catches for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior at South Fort Meyer High School. He is the all-time leading receiver in Lee County history with 133 receptions for 2,997 yards and 36 touchdowns.

A participant in the U.S. Army All-American game, Watkins will provide an explosive option down field and in space. He should get plenty of touches to make himself a serious candidate for ACC Rookie of the Year honors.


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