Monday Shrine Bowl observations

SPARTANBURG - There are plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball for the North Carolina team in this year's Shrine Bowl.

Head coach Mark Barnes has plenty of options to look to, starting with Todd Gurley and Germone Hopper.

Gurley, a four-star, could join Hopper, also a four-star, at Clemson next fall.

With Hopper, the Tigers are getting a super speedy playmaker who's a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Despite playing a good deal of running back at the high school level, Hopper was impressive as a pass catcher.

He's fluid in his routes and at plucking the ball out of the air for a catch. Though he might have trouble cracking the lineup at wide receiver in the early stages of his Clemson career, here's betting that Hopper will be able to carve a niche for himself in the return game.

"He can run. We knew that. I saw him at a combine last summer. He's electric. He's a good route runner for a track guy…he can catch the ball," Barnes said.

Gurley is well on his way to developing a college running back's lower body. At about 190 now, he also has the frame to carry another 10 pounds or so and not lose much burst.

If Clemson is able to add him, he and Zac Brooks would be the two biggest running backs on the roster. And Chad Morris certainly likes those kinds of ball carriers.

On down the line…
Barnes also has a few playmakers on his defensive line, starting with Jonathan Bullard and Carlos Watkins.

Bullard, who was coached by Barnes at Crest High School, is a strong, powerful player. He'll be big enough to anchor on the strong-side, short-term. Given his current size, he could add weight and make a move to the inside in the future -- not that we're suggesting it.

As he was in the two times watched him play this past fall, Watkins is a very impressive looking athlete. He runs extremely well for an interior player and is very athletic.

It may be hard for him to become a starter by the first game of the season, but he's going to play a significant number of snaps for Kevin Steele and Dan Brooks this fall.

Also along the North Carolina defensive line are K'Hadree Hooker [N.C. State commitment] and Romeo Okwara [Notre Dame commitment]. Combined with Watkins and Bullard, they'll make life difficult for the South Carolina offensive line on Saturday. Both Hooker and Okwara were offered by Clemson.

Bradley Pinion figures to see immediate playing time next year as Clemson's punter. (Hale McGranahan)
"We didn't get surprised by any of those. I knew where two of them were -- I can throw a rock to their house," Barnes said. "One of them is at Chase and one of them is mine. I knew with those kids. We had a good read on a couple of those other guys. We think we're pretty good there."

The Sandlappers' OL…
Clemson commitments Oliver Jones and Patrick Destefano had an up and down first day.

Jones was routinely beaten by a smaller/quicker Gimel President, an Auburn commitment who is very generously listed at 6-foot-4. Javarius Leamon, who's been sidelined with an illness, is slated to start at left tackle, the spot Jones is currently occupying.

Destefano was at his best today when he was pulling. That could bode well for his future at Clemson since Morris likes to use his guards with those kinds of movements.

A few things with Destefano:

1. Would like to see Destefano stronger at the point of attack.

2. The four-star billing could be a little bit generous, but then again, it is only the first day.

3. Good intangibles. Has a fire in his belly and plenty of good leadership qualities.

This and that…
Cordrea Tankersley is probably out of position as a cornerback. For now, safety would be his best position. He worked at both on Monday.

With some seasoning, he could develop into a very fine defensive back at Clemson.

Ronald Geohaghan and T.J. Burrell are both out of position.

Geohaghan is lined up at outside linebacker -- the position he played in high school. Burrell is playing inside linebacker.

At Clemson, Geohaghan will play safety and Burrell will serve as a coverage outside linebacker/safety.

Bradley Pinion probably won't kick many field goals or extra points at Clemson. However, he will be very good as a kickoff specialist and punter.

There's a certain sound the ball makes when strong kickers make contact. It consistently happens when Pinion strikes the ball.

Quinshad Davis would be an absolute steal for Wake Forest. Don't be surprised if Jim Grobe cuts back flips if Davis ends up in Winston-Salem.

Smart, runs good enough routes, catches the ball well and he can go up and get it out of the air. The way things are going at Tennessee, Derek Dooley would probably be equally as enthused. Top Stories