Five players to watch this spring

Spring practice may be less than two months away, but it's never too early to look at five names that we expect to hear much more from when it gets started.

Maybe this was an obvious pick, but he's likely the No. 1 guy Clemson fans want to hear about when practice gets underway in March.

Before that, Mike Bellamy has plenty of work to do over the next couple of months to get back in the good graces with the coaching staff. Assuming Andre Ellington does return for his senior season, Bellamy could use a solid spring practice to help position himself in the backup role later this fall.

The rising sophomore finished second among Tiger ball carriers with 343 yards in 2011. He also was third with 57 carries and three rushing touchdowns, but struggled with fumbles.

Gore arrived to Clemson as a defensive end. He'll leave as an offensive tackle. That, we think, is for the best scenario -- the best for him and the best for Clemson.

An early enrollee last spring, a knee injury kept Gore on the sideline during the fall. After his return to practice, he received favorable reviews.

Though Gore still has a ways to go in developing into an offensive tackle, his athleticism could push him to the forefront of the conversation for the two-deep at offensive tackle. There's plenty of room with the graduations of Phillip Price and Landon Walker.

Barring the unexpected, Dalton Freeman won't be letting go of the first-team center job in 2012. But there are two other starting spots Norton could take a hold of this spring.

The departures of Antoine McClain, David Smith and Mason Cloy leave plenty of room on the two-deep depth chart at guard. This spring, Norton could be competing with the likes of Brandon Thomas, Kalon Davis and Spencer Region for first-team guard reps.

Having narrowly avoided a redshirt last year, Norton figures to be in the mix in a big way come spring practice.

Shatley went through his redshirt sophomore season considered a starter by the Clemson coaching staff. Of the 14 games this season, he started two of them.

In over 300 snaps, Shatley recorded 30 tackles and two quarterback pressures. While not as athletic as former Clemson greats Brandon Thompson and Jarvis Jenkins, Shatley is fundamentally sound in his technique and following his assignments.

He and DeShawn Williams are expected to receive a bulk of the first-team defensive tackle reps this spring.

After missing the first four games of the season, he played in the final 10. Though Townsend played only a few snaps as a linebacker in 2011, he made a terrific impact as a special teams player. All 16 of his tackles were made on special teams.

Heading into the spring, Townsend could be in the mix for time at SAM linebacker. He'll continue to grow into a linebacker's body as spring workouts approach.

But make no mistake, Clemson needs help across the board at all linebacker spots - and that alone makes Townsend's development critical during March and April. Top Stories