Five position battles worth watching

When spring practice opens in March, the search for three first-year starters along the offensive line will begin.

Left Tackle
Just like last year, the search is on for a new starter at left tackle. Phillip Price emerged as the replacement for Chris Hairston last offseason. Price wound up as one of the most consistent players along the Tigers' offensive front.

Spring Candidates
Isaiah Battle
Brandon Thomas
Reid Webster

Less than a year removed from high school, Battle (pictured right) spent last fall at Fork Union Military Academy. He'll compete for early playing time now that he's on campus at Clemson.

Unless Thomas, who started 10 games at left guard last season, moves over to left tackle, Price's replacement will have no experience as a starter.

Webster logged 33 snaps in six games as a redshirt freshman, most of which were in mop up duty at left tackle.



Right Tackle
Landon Walker was a stalwart along the Clemson offensive line, starting the last 39 games of his career. For the first-time since 2009, some else will start at right tackle for the Tigers.

Spring Candidates
Shaq Anthony
Joe Gore
Oliver Jones
Gifford Timothy

Anthony, who spent last season as a redshirt, must continue to improve his run blocking skill. He played in a pass-heavy spread offense at Wren High School.

Most of his redshirt first season at Clemson was spent rehabbing a knee injury. During that time, Joe Gore (pictured right) was moved from defensive end to offensive tackle.

One of three early-enrolled offensive linemen, Jones could be headed for a redshirt in 2012.

In seven games as a redshirt freshman, Timothy played 45 snaps. Almost half of his snaps [17] were against N.C. State.



Running Back
There's no doubt that Andre Ellington will be the starter at running back this fall. But there is question as to who is backup will be.

Spring Candidates
Mike Bellamy
Zac Brooks
D.J. Howard
Rod McDowell

Bellamy ended his first season at Clemson in Dabo Swinney's doghouse. Bellamy was sent home from Charlotte before the ACC Championship and suspended indefinitely afterward. He's back in school and working back into the good graces of his head coach.

A four-star prospect out of Jonesboro, Ark., Brooks arrived to Clemson in January for an early enrollment. His abilities as a runner and catcher make him an intriguing option behind Ellington.

Howard started his redshirt freshman season with an 86-yard performance against Auburn before missing the next two games with an injury. The rest of his season was pretty pedestrian.

McDowell ended the 2011 campaign with 14 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. Thirty-four of the yards and the score were in the Orange Bowl against West Virginia.



Right Guard
Antoine McClain started every game at right guard for the last three years. He played over 2,000 snaps during his Clemson career.

Spring Candidates
Patrick Destefano
Ryan Norton
Spencer Region

Destefano, one of three early enrolled offensive linemen, will have a shot to compete for time on day one, but a couple of 2011 signees might have the edge.

Though Norton was signed as a center last year, he won't be able to supplant starter Dalton Freeman. Norton will, however, make a run at one of the two guard spots.

Region spent the majority of his first season on campus slimming down to a more manageable weight.



Tight End
The emergence of Brandon Ford started in the second half of the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl and continued through 2011.

Spring Candidates
Sam Cooper
Eric MacLain
Darrell Smith

As a redshirt freshman, Cooper played in 12 of the 14 games at tight end and played in every game on special teams.

MacLain, a four-star tight end signee with the 2011 class, spent last season as a redshirt.

Smith played in every game on special teams, but recorded just one snap at tight end.

CUTigers.com Top Stories