Eve of First Fix

It's been a long 7 months since the last Tiger football game. Spring practice provided me with a nice fix, but the summer months without hardly a morsel of Tiger football action have been worse than Chinese water torture. As I sit here on the eve of the first freshmen football practice, I'm loaded w/ endorphins in anticipation of checking out the next crop of Death Valley warriors.

After a while, though, I began to ponder who's going to avoid a redshirt (all right, so what if I fail to mention that I've done this just about every night since signing day as well?). Prior to seeing any of the prospects other than Trey Tate, Kyle Browning, and Roscoe Crosby in person, I'm basing my opinions almost exclusively on veteran depth and, to a lesser extent, the list of offers that each prospect accumulated.

It's doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we're stacked at tailback, quarterback, and offensive line. What that translates to is as follows: Kyle Browning, Charlie Whitehurst, Grant Oliver, and Chip Myrick will have to impress the pants off of Coach Bowden to see action at their positions. The only reason I don't list Tye Hill and Michaeux Hollingsworth, our 2 other tailback signees, is more related to the fact that they may see some time at cornerback. Plus, there's no guarantee that Hollingsworth will ever don a Tiger uniform because of his on-hold status with the Clemson Admissions Office.

Now that I've brought up Tye Hill and Kyle Browning, I think it's appropriate to add that Coach Bowden recently stated they'd get looks in the return game. However, there are a ton of applicants, as Joe Don Reames, Brian Mance, Derrick Hamilton, Roscoe Crosby, and Airese Currie will also get looks. Although Travis Zachery has returned punts for the Tigers in the past, I just don't see that happening this year, as Bowden won't roll the dice with a possible injury to his 1st team All-ACC tailback when so many other qualified players are at his disposal.

At fullback, Cliff Harrell will likely avoid a redshirt in my mind, as he immediately steps in as the second string fullback behind Chad Jasmin without ever doing a thing. Heck, if Jasmin goes down with an injury, he could be starting for us at some point next year.

So, we've covered tailback, fullback, quarterback, and offensive line, with possible candidates to avoid a redshirt being Kyle Browning (return game), Tye Hill (cornerback or return game), and Cliff Harrell (fullback).

Now for the fun part…….our consensus #1 national wide receiver/tight end class. Coach Stockstill has stated that Roscoe Crosby would start from the opening day. Coach Bowden has stated that Airese Currie possesses the type of speed in the slot that he's dreamed about since he arrived at Clemson. Both will definitely see action as true freshmen, barring injury. At tight end, Ben Hall and Bobby Williamson could feasibly see time at tight end, although I doubt both will with starter Morgan Woodward returning and Todd McClinton ready to go. The best bet has to go to Ben Hall, simply because of his being touted by 2 separate recruiting gurus as the nation's #1 TE prospect out of high school. You know Woodward will see time at TE, and you know McClinton will as well. It'll be hard for Hall to learn the offense and become a solid run blocker quickly, but I have my doubts Bowden will be able to keep him on the sidelines all year.

Therefore, on our offense from scrimmage, I see Roscoe, Airese, Ben Hall, and Cliff Harrell as the likely candidates to see action from the get-go.

Defensively, it's clear that the places where freshmen can contribute would be in the in the secondary and defensive line. Reggie Herring has stated that Bryant McNeal and Khaleed Vaughn will be our starters at defensive end, with Rod Whipple and Charles Bennett providing depth at the drop end behind McNeal and Moe Fountain and Mark Jetton providing depth at the rush end behind Vaughn. All 4 of those guys are candidates to see the field this year, although I don't see how Charles Bennett and Rod Whipple can be thrown into the mix at 220 lbs. I also don't see how either of them could take over JJ Howard, who weighs at least 225 lbs., supposedly runs a sub-4.5 and possesses a 43-inch vertical jump, and has had all spring to get the hang of playing defensive end, after switching over from linebacker.

Plus, David Ellis, who Herring stated would play rush end this year, looked outstanding this spring as well. I know Herring has stated all 4 freshmen could see action this year at DE, but I guess it just seems odd to me, mostly because I don't like seeing DE's take the field that weigh less than 235 lbs. Why not just use Vaughn, McNeal, Howard, Ellis, Jetton, and Fountain this year and let Bennett and Whipple ripen on the vine? Now, I'm not saying that I'll question whether or not our defensive coaches' decision will be the best for our team. Rather, I guess I was just surprised that they might do that.

Now, at defensive tackle, like at defensive end, we have 4 scholarship veteran DT's returning. Because Herring has always played out of a platoon situation, some true freshman may have to play this year if at any point in the year Eason, Bush, Washington, or Polk becomes injured, which is a likely scenario. Trey Tate and Eric Coleman are the likely candidates to see action here, although Coleman didn't report Sunday for some reason. More on that should be available Monday morning.

So, along the line, Jetton, Fountain, Whipple, Bennett, Tate, and Coleman all have a shot in my opinion.

At linebacker, we're stacked, meaning Sampson, Nelson, & Hill will have a difficult time seeing time from scrimmage. However, any one of them could feasibly help out on special teams.

At cornerback, don't be surprised to see someone overtake Toure Francis as a second string cornerback. Last year, 5 cornerbacks saw the field (Ardley, Mance, Johnson, Crutchfield, and Francis), even though none of them were injured during the season. Just imagine if Mance goes down with an injury; Hafley would likely move to corner, and the door would be opened for a freshman at safety. Regardless, I think Tye Hill and Jamaal Fudge have a shot to see snaps next year at cornerback. I don't know where the staff will line up Curtis Baham and Tavaughn Monts, as they both have been rumored to play both safety and corner.

We currently have 4 reliable safeties in Eric Meekins, Charles Hafley, Ronnie Delusme, and Marcus Houskin. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see David Dunham, who's been assigned a defensive back's number (#31), see time at strong safety, mainly because it seems feasible that a talent that garnered offers from Miami (FL) and Florida could beat out either Houskin or Delusme. He's got a shot. Who knows, though, how Baham, Monts, and Pugh are going to look? I can't wait.

That leaves us with Dunham, Hill, Fudge, Sampson, Whipple, Bennett, Fountain, Jetton, Tate, & Coleman as my picks for defensive Tigers that could see the field this year.

Overall, my picks to play next year, having not seen any of them play other than Crosby, Tate, & Browning………(scale of 1-10)

Crosby (10)
Currie (9.5)
Fountain (9)
Harrell (8.5)
Dunham (7)
Jetton (7)
Sampson (7)
T. Hill (6)
Fudge (6)
Hall (6)
Coleman (6)
Bennett (5.5)

Everyone else that has a shot to play next year (in no particular order):

Charlie Whitehurst
Kyle Browning
Michaeux Hollingsworth
Bobby Williamson
Chip Myrick
Grant Oliver
Trey Tate
Leroy Hill
Roosevelt Nelson
Travis Pugh
Tavaughn Monts
Curtis Baham
Rod Whipple

Hey, anything can happen once these young men arrive on campus. I'd say they all have a chance to take the field next year.

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