Fall semester classes begin Wednesday, meaning the "camp" portion of preseason practice has come to a close. With the opener against Georgia just 11 days away, the depth chart is beginning to crystallize, and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was willing to share some of those developments with reporters.
Although there has been competition, the Tigers' offensive line looks about like most expected it to look when practice began Aug. 2.
Senior Brandon Thomas is starting at left tackle, with junior David Beasley at guard, sophomore Ryan Norton at center, senior Tyler Shatley at right guard and junior Gifford Timothy at right tackle.
"Those are the five who have come out of camp, had the most consistency thru camp," Morris said. "By all means, because we think those guys are the five today, doesn't mean they're the five we'll put out on the field on Aug. 31st.
"It's a day to day grind with those guys and we have some guys behind them who are pushing and will create some competition, which is what we need. But as of today, those are the five we'll put on the field. We've got guys behind them pushing. We haven't had as many guys pushing in the past as we do now. We've got some depth in that position and guys who'll continue to grow and come on."
Behind them, redshirt freshman center Jay Guillermo and sophomore tackle Isaiah Battle have emerged as key reserves. Guillermo is pushing Norton, while coaches wanted Battle to take the left tackle spot and move Thomas to guard. However, they're now counting on him for quality depth behind Timothy.
"Jay Guillermo has come on the last three practices. He struggled early in camp for whatever reason," Morris said. "Isaiah Battle is a guy, flash in the pan, one day looks great and the next day, it depends. A guy that's extremely athletic, we all know that, same song, second verse. It's whether or not he makes his mind up if he wants to be that great player.
"We all wish it would have happened because it would have given us a little more versatility in the offensive line, but it didn't happen. We expect him to be a guy who can step in and be a guy who can step in and be a great backup for us."
At tailback, senior Rod McDowell leads a pack that includes sophomore Zac Brooks (who has packed 17 pounds of muscle onto last year's 178-pound frame) and former walk-on C.J. Davidson, who arrived at Clemson on a track scholarship.
"Hot Rod has definitely developed the consistency, has earned that through camp," Morris said. "He's had a very productive camp, gotten better, taken a lot of pride. Obviously the reps he got last year in the critical game situations has really helped him out, put him ahead."
Brooks and Davidson are right behind following junior D.J. Howard's arthroscopic ankle surgery.
"Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson have definitely made a great push and going to get some quality playing time," D.J. has been a little inconsistent and we've got to get him back fully healthy and get him going. Those are the three guys right there you'll see a lot of."
As for freshmen Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman, Morris said he'd "like to" redshirt both: "That's kind of our intent right now."
"With the way camp started for Tyshon, was really good, he's had a nagging back injury he's trying to shake and get back healthy. Wayne has had an unbelievable camp. He and C.J. have had as good a camp as anybody, but those two have come in and caught everyone's eye. You'd like to redshirt him and hold him as much as we can, but we'll have (Gallman) ready if needed."
Morris added that senior Darrell Smith would be the starting tight end right now, but added that sophomore Stanton Seckinger, a converted wide receiver, "is going to give us a lot of versatility and speed."
"Darrell's a guy who's really improved in a lot of areas, a hard-nosed guy, physical player," he said. "Darrell's a guy who you look for his leadership to start this thing out."
Veteran stars Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have improved over the course of camp, as well.
Morris has pushed Boyd, a returning All-American and the reigning ACC Player of the Year, hard this August.
"His footwork is not even close to where it was at the start of camp," Morris said of Boyd. "At the start it was sluggish, not close to where it wanted to be. He's taken a lot of pride in that the last three weeks, you've seen that improve, his accuracy has gotten a lot better. We knew it would. It's the same thing as a year ago. Started off slow and picked it up."
A year ago, Watkins was dealing with a two-game suspension for a May 2012 drug arrest hanging over his head. By all accounts, this summer's version of Watkins has looked much more like the Watkins of 2011 that took college football by storm.
"There's no comparison in Sammy right now from last year to this year," Morris said. "He's a lot more explosive, a lot more lean. Far more determined, very focused. He's had as good a camp as anyone we've had."
Camp closes, Georgia prep begins
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