Here are a couple of players we've heard the most positive news about headed towards the heart of fall camp:
1. WR GERMONE HOPPER - After being suspended the final portion of preseason camp to work on his academics, Hopper seems to have responded very well through the first week of practice.
"There were no hard feelings, I knew Coach Swinney wanted the best from me," he told CUTigers today. "My mom told me it was a part of growing up. I commend her on that. I'm much more focused. Everything goes hand to hand. You have to be disciplined off the feel and that's what I've got be focused on."
Hopper ran with the 1's during the first day of full pads and has been mentioned by Coach Swinney and Chad Morris as a vastly improved player. His explosiveness is desperately needed in a unit that lost two key contributors to the NFL draft.
Chad Morris said about his development. "We'll see if it can continue. Like I've told him, I'd rather see you than hear you. So far he's doing that. Be seen. Don't be heard."
2. LB STEPHONE ANTHONY - The post-practice interviews regarding Clemson's linebackers have been as glowing as any position on the team in the last five years - especially with Anthony. Brent Venables told us this week he's been playing like "his hair is on fire" and has been a total beast in the film room. Now at 250-plus pounds, Anthony knows he could be the beneficiary of Clemson's ultra-deep front four.
And that could mean big bucks in next year's NFL draft.
He's a playmaker. He's a leader.
And he's the quarterback of Clemson's defense.
3. WR DEMARRE KITT - Again, like Hopper, both Morris and Swinney have mentioned him prominently through the first part of camp.
"I've been very very pleased with Demarre Kitt," Morris said. "He's good. Not great. He's doing what we are asking of him,gets to practice on time and runs his routes and catching the ball. He's very coachable."
Kitt has been somewhat forgotten with the development of Artavis Scott, but he's going to play a lot this season. Who knows, maybe he catches more passes than any of the freshmen wide outs? I still think that will go to Scott, but who knows for sure at this early juncture?
4. RT JOE GORE - Somewhat reluctantly, all the news on Gore's development from the coaches have been great. He's healthy. He's taken over the starting spot from Shaq Anthony at right tackle. He's playing more physical. There's concern about his consistency given what he's done in his career, but it appears the light has gone on. He's holding his own, and let's hope this continues because he's going to be a primetime starter in week one at UGA.
5. S ROBERT SMITH - Brent Venables said today that Smith is in his "own league right now." Wow. Hefty praise coming from Clemson's third-year coordinator, eh? Smith looks huge after another strong offseason in the weight room, and appears to be the leader of a vastly improved secondary.
While he's not as tall as T.J. Green or Jayron Kearse, he's been as physical as any player on Clemson's defense through the first week of camp. He's certainly come a long ways from a freshman season that saw him bite on play-action against Wofford in Kevin Steele's old scheme.
Look out this year for Robert Smith.