What We Are Hearing

A lot of people were questioning my logic when I said Tuesday evening that we should expect to see Roscoe Crosby against the Georgia Bulldogs. We revisit those talks and also take a look at some of the other intriguing battles on the practice fields in this report.

With two-a-days now behind us, and the last preseason scrimmage complete, the Clemson Tigers are now focused on one task at hand- defeating the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday afternoon.

But before the Tigers come running down the hill in front of an ABC Regional audience on August 30th, a number of position battles will be settled on the practice fields.

You know the ones I'm talking about.

Toure Francis vs. Tye Hill at cornerback, Nathan Bennett vs. Chip Myrick at guard, and of course, everybody vs. Yusef Kelly at running back.

Let's take a quick look about what we're hearing in regards to some of these all-important position battles headed into the final week of fall practice.

Toure Francis vs. Tye Hill
Admittingly, I'm surprised at two things here. One, that Toure Francis hasn't taken control of this situation, and two, that Tye Hill could actually be ready to play cornerback against Georgia next weekend.

The pressure that will be applied to the cornerback on the left side of the field this season has already been well documented. With an All-American corner on the other side in Justin Miller, the guy that wins this position battle next week will likely see more balls thrown his way than he'd honestly care to think about.

Hill is the better athlete and is also one of the fastest players in the ACC. Francis is more experienced and may offer the best short-term solution through the first 4 to 5 games of the season.

Head coach Tommy Bowden couldn't determine who had the edge after practice earlier this week. "Both of those guys are running neck-and-neck right now. One day one guy will have the edge, the next day it will be other. No one has really distinguished themselves yet," Bowden said.

Against Georgia, I wouldn't be surprised to see both of these guys play, but Francis brings more consistency and more experience to the table. A year ago, Toure Francis provided solid coverage in limited action against the Bulldogs in an extremely hostile environment.

At the very same time, Tye Hill was wondering why in the world he didn't get in the game in Athens as a running back.

Edge: Toure Francis

Chip Myrick vs. Nathan Bennett
The fact that we are even talking about competition on the offensive line this year is a good thing. Myrick reported to practice at a solid 290 pounds and appears to be ready to see significant playing time for the first time in his career.

Bennett has been the most impressive of the three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen that were expected to play in 2003.

While I fully expect both players to make significant contributions to the team this year, Nathan Bennett is as impressive as I've seen as a redshirt freshman. He's 305+ pounds, has excellent footwork and consistently opened up holes on the right side of the line this spring.

Myrick plays, but Bennett starts.

Edge: Nathan Bennett

Coleman, Merriweather, Browning, and Kelly
The Tigers' situation at running back has been one of the most talked about, most controversial topics on sports talk radio and Internet Message Boards over the course of the last week or so.

Yusef Kelly reported to practice a good 8-10 pounds over weight and has evidently handed his starting spot over to one of the Tigers' young gun running backs.

"Right now, it's Duane Coleman, Kyle Browning, Reggie Merriweather, and then Kelly," Tommy Bowden said after somewhat voicing his displeasure with Kelly for reporting to camp out of shape.

At this point in the game, Duane Coleman appears to have the inside track on the job. The former Sunshine Network's Player of the Year in Florida offers the Tigers the most explosiveness and has the ability to score anytime he touches the ball.

Reggie Merriweather, who is more of a straight ahead runner with speed, had the most impressive spring but has had trouble blocking and picking up the blitz in passing situations.

Kyle Browning will see the field in 2003, but likely in the same role in which we saw Tye Hill last season.

While I still believe that we'll see three of these backs against Georgia, I like Duane Coleman's ability to cut on a dime and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

People tend to forget about his elusiveness, but watch out if he gets into the open field.

Edge: Duane Coleman

Roscoe Crosby
Wide receiver Roscoe Crosby joined the team Monday and saw his first significant action Thursday because Tony Elliott missed practice with turf toe.

Even though Crosby took Elliott's place as the H-receiver in the Tigers' 4-wide out set, that probably won't be his permanent position during the 2003 season.

In speaking with Coach Swinney earlier this week, it was very obvious that the intention was to get him in the game early against the Dawgs.

"We have to take a long look at the depth chart and figure all of that out," said Swinney. "We'll probably start him out at the X, just because the one he can learn the quickest. That would be the easiest position for us to plug him in right now."

"The thing I ask out of my guys is great effort, intensity, and adjustment. Those things have nothing to do with talent. If you take a guy that's got great talent and he's giving you those things, then you are going to have a special kind of player. From what I've seen of Roscoe Crosby, I think he's going to be just fine."

Simply put, Roscoe Crosby is the best receiver the Tigers have on paper. You might want to read that last statement again to let it sink in.

While he still has some work to do, he arrived at camp at 203 pounds and he should be able to shake off the cobwebs next week as the Tigers prepare for Georgia. Remember, this kid has been a professional athlete...he's already a step ahead of the game.

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