5 Questions for Spring Ball

With the start of spring practice only a few days away, we take a look at 5 important questions that must be answered before the Orange & White game on April 10th. Here's an early list of what we think will be of prime importance this spring.

Who will back up Charlie?
This well-documented drama will continue this spring as C.J. Gaddis and Will Proctor battle it out for second team duties at quarterback. Chansi Stuckey is no longer realistically in the mix, as he's been moved to wide receiver on a fulltime basis.

Gaddis, who is also playing baseball for head coach Jack Leggett, is undoubtedly concerned about the possibility of missing practice this spring. How much he misses will likely dictate whether or not he can be considered a viable candidate to play behind Charlie Whitehurst this fall.

"Football is my priority," said Gaddis. "If it comes down to it, I'll have to choose football over baseball, but so far I haven't had to do it."

Coach O'Cain has already hinted that if Gaddis misses much time this spring, it will be difficult to count on him to serve as Charlie Whitehurst's back-up this fall.

Can Jad Dean become consistent kicking off the ground?
For the first time in 4 years, the Tigers will look to replace their starting kicker as Aaron Hunt has now used up his eligibility and moved on.

Jad Dean, who owns one of the strongest legs at the Division I-A level, needs to work on his accuracy and consistency if he's going to get the job done. The transition to kicking off the ground from the tee has been a difficult one, but Dean indicated late in January that he's been doing much better.

"It has," said Dean. "I've been hitting the ball much more cleanly. Things just seem to be clicking for me right now."

He'll have to this spring if he wants to hold off a host of walk-on players. This fall, he'll also be challenged by another walk-on with a powerful leg in Chattahoochee High School's Mark Buchholz.

Who are the sleepers?
Spring ball is always a time for redshirt freshmen to emerge as future stars, and also for veteran players to prove they deserve more playing time than what they've received in year's past.

Look no further than last spring, when Curtis Baham and Reggie Merriweather both stepped into the limelight to earn high praise from Tommy Bowden.

Obviously, only Baham continued that success into the 2003 regular season, but the spring is certainly a time for reserve players to climb the depth chart and make some noise.

Nick Watkins, Roy Walker, and Reggie Merriweather are three names you may want to keep your eye on.

"We are very excited about seeing guys like Nick Watkins, Maurice Nelson, and Roy Walker get the opportunity to play this spring," said Clemson linebackers' coach David Blackwell. "This is the time of year where these kids development and start realizing their potential."

Is Yusef Kelly really back?
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 4 years since Yusef Kelly first saw action as a true freshman, but it has.

Kelly remained in the doghouse of Bowden most of last year and really didn't have the opportunity to produce with any sort of consistency for the offense. Overall, he finished the year with just 125 yards and 1 touchdown, and most of that came in the Virginia game.

Is he back in shape? Can he handle the load along with Duane Coleman this spring? Can he be counted on as a dependable short yardage back?

These are just some of the questions the Clemson coaching staff will have to answer this spring.

Can Cory Groover really start this year?
JUCO transfer Cory Groover will make his long awaited Clemson debut this Saturday when he hits the practice fields for the first time. With the unexpected departure of DT Donnell Washington to the NFL, Groover's development becomes critical this spring.

The coaches know about his potential and they're anxious to see what he can do. "I've never seen a kid his size, move that fast," said Blackwell. "He brings a lot of things to the table for us as a defensive tackle."

Make no mistake about it, Cory Groover will be tested early and often this spring, and how he responds will determine if he can win a starting spot before the start of fall practice.

We will continue to examine the start of spring practice with 5 more questions that need answering tomorrow.

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