Fall Preview: Offensive Depth Chart

A new chapter begins in Clemson football history this fall, and it all starts with QB Willie Simmons. Simmons will lead the way for the Tigers in 2002, and he'll have perhaps the finest set of receivers in the country at his disposal. Here is a look at the starting eleven come August 31st.

For the first time in several years, the Clemson Tigers will come into the 2002 campaign with a couple of question marks in the backfield and on the offensive line. Gone is quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, gone is running back Travis Zachery, and gone are offensive linemen Kyle Young, T.J. Watkins and Will Merritt.

Based on those facts, you could argue that the Tigers will be in a world of trouble this fall- but you'd be dead wrong.

Junior Quarterback Willie Simmons will lead the charge into Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs come August and he will be accompanied by more talent than Clemson has ever seen at the skill positions.

Backing him up will be redshirt freshman Charlie Whitehurst, a very capable quarterback in his own right. At 6'4, he has the ability to see over taller defensive linemen, and he also has an arm comparable to that of Simmons. He'll battle for the starting position this spring and early fall, but make no mistake, this is Willie's year, and he'll prove worthy of the challenge.

Mark it down right now, Willie Simmons will be your starting quarterback on August 31st. Simmons played poorly last year in mostly mop-up action, but he more than showed his worth two seasons ago by rallying the Tigers from big deficits against North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Simmons is a good scrambler, and with his arm strength he has the ability to distribute the football to all parts of the field. That simple fact could drastically change the look of the Tigers' offense in 2002.

Willie Simmons is a pure passing quarterback, and that bodes well for the Tigers, as the strength in the offense lies in the wide receivers.

Speaking of receivers, sophomore WR Airese Currie and WR Roscoe Crosby, who were just beginning to come into their own at the end of last year, will grab two of the starting receiver spots this fall. Kevin Youngblood will also likely reclaim a starting position after fully recovering from a broken leg injury suffered early last season.

And then that brings us to Derrick Hamilton. Hamilton was easily the top wide receiver for the Tigers last year bringing in a freshman record 53 catches for almost 700 yards, and without question he'll be one of the top players in the conference in 2002. Aren't you glad that he's only a sophomore?

Freshmen Kelvin Grant and Ty Zimmerman could also see significant playing time early on, although Zimmerman could switch over to defense once he arrives on campus.

Grant was the top receiver in the state of South Carolina this past year, and he has all the tools to come in and contribute right away. J.J. McKelvey and Jackie Robinson will also likely catch somewhere between 15-25 balls apiece this season.

At running back, Bernard Rambert will finally inherit the starting position, but it won't be without a serious challenge. Keith Kelly, Tye Hill, and true freshman Duane Coleman (assuming he qualifies) will all battle for serious playing time this fall. All three of these backs have tremendous speed and quickness, and it just wouldn't make sense to keep them off the football field.

Coleman might have the best hands, the best moves, and the most talent out of all 4, but he still has a ways to go in the classroom. Keep your fingers crossed because if he is able to get on campus, he could change the shape of this team in a big way this season.

Chad Jasmin will once again claim the starting spot at fullback. Jasmin had a productive year out of the backfield last season catching a couple of touchdown passes and he will likely have the opportunity to contribute more this season. Backing him up will be redshirt freshman Clifford Harrell.

Freshman running back Reggie Merriweather will likely redshirt, and former Union running back Kyle Browning will only get see action if Coleman doesn't qualify.

At tight-end, Ben Hall has locked himself in on the first team, and he will likely be an All-ACC performer in 2002. Hall is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous weapons on offense, and with Willie Simmons' arm strength, look for a couple of more passes to go his way in 2002. Backing him up for now will be Todd McClinton.

The real mystery next season will be the offensive line. So much was made of all the experience returning last season and then the unit as a whole collectively had their worst year ever. Try to figure that one out.

In 2002, OT Gary Byrd and Derrick Brantley will return, as will gaurds Cedric Johnson and Greg Walker. Those figure to be four of your starters in Athens right there. Chip Myrick will battle it out with Jermyn Chester for the starting nod at center, and it seems very likley that he will win that battle before August 30th.

Make no mistake about it, the Clemson Tigers will only go as far as this unit (the offensive line) will take them in 2002. These guys will have to step up and provide some leadership by example if the Tigers are to make to a New Year's Day bowl game. Unfortunately, there appears to be a significant drop off in talent between the first and second team. Lets just hope injuries don't play a major factor as to who is, and who isn't on the football field.

It is highly unlikely that any true freshman will significant playing time on the offensive line this season, but don't forget about Dustin Fry. A lot of people have underestimated his strength, and with some work on his footwork over the summer, he could be in a position to contribute earlier than a lot of people expect.

Position First Team Second Team
QB Willie Simmons Charlie Whitehurst
FB Chad Jasmin Clifford Harrell
TB Bernard Rambert Keith Kelly
WR Kevin Youngblood Kelvin Grant
WR Roscoe Crosby J.J. McKelvey
WR Airese Currie Jackie Robinson
WR Derrick Hamilton Tye Zimmerman
C Chip Myrick Jermyn Chester
OT Derrick Brantley Nathan Gillespie
OT Gary Byrd William Henry
OG Greg Walker Nick Black
OG Cedric Johson Jermyn Chester
TE Ben Hall Todd McClinton

CUTigers.com Top Stories