5 Questions Entering Spring Practice

Football returns to Clemson University this weekend in the form of spring practice. Saturday morning the Clemson Tigers will take the field to begin work on their 2002 campaign and with a new defensive coordinator, a new quarterback, a new running back, and a revamped secondary. Here is a look at some of the questions that will need to be answered over the course of the next few weeks.

Some experts believe that the Clemson football program took a few steps back last season as the Tigers stumbled to a 7-5 record and bowl win over Louisiana Tech. Whether you believe them or not, a lot of questions will have be answered this spring if the Tigers are going to put up an 8 or 9 win season next year. Here is a quick look at what we believe will be the most important questions heading into this year's spring practice.

#1. Who will emerge in the secondary?
If you've followed the Clemson football program over the course of the last few seasons, you realize that a good portion of games have been decided in the Tigers' secondary. The inability to cover seemingly anyone last season led directly to several lopsided games against North Carolina and Florida State, not mention nail biters against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Quite honestly, the Tigers' secondary can only get better this season, and really its just a matter of who is going to step up and start performing consistently at only an "above average level."

Without question, there are a couple of guys this spring that could finally turn some heads- Ryan Hemby, Jamaal Fudge, and Toure Francis are just a few names that could challenge potential starters Kevin Johnson, Eric Meekins, and Brian Mance.

#2. What is the depth chart at running back going to look like?
Bernard Rambert figures to be the starter this spring, but he'll be challenged by several players with more athleticism, more skill, and most importantly- more speed. Leading the way will be Keith Kelly. Kelly saw significant action early in 2000 before being redshirted last season. He truly is the full package at running back and if shows enough determination, he could very well unseat Rambert as the starter heading into the fall.

It goes without saying that all Clemson fans will appreciate the fact that Kelly redshirted last season in a couple of years. He has as much true talent as any tailback wearing a Clemson uniform since Ronald Williams back in the early 90's.

It should be a great battle at running back over the course of the next few weeks, and we haven't even mentioned Tye Hill. Stay tuned.

#3. Will Whitehurst challenge Simmons at quarterback?
As silly as this might sound to folks that don't follow the Clemson football program closely- believe it. Whitehurst has all the tools that Willie possesses, he is a fabulous student of the game, and he stands at 6'4, so he can easily see over those tall defensive linemen. The one thing he does lack though is experience. Remember, Willie calmly guided the Tigers to impressive comebacks against Georgia Tech and North Carolina in 2000, and he'll have a leg up entering spring practice.

It will be amazing to see how many people jump on the Charlie Whitehurst bandwagon if Willie Simmons starts the spring off a little rusty.

#4. How will the addition of John Lovett influence the defense?
One thing is for sure, this won't be the same old Tiger defense this year. Lovett brings an extremely aggresive style back to Clemson, and his changes in practice habits, schemes, and overall tone will be noted as soon as the Tigers hit the field Saturday morning. It will be very interesting indeed to see how the returning players respond.

In the grand scheme of things, you have to believe that his arrival will breathe some much needed life into a unit that looked downright awful at times last season.

#5. What about WR Kevin Youngblood?
We haven't heard much from wide receiver Kevin Youngblood since his horrible leg injury last fall, and it will be interesting to see if he has recovered enough to even walk onto the practice field in pads.

Keep your fingers crossed because if he's a 100% this fall, this offense might just be unstoppable. (That is, if the offensive line shows up- which is an entire article in itself.)

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