Insider Spring Practice Report

Spring practice has already reached the halfway point. What do we know about John Lovett, the secondary, and the quarterback situation? We take an indepth look at these and other issues in the first of a two-part report.

The Tigers will resume practice next week after returning from spring break. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions through the halfway point of spring ball.

What have we learned about John Lovett?
When it comes to the defense, one word comes to mind- improvement. And when I say improvement, I mean improvement across the board.

Defensive Coordinator John Lovett is first and foremost a teacher, and he literally is instilling a "teaching" philosophy into every aspect of practice. Whether it is during tackling drills or a live scrimmage, Lovett is putting in his two cents worth on every possible occasion.

Another aspect of the game that Lovett lives by is getting physical, and if you are old school Clemson football fan- this should excite you. We've consistently seen Lovett preach the physcial aspect of the game, especially to guys in the secondary- Toure Francis, Brian Mance, and Eric Meekins. He simply will not accept anything less controlled intensity when it comes to his defense, and the players are responding.

Does the secondary look any better?
Yes. And a whole host of players are continually improving, especially Travis Pugh, Jamaal Fudge, and Tavaghn Monts. Fudge particularly has looked strong on several occasions, and as we've said all along, he'll likely battle for one of the starting spots at corner in the fall.

Eric Meekins had a solid scrimmage a week and a half ago, and he may be the most improved player of the bunch.

What do we know about the running back situation?
We know that Bernard Rambert and Keith Kelly have locked up the the one and two spots in the backfield respectively. Kelly now weighs in at an impressive 230 lbs, and he has shown more of a tendency to run over people as opposed to outrunning them. And in case you are wondering, that 230 lbs is solid muscle- he last was measured to have 4% body fat. After those two, there is a significant drop off at running back.

Kyle Browning has shown flashes of brilliance with his quickness, and Tye Hill has demonstrated that he still has some work to do in the weight room before he's ready for bigtime football.

What do we know about the quarterback situation?
Willie Simmons is still the starting quarterback- even though he hasn't had as good a spring as Charlie Whitehurst has thus far. Historically, this really shouldn't come as too big of a surprise. It always takes Willie a little time to "get into the groove." We've seen it throughout his career, both during practice, and in games.

Meanwhile, Charlie Whitehurst continues to impress the coaching staff with his ability to read defenses and make adjustments, and furthermore- the kid has been producing at a phenomenal pace. He definitely has a presence about him that truly is something special.

I think we'll see Willie step it up a notch or two once the Tigers get back from spring break.

What do we know about Kevin Johnson?
To put it mildly, its been a rough spring for Kevin Johnson. Not only has he consistently under-performed when it counts, its almost like he is reliving last season all over again on the practice fields. And based on our assessment of the talent coming in next fall, it may be difficult for him to see significant playing time. "They've got a lot of work (Mance, Meekins, and Johnson) to do and they'll still get a challenge from the guys we recruited in the fall," said Head Coach Tommy Bowden late last week.

Who is the player that we are all forgetting about?
That's easy- TE Ben Hall. Hall will unquestionably be an All-ACC performer next season, and if the coaching staff decides to start putting more plays in designed to get him the football, he could very well be an All-American. Ben Hall is one reason to be very excited about next year's offense.

How is Jack Hines doing as the linebackers coach?
Just fine. The entire unit seems to respond well to Mr. Hines and he seems to command a certain type of authority with his new position. So far, so good.

How does Terrance Huey look at cornerback?
At first, confused. But he started catching on much more quickly at the end of last week. He still looks a bit undersized, but he has demonstrated the ability to stay with almost any receiver on the team. I've also been impressed with his ability to fight off blocks of the bigger receivers.

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