10 Observations from Practice

The Tigers have been on the field for almost a week now; here is an early look at which players have stepped up their play early on. Justin Miller, Kelvin Morris, and Altroy Bodrick are just some of the names that have stood out through the first week of fall practice.

With several freshmen practices in the book, and two full squad sessions now complete, several observations can be made about the general direction of several players. Here is an initial look at who has caught our eye through the first week of practice.

1. Kelvin Morris and Justin Miller are ready to play.
Looking for two first year players ready to make an impact in their first year at Clemson? Look no futher than freshman cornerback Justin Miller and junior college strong safety/linebacker Kelvin Morris. We saw Miller practice Saturday afternoon with the second team defensive unit, and while he didn't do anything to standout, he still looked impressive. The way he carries himself, his quick footwork, and his overall athleticism should have Tiger fans exctied about his arrival on campus. Miller will get a hard look at cornerback through the next couple of weeks, and he will also see time as a kick returner.

Morris spent most of his first week practicing with Miller and Buddy Williams as a defensive back. The coaching staff is hoping that he can push Bodrick at the roverback position, which is essentially like a glorified linebacker playing safety. With 4.4 speed, that shouldn't be a problem. Morris has great size and looks ready to make an impact in Athens.

2. Clemson is locked and loaded at running back.
Bernard Rambert, Yusef Kelly, and Tye Hill each bring a different aspect to the table at running back, and all three are expected to play opening game of the season. Rambert hits the hole with authority, Kelly hits the defender with authority, and Hill just runs by everyone. Tommy Bowden insists that he'll play all three against Georgia, but his ultimate goal is to have a rested Bernard Rambert for the 4th quarter. With the Tigers lining up in the I-formation more this year, the bulk of the carries that went to Woodrow Dantzler last season will now go to one of these three guys.

Interestingly enough, most people are already overlooking the Tigers' running game this season, but the overall peformance of one of these running backs will likely be the difference between a 7 or 9 win season. Rambert has the edge in experience, and he also catches the ball more consistently then either Kelly or Hill. Kelly has the most potential out of this bunch, but he may have to wait one more year to become the man in this offense.

3. Eric Meekins is the most improved player on defense.
For those of you concerned about Eric Meekins headed into the Georgia game- don't be. Meekins has established himself as one of the top defensive backs on the team. Just ask Jackie Robinson, who peeled himself off the ground looking out of his earhole after another ferocious hit Saturday afternoon. We saw it in the spring, and we've seen it again early this fall- Meekins is ready to play.

4. There is concern about Kevin Youngblood.
The ankle sprain suffered by Kevin Youngblood has raised some concerns about his overall health entering his junior season. "Every now and then I think about my first injury when I broke my leg and wonder, Why me again?" he said. "It's in my mind. But everything will be cool and I'll be fine," said Youngblood Sunday afternoon.

Tommy Bowden wants Youngblood back on the practice fields as soon as possible, but he likely won't see any more action until Thursday at the earliest. It will be important for Youngblood to put together a good week of practice once he returns, because Kelvin Grant is already knocking on the door for playing time.

5. John Lovett has a made a huge difference.
This has been the most important acquisition made by Tommy Bowden since his arrival at Clemson more than 3 years ago. The players relate to him better than former defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, and his ability to instruct and teach has the Tigers' secondary singing a new tune. Lovett has his defense ready to play, and with the multiple formations and blitzing schemes he's going to use, this defense will be ready to surprise the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.

"With Coach Lovett, it's his system. He brought it here. Therefore, he's coming straight to us with it. He knows where he wants us to be, and that's made a big difference with us," said starting cornerback Brian Mance.

6. Team chemistry is at an all-time high.
Chemistry goes down in my book as one of the most underrated aspects to a successful football team. Spend one minute on the practice fields and you'll understand what I mean when I say that team chemistry is at an all-time high at Clemson. There is an overall excitement that is present today was missing last year.

You can see it the eyes of almost all the players, especially on defense. Guys like Nick Eason and John Leake have stepped up to become vocal leaders, while others in the secondary have vowed that this season will be the year that the Tigers' turn the corner defensively.

7. Kelvin Grant is a smooth operator.
Kelvin Grant isn't going to redshirt his freshmen year, even with all the existing talent available at wide receiver. Grant runs his routes as good as anyone on the field, he has good hands, and he looks physically ready to compete. Add in the temporary loss of Kevin Youngblood, and you have a player that has quickly established himself as the freshman to watch this fall. "If he's one of the top guys we have out there, he'll play," said Tommy Bowden.

8. Todd McClinton looks about the same.
There were some talks in the spring about McClinton finally showing his nasty side. I didn't see it then, and I don't see it now. Sure, he's as big as they come on the field, but he hasn't shown that mean streak in him that you'd like to see in a player of his size. It will be interesting to see how he develops through the month of August, but the jury is still out on the Columbia native.

9. Altroy Bodrick is healthy.
Altroy Bodrick looks like he hasn't missed a beat. The hit he laid on Ben Hall Saturday afternoon was referred to by Tommy Bowden as the best one he has seen on the practice fields during his career at Clemson University. "Altroy just threw himself into Ben. That's the kind of hitting, the kind of play we'll need from Altroy. That's why we put him back there at roverback because he's got the ability to make that kind of hit," said Bowden.

And it hasn't been just his hitting that has people talking either. It was reported Saturday afternoon that Bodrick was the only defender that didn't have a pass completed on him during the one-on-one drills. That just shows you what a player like Bodrick means to the Clemson secondary. Altroy Bodrick is one of the most athletic players on the field, and if he is able to start this season, the Clemson defense should be much vastly improved simply because he's on the field.

10. Vontrell Jamison should play right away.
Vontrell Jamison is about as big as they come on the football field. Put him down at defensive tackle and he should make an impact immediately. Standing almost 6-feet, 8-inches tall, Jamison has the reach of a 7-foot NBA center on the football field, and he certainly could provide some additional depth on the defensive line this season. It goes without saying that as an opposing quarterback, it is awfully hard to throw the ball over a defensive tackle that tall. I am fully expecting Vontrell Jamison to see signifcant action in the early part of the season.

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