#5 - HARPER PROVING HIS WORTH
Just as I suspected since last fall, redshirt junior quarterback Cullen Harper has shown he has the ability to move the chains, lead the team and be an effective signal caller in Rob Spence's offense. During the first two major scrimmages of spring practice, Harper has completed 27-of-42 passes (64%) for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Harper has also done enough to hold off freshman quarterback Willy Korn for the starting position headed into next weekend's spring game. In terms of skills, he has also shown adequate arm strength and usually makes good decisions with the football. Does that mean all of Clemson's quarterback issues are solved with Harper as a starting quarterback? Absolutely not. In fact, Harper did float two deep passes during Saturday's scrimmage and also threw the ball across the field for a doomed screen pass in the red zone. Still, for the most part, he's held his own against the other three quarterbacks trying to take his job. For those keeping score, if Clemson opened the 2007 season today against Florida State, Cullen Harper would be your starter.
#4 - KORN IS THE NO. 2 QB
The "official" updated post-spring depth chart hasn't been released, but by all accounts, Willy Korn will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Harper after next week's Orange & White game. Korn has impressed the staff with his strong arm, good mobility and off-the-field intangibles such as knowledge of the offense and leadership skills. But keep in mind he is still a freshman and he will make his share of freshman mistakes. For example, during Saturday's scrimmage Korn did throw into tight coverage on occasion, once throwing a pick to Crezdon Butler. Such is to be expected of a freshman. But he also showed maturity by throwing the ball away on at least two occasions after sensing backside pressure. Also keep in mind Korn does offer more mobility than Harper, which is an aspect we haven't seen much in the two scrimmages because the quarterbacks aren't allowed to be hit. His numbers have been respectable in his first two outings in Memorial Stadium (16-of-30 for 158 yards and 1 interception) and I still think he plays as a freshman, I'm just not sure it when it happens.
#3 - SECONDARY IS IMPROVING
One of the biggest areas of concern entering the start of spring practice was cornerback, where the Tigers needed to figure out how to replace last year's starters in Duane Coleman and C.J. Gaddis. While the 2007 starters will be much more inexperienced, they will offer more talent. In fact, Crezdon Butler, Chris Chancellor and Byron Maxwell have shown reasonable improvement throughout the first three weeks of spring practice. Taking a look at the big picture, it's important to remember the ACC hasn't been stacked with explosive passing attacks in recent years. Maybe Jimbo Fisher will have something to say about that in Tallahassee, but until it happens, Clemson's corners should be able to get the job done.
#2 - SPECIAL TEAMS STILL NEED WORK
As a former kicker, I enjoy watching special teams play during spring- especially field goals and extra points (insert lame kicker jokes here- it's okay I've heard them all). During Saturday's scrimmage, much was made of Richard Jackson's 1-for-4 performance and rightfully so. Jackson was out-of-sync and only connected on a 44-yard field goal that barely bounced over the crossbar. But keep in mind that Jackson was kicking the equivalent of a concrete block with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees, and more importantly- the majority of the snaps on his field goal attempts were either high or low. I know, I know, you expect him to make those kicks anyway but I'm telling you right now, Richard Jackson will be a solid kicker for Clemson University, regardless of what happened Saturday. He has ample leg strength, good timing and is mentally a tough kid. Long-snapping issues aside, Jackson will be just fine. Also lost in the shuffle Saturday was punter Jimmy Maners who drilled several long kicks under heavy pressure before the scrimmage began.
#1 - MCDANIEL IS READY TO PLAY
If you're looking for a "spring surprise" next Saturday at the Orange & White game, keep an eye on safety DeAndre McDaniel. Simply put, the kid makes plays. He breaks up passes, he isn't afraid to hit you and he plays with the kind of attitude that Clemson will need on its defense this coming season. I'm not 100% sure where he fits on the depth chart with Mike Hamlin and Chris Clemons returning as starters, but I can tell you this with a high degree of certainty- the kid is going to play, and at times even make your jaw drop.
5 Post Scrimmage Observations
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