The Next Big Thing

CLEMSON - Freshman defensive back DeAndre McDaniel was expected to arrive at Clemson this winter and have an opportunity to make an immediate impact.

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It just wasn't known at the time it would be this kind of impact.

Despite the fact he's only a freshman, and despite the fact both starting safeties return last year's squad, McDaniel has a legitimate opportunity to take over as a starter in the Clemson secondary later this fall.

McDaniel, who was ranked as the No. 16 safety prospect in the country coming out of Godby High School (Fla.) in 2005 and No. 31 safety in the country after a season of prep football at Hargrave Military Academy, has already set a personal goal for himself to be a starter next season.

And by all accounts, he's well on his way to achieving his goals.

"I'm trying my hardest to get that starting spot," McDaniel told after Saturday's spring game. "I want to be out there on the field against Florida State. That's my home town team. I just want to be out there to making plays when I play against them so I can have something to go home and talk about."

Funny thing is, it was Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden doing most of the talking this spring when it came to McDaniel's play.

On numerous occasions, Bowden cited McDaniel's athleticism and instincts as a defensive back as the main reasons he'll see significant playing time later this fall.

He also said McDaniel will be contending for a starting spot come August.

"He's one of those five freshmen that came in that looks like he's going to able to compete for a starting spot at the safety position," Bowden said. "That's one thing we really didn't know coming into spring but it looks like he has enough talent and enough aggressiveness and got enough feel back there at safety to come back and help us."

Just as he has done all of spring practice, McDaniel capped off his final scrimmage Saturday with another big play - an interception of fellow freshman Willy Korn.

Only this time, it came in front of 20,000 people.

As a freshman, one would think there would be more of an adjustment to the college game.

Not so for McDaniel, who seems to take everything, including his rise up the depth chart, in stride.

"I just took it (Saturday) as another day of practice," he said. "I just go out there and try to make plays. It's just another day of practice. ...

"When I first got here, it all seemed the same. I looked at it like I played with a bunch of Division I players at Hargrave and now I'm playing with a bunch of Division I players here at Clemson. I've worked hard to try and fit in with this team and now we are looking good." Top Stories