SPRING PRACTICE: Top 5 Position Battles

With spring practice set to start in approximately three weeks, CUTigers.com takes a look at the top five position battles worth following.

#1: Da'Quan Bowers vs. Kevin Alexander (Defensive End)
Rising junior Kevin Alexander made nice progress serving as Phillip Merling's back up last season, and he should provide ample competition for one of the top players signed in the history of Clemson football in Da'Quan Bowers. The question remains, who will emerge this spring as the starter? Bowers offers unmatched athleticism for his size, but is only a freshman. He has no game day experience and has only been on campus for six weeks. Meanwhile Alexander is a versatile defensive player who clearly has his best days ahead of him. Does pure talent get the edge over experience?

#2: Richard Jackson vs. Mark Buchholz (Kicker)
Now focused exclusively on football, rising senior Mark Buchholz would seem to have the edge over Richard Jackson yet again. However, Tommy Bowden said shortly after the bowl game Jackson made up ground in practice over the last four weeks of the season. One thing is certain, the Tigers must develop more consistency from 45 yards in. Buchholz proved he had the leg in 2007, connecting on the first field goal from 50+ yards in 10 years, but he must be more consistent closer in. Bowden will open the competition here, applying pressure on both kickers throughout spring ball.

#3: Cory Lambert vs. Chris Hairston vs. Landon Walker (Offensive Tackle)
With both of last year's starting tackles now gone, the left and right tackle spot are wide open this spring. Cory Lambert has the advantage in terms of experience, but is he mean enough to lock the position down? Hairston held his own during the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in his first start and could be the starter on the right side next year, but the staff is extremely high on redshirt freshman Landon Walker. The good news is there should be quality talent at both positions this fall. The bad news is there probably won't be a good deal of game day experience.

#4: Stanley Hunter vs. Scotty Cooper vs. Kavell Conner (Outside Linebacker)
Unless he's moved to WILL, Cooper should lock down the starting SAM linebacker spot with no problem. He started the bowl game there and developed a deeper understanding for the position than last year's starter for most of the season Tramaine Billie. The intriguing question here is can Stanley Hunter force his way into the two deep, either at SAM or WILL for significant playing time. Conner figures to be the starter here at the start of spring practice but Hunter is hungry having not played football for nearly a year and a half.

#5: Willy Korn vs. Cullen Harper (Quarterback)
Don't get too excited about this matchup just yet. Harper is still the starter and Korn is still the backup. However, it stands to reason both have something to prove this spring. Harper wants to show his injured shoulder has healed after a disappointing showing in the bowl game and Korn wants to show the staff he deserves consideration for at least some playing time this fall.

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