WHO'S NEW? Third-team signal caller Michael Wade returns to his original position at quarterback after spending the 2007 season at safety. Wade replaces last year's backup Tribble Reese, who has moved on after spending four years in the program. Freshman Kyle Parker, who is also playing baseball for the Tigers after enrolling in January, will participate in spring practice as well. Parker was the nation's No. 13 quarterback according to Scout.com and offers outstanding arm strength and good mobility.
BATTLE TO WATCH: The only true battle this spring will be Harper vs. Korn, but the starting position is clearly Harper's. After proving himself time and time again last fall, the redshirt senior would have to enter a serious slump to relinquish his spot on the first team. It's not out of the question Korn could be used in certain situations in 2008, however. Korn is the better runner and is too talented to keep on the bench for the majority of next season.
BOLD PREDICTIONS: Harper will continue to hold off Korn for the starting spot this spring and into next season. Korn, however, will get an opportunity for playing time with the first team early in the season. Possibly in a relief role or with a scripted series. Harper will end his senior year with numbers close to last season, but as teams focus more on stopping the Tigers' passing game in 2008, he falls just short of his 2007 production.
TEAM IMPACT: Harper's first year as a starting quarterback was off the charts. Entering the season nobody expected him to perform at the high level in which he did and certainly no one expected the Tigers to become a passing team with running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller in the backfield.
But that's exactly what happened.
Near the end of the year, there was actually a debate running amongst media members on who should win ACC Player of the Year honors- Harper or future top draft pick Matt Ryan of Boston College.
Can he duplicate last season in his final year with the Tigers? Possibly, but it won't be easy.
Certainly he'll be helped by the fact his top two receivers return in first-team All ACC performer Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham, not to mention Jacoby Ford.
He'll also be helped by the return of Davis and Spiller in the backfield.
However as teams in the ACC recognize Harper's ability to go through his progressions and hit open receivers downfield, they will be less inclined to stack the box to try and stop Davis and Spiller. With a renewed focus on stopping Harper, it will likely be more difficult for the Tigers to move the ball through the air in 2008.
So what does all of that mean? It means teams will have to pick their poison in trying to stop Clemson's offense in 2008.
It also means the Tigers will have to execute at a high level at all positions to consistently move the chains. If opposing defenses are trying to stop Clemson's ground game by loading up the box, Harper has to be ready to check into a passing play and vice-versa.
The good news is Harper is generally on the same page as the coaching staff when it comes to changing plays at the line of scrimmage.
Harper has also taken on a clearly defined leadership role with this team, being named the 2007 offensive team captain. He was the first underclassman since Louis Soloman in 1994 to claim those honors.
While the outspoken leader James Davis is, Harper will have a bigger say in how successful the Tigers will be in 2008 than any other player on the team.