PRESEASON CAMP: 5 Battles to Watch

CLEMSON - It's easy to fall in love with Clemson's talent at the skill positions with so many experienced players returning in 2008. But there a handful of other players that should be watched even more closely during preseason camp.

#5. DE Kevin Alexander vs. Da'Quan Bowers
It's hard for most fans to look past the arrival of Da'Quan Bowers, arguably the top recruit ever signed by Clemson University on the gridiron. Still, it's important to point out Alexander, who currently sits on the first team ahead of Bowers, is no slouch. Last season he saw action in all 13 games, recording 32 total tackles and a sack playing exclusively in a reserve role. That experience will be critical in lining up against All-American tackle Andre Smith in the season opener against Alabama. Make no mistake about it, Bowers is going to play this season and could be on the field as soon as the first series against the Crimson Tide, but it sure is nice knowing Alexander, an experienced end with good size, is there as well.

#4. OL David Smith vs. Jamarcus Grant
It's only a matter of time until Smith cracks the starting lineup at left guard. Whether it's the first or last practice of preseason camp it's going to happen. As one of the most explosive linemen on the team and possessing outstanding lower-body strength, Smith's play early in the season will be critical in determining if Clemson's offensive line takes a few quarters, or a few games, to grow into its own. Grant is a capable reserve, but played in less than 75 snaps a year ago and is best suited to stay in that capacity. In addition, another battle worth watching on the offensive line is Mason Cloy vs. Barry Humphries at right guard. It's not a question of "if" a redshirt freshman will start against 'Bama, it's a question of a "how many."

#3. S Rashard Hall vs. Spencer Adams
At least one freshman safety is going to play this year and it stands to reason it will likely come from one of these two players. Adams arrives at Clemson as one of the most sought after safeties in the nation and is a world class athlete in track and field. Meanwhile Hall, while not recruited nearly as hard by schools around the country, looks more physically ready to compete. Regardless of who emerges here, the Tigers desperately need to build depth at safety considering virtually no proven experience exists behind Mike Hamlin and Chris Clemons and DeAndre McDaniel's status for the upcoming season remains somewhat of a wild card.

#2. LB Brandon Maye vs. himself
With the loss of Cortney Vincent at the MIKE linebacker position, the Tigers don't have many options outside of Maye entering the start of preseason camp. Junior Jeremy Campbell is the second team MIKE at the present moment but he's better suited to move back outside. That leaves Maye- the one-man wrecking crew who's as intense as they come on the defensive side of the ball. The redshirt freshman had a good spring, showing the ability to diagnose the action early and attack with reckless abandon. The problem is will he be too reckless? As has been documented many times in this space, Maye is an emotional firecracker who sometimes gets carried away, even in practice. While the intensity is good, he'll need to play with controlled emotions once the lights go on in the Georgia Dome.

#1. QB Willy Korn vs. Kyle Parker
Now here's an interesting battle to watch. Both players were highly ranked quarterbacks coming out of high school and both will battling for the starting position next season after Cullen Harper leaves Clemson for the National Football League. Korn obviously has the edge considering his experience with Rob Spence's offense and Parker's focus on baseball during his first spring practice earlier this year. But with Parker concentrating solely on football in the fall, can he make up any ground during preseason camp? Somebody needs to be ready to play just in case Harper were to go down to an injury, and Korn figures to be that player, but still, Parker has the strongest arm of any of Clemson's quarterbacks and can do some damage if given the opportunity.

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