PRESEASON: Top 5 Players to watch

CLEMSON - With the start of preseason camp just over 36 hours away, CUTigers takes a look at five players to watch over the course of the next month.

#5: WR Bryce McNeal
With the losses of Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham, two mainstays at wide receiver for the Clemson offense the last four seasons, somebody new has to step up and become an impact player. Who it is remains to be seen but chances are either McNeal, Jaron Brown or Brandon Ford will have best opportunity to make a move on the depth chart before Sept. 5.

This talented freshman reported to Clemson more than two months ago at 165 pounds, but has already gained seven pounds in an effort to bulk up before the start of preseason camp.

A precise route runner with excellent hands, McNeal was viewed of as one of the top wide receivers on Clemson's 2009 recruiting board by the coaching staff and ranked No. 40 overall in the country by Scout.com.

Now all he has to prove himself against a group of players who are largely unproven in their own right.

#4: OL Landon Walker
After taking over at right tackle halfway through last year, Walker began to play less mechanical and more instinctive, however he's yet to truly prove his consistency as a full time starter. With new offensive tackles coach Danny Pearman in the mix, this redshirt sophomore has more to prove than ever before and it starts Tuesday afternoon with the first practice of preseason camp.

Walker is an important link on a line that is expected to be much-improved this year, but the consistency has to be there if Clemson's offense is to improve on the horrid number of sacks it gave up last season.

He'll also be pushed by freshman J.K. Jay, who emerged during spring practice as a legitimate option at right tackle, even though he's just a true freshman.


Will Kevin Alexander be a defensive end or a linebacker this fall? Don't be surprised if it's a little bit of both.
#3: DE Kevin Alexander
The interesting thing about preseason camp this year is that all previous preconceived notions about every player on the team have essentially been thrown out the window with the new coaching staff. That means position changes could be in order - and yes, that includes current defensive end Kevin Alexander, who could be moved to any one of three different linebacking spots.

The idea was first mentioned by defensive coordinator Kevin Steele when talking to reporters shortly after the conclusion of spring practice, even though fans have talked about it consistently for the last two years.

The 6-3, 255 pound senior end is initially penciled in to compete with Ricky Sapp as the starting bandit end, but if Sapp is healthy enough, there could be additional playing time for Alexander at linebacker. Stay tuned.

#2: CB/S Marcus Gilchrist
Like Alexander, Gilchrist could play two positions this coming season, but he's in a better position, perhaps, to make a full-time switch to free safety considering Clemson's current depth at cornerback. The Tigers are blessed with two of the top returning corners in the ACC this season in Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor, but have to replace a pair of three-year starters at safety in Mike Hamlin and Chris Clemons, who are both in the NFL.

Gilchrist could easily fit the bill as a safety given his tenacity and fearlessness with his body and also with his excellent cover skills. In addition, he brings more natural talent to the table at free safety than current starter Sadat Chambers.


The spotlight remains on Willy Korn as he attempts to become Clemson's starting quarterback starting Tuesday with the first practice of preseason camp.
Lastly, Gilchrist is worth watching as a returner as well- provided he gets the opportunity behind C.J. Spiller.

#1: QB Willy Korn
As if it could have been any one else? Simply put, if Willy Korn is going to be the starting quarterback at Clemson, now is the time to prove it.

He's full recovered from shoulder surgery. His mechanics have significantly improved since spring practice and his confidence is getting back to what it was when he was leading the Byrnes Rebels to all those championships earlier this decade.

But the question remains: can he overtake Kyle Parker as the starter?

Parker demonstrated throughout spring practice he has the kind of arm strength that would make Nolan Ryan do a double-take and also showed good accuracy, so Korn still has plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Keep in mind regardless of what happens during preseason camp, both quarterbacks will play against Middle Tennessee ... and it may come down to who establishes themselves not only in that game, but throughout the other three contents in the month of September before a true No. 1 signal caller emerges.

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