5 things to watch this spring -offense

CLEMSON - The start of spring practice is just over two weeks away. With that in mind, here's a look at five things to watch on the offensive side of the ball.


Make no mistake about, this spring will be Tajh Boyd's time to shine. (Roy Philpott)
As if it would be anybody or anything else? Most people know by now Kyle Parker will focus on baseball this spring, leaving Boyd to take the majority of the snaps this spring.

Boyd was praised last season by coaches on both the offense and defense for his performance on the scout team offense. Unlike other redshirts, Boyd travelled with the team on all away games, allowing him to experience what went into pre-game preparations for all 14 games last season.

This June, Parker will be eligible to be drafted to play professional baseball. Even if Parker is drafted and signs a professional contract, he could still play football at Clemson in the fall. But, if Parker does opt to play only professional baseball, Boyd's experience since he arrived to Clemson last spring could pay huge dividends this fall.

It was last year's spring practice that allowed Parker to nose out ahead of Willy Korn in the race for last season's starting quarterback job.

Let's be honest, only one wide receiver was a consistent target last season, and he's gone. Keep in mind, that player, Jacoby Ford, had more catches than all the other receivers combined.

Xavier Dye and Marquan Jones both went through stretches of solid play, but were largely inconsistent. Both are back along with former walk-on Terrance Ashe, Jaron Brown, Brandon Clear and Brandon Ford. Bryce McNeal will be watched closely after redshirting last season.

Dye could be regarded as the leader of the group, even though he briefly quit the team last season. Jones and McNeal will be counted on to fill in at Ford's position. Ashe, a walk-on, is considered the best blocker of the group.

Regardless of who is considered the front-runner to start, someone has to emerge from this group as a dynamic playmaker this spring.

Simply put, Clemson's offense can't afford anything less.


Clemson's offensive line should return to full-strength this fall once Mason Cloy returns from a broken leg. (Roy Philpott)
Mason Cloy continues to nurse a broken fibula back to full strength, but will not be able to do much of anything during the spring. Slated to take over Thomas Austin's position, Cloy's leg was broken while blocking on a goal line touchdown run in the ACC Championship.

After a redshirt freshman year, Brandon Thomas has been moved from tackle to left guard, though he could cross-train at tackle. He'll compete with Wilson Norris and Matt Sanders for a spot on the two-deep depth chart behind Cloy.

Early enrolled freshman Kalon Davis will get reps too, trying to make a case to keep a redshirt off his back.

The good news is the Tigers appear to have plenty of options on the offensive line 2010 as nearly every key contributor from last year's two-deep is back.

WRITER'S NOTE: Brandon Thomas will be playing left tackle this spring. He was moved to left guard during the fall, though he was at tackle during some of the fall. He's currently listed as the second left tackle on the spring depth chart.

Clemson's third tackle, David Smith, is back with returning starters Chris Hairston and Landon Walker.

Before last season, Phillip Price was moved from tight end to tackle. His name and toughness were mentioned on occasion by coach Dabo Swinney during bowl practice.

Tyler Fowler, who originally signed with UAB in 2008 before arriving to Clemson in 2009, could contend with Price as the fourth tackle.


Andre Ellington (pictured above) and Jamie Harper give Clemson's backfield a new version of Thunder and Lightning in 2010. (Roy Philpott)
Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper return after quality efforts in backing up C.J. Spiller last season. This spring, the two will split carries with the first-team offense to form a thunder and lightning version 2.0.

Ellington was more productive, rushing for 491 yards on just 68 carries. Harper carried 80 times for 418 yards. Each scored four touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Roderick McDowell will also see reps as the third-team running back.

Who emerges as the starter? Will we see the same Jamie Harper we saw in the Music City Bowl, who was both powerful and lightning fast throughout spring and the coming season? Can McDowell, who has been praised by Dabo Swinney throughout his first year in the program, see considerable snaps?

These are all questions which will begin to be answered this spring.

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