Get excited for the spring game, and watch these three positons in particular throughout the afternoon!
Quarterbacks: Clemson has four quarterbacks who can play, but the question is who is the best out of the four. Each quarterback will need to show the ability to lead the offense, pass effectively, and make plays with his legs – but each quarterback will need to impress in a specific area.
The quarterbacks will be ‘live’, meaning that they can be tackled and can run. While this will help all of the quarterbacks, this should benefit Kelly Bryant the most.
Kelly Bryant will be given every chance to win the starting job, and a great spring game could set him head and shoulders above the rest. He has the only meaningful game experience out of the four contenders and will be a junior next year. What he needs to prove is that he can pass the ball better than he has in the past two years and force the defense to not put eight men in the box. It is also important to note that he has a tweaked hamstring, but Coach Elliott said that he should be fully healthy for the game.
Tucker Israel is a month older than Kelly Bryant, but is a redshirt sophomore due to a foot injury in 2015. Israel has not seen much game action, but he was hailed as a passer out of high school and he broke many of Tim Tebow’s high school records in the state of Florida. He is a dark horse to win the job, but he is smaller than the rest of the quarterbacks and he has not been discussed much by the coaches. He needs to prove that he has the physical ability to play effectively; and he needs to show what he can do in a game environment.
Zerrick Cooper (redshirt freshman) is the other fan favorite to win the starting job, and he has a strong arm. Since he redshirted and was not an early enrollee, no one outside of the program has seen how he has developed since he came to Clemson. He will need to prove that his redshirt year has benefited him and that he can push for the job.
Hunter Johnson is a five-star early enrollee from the class of 2017, and the coaches have spoken positively of him so far, at times grouping him with Cooper and Bryant. Chances of a true freshman winning the starting job is slim but if the stars align and he rises to the challenge, it can happen. He needs to prove that he is not overwhelmed by the transition into college football and that he can hold his own.
Punters: This is each punters’ best chance to impress the coaches before fall camp in a game environment. Will Spiers appears to be the front runner, but Carson King and Michael Batson are certainly in the competition also. Punting is an underrated aspect of football that can win and lose games, and the Tigers need a great punter. Pay attention to distance, hang time (how long the ball is in the air) and where they place the ball.
Tight Ends: Milan Richard has been tabbed by Tony Elliott as the leader of this position battle heading out of spring practice, but there many other tight ends that can either push him for the job or back him up. Garrett Williams was his strongest competition (and was Leggett’s backup for most of last year), but he is hurt and could potentially miss time. Cannon Smith, JC Chalk, former receiver Shadell Bell, and DJ Greenlee are all in a group that is vying to make themselves stand out. Pay attention to the tight ends in both run blocking and the passing game, because Clemson’s offense is more effective with strong tight end play.
Young Players: The Tigers are a young team with numerous potential stars, so it is impossible to list all of the potential players that could impress on Saturday. If a young player has an excellent spring game (bonus points for competing with the ones or being a freshman or redshirt freshman), then he could have the talent to immediately contribute for next year.
The above positions are not the only question marks with the 2017 Clemson Tigers: there are position battles at center, linebacker, defensive back, and wide receiver also. This is simply some food for thought that will make you think throughout the game and see if there are any clues what the upcoming season holds – especially at quarterback.
I will be at the Spring Game watching live with postgame observations. Enjoy the game atmosphere (or your screen), and enjoy watching the stars of tomorrow play!