Linebackers, wide receivers hold key to Clemson's success
While Clemson's offense and defense both have plenty of starters returning, each has one unit that is far from a sure thing.
For the defense, it's the linebackers. The mantra for this group is "talented, but inexperienced." These guys will have two games to get that experience before being thrown into the fire at Auburn, where they will face what should be one of the better offenses in the country.
Sophomore Corico Hawkins has earned the starting job at middle linebacker and will have to captain the defense despite his limited playing time last season. Even less experienced is redshirt freshman Quandon Christian, whose impressive spring and fall practices landed him as the starter on the strong side.
Brandon Maye is a returning starter, but he will be playing a different position after moving from middle linebacker to the weakside spot. By the way, he will be splitting time with Jonathan Willard, a redshirt sophomore with about as much playing time under his belt as Hawkins.
The wide receiver position is an even bigger question mark for the Tigers. Xavier Dye is the leading returning pass catcher with a whopping 14 receptions a year ago. Terrence Ashe is solid, but nothing special. Marquan Jones is the third starter, and he disappeared after catching a touchdown in the first game last season.
Jones, however, is the only one to actually secure a starting spot. Dye has been named as a co-starter with junior Brandon Clear, and Ashe is in a similar situation with sophomore Jaron Brown. Redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal and freshman Deandre Hopkins will likely get a chance to contribute as well.
We continue to be reassured of the potential that all these receivers have.
"Potential" is a funny word. It's a word that is used far too much by people in and around the Clemson program to describe its players. In my opinion, it's a nice way of saying you haven't done anything. Clemson fans don't want to hear about the potential of their linebackers and wide receivers, they want to see production on the field.
And they had better start showing signs of life in the first two games, because if they are still struggling when the trip to Auburn rolls around, it could be a long game...and a long season.