Dabo Swinney has released the Clemson Tigers' post-spring depth chart. Let's take a look at the important areas of this year's two-deep.
Defensive line. Secondary is a close second in this category, as defense will be the Tigers' strength this year, but the d-line gets the nod because it is the team's deepest unit. On the interior, the Tigers return starting tackles Jarvis Jenkins and Brandon Thompson, both of whom are potential all-conference performers. Jenkins is a senior and a potential first-round draft pick in 2011. Thompson, a junior, may be the most underrated player on the Clemson defense. These two will be backed up by seniors Jamie Cumbie and Miguel Chavis and redshirt Junior Rennie Moore, who all saw significant playing time in 2009. Daquan Bowers and Andre Branch will start at defensive end. Bowers was a prized recruit in 2008, but has yet to play at the high level that was expected of him. He has all the tools, however, to be an elite player, and this could be a breakout year for him. Branch was a backup for Ricky Sapp last year and is an aggressive player who will be an emotional leader for this defense. The backups are Kourtnei Brown, an experienced redshirt junior, and Mallaciah Goodman, a talented sophomore that will be a stud within a couple of years.
Wide receivers. Losing Jacoby Ford, Michael Palmer, and C.J. Spiller could deal a huge blow to the Clemson passing game. These three were Clemson's top three pass-catchers in 2009 by a long shot, and nobody is sure who, if anybody, will step up to fill the void. The most reliable receiver may end up being tight end Dwayne Allen, who appears to be a legitimate replacement for Palmer. The wide receiver unit, however, is one big mystery. Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones, and Terrence Ashe all showed flashes of ability last year, but can any of them take it to the next level this year? It's the last chance for Dye and Ashe, who will both be seniors this fall. We hear constantly about the potential of guys like Jaron Brown and Brandon Clear, but we don't know what to expect from them when the season comes around. Clemson fans my be left holding out hope for redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal and true freshmen Martavis Bryant, Deandre Hopkins, and Joe Craig to provide targets for quarterback Kyle Parker.
Deandre McDaniel. McDaniel is a preseason All-American safety who had eight interceptions last year and was the undisputed leader of the secondary. The rising senior flirted with the 2010 NFL Draft, but decided to return to school to improve his draft stock, a move Clemson fans will certainly appreciate. McDaniel reminds me of former Clemson star and current Dallas Cowboy Michael Hamlin. He is a hard hitter who also has a keen understanding of Kevin Steele's coverage scheme. He owns the middle of the field, whether that means dropping a receiver on a crossing route or making an interception (and possibly dislocating Christian Ponder's shoulder).
Kyle Parker. There is no player on Clemson's team that will affect the Tigers' 2010 season more than Parker. The two-sport star made great progress last year in his first as the Tigers' starting quarterback, ultimately leading the school to its first ACC championship game. This spring, Parker is having a phenomenal baseball season, and he could easily leave school and enter the MLB draft. Clemson fans have to hope he will decide otherwise, or else their team will enter the season with little experience at receiver and no experience at quarterback.
Watch out for:
Rashard Hall. Hall, a redshirt sophomore, will start at free safety this season as Marcus Gilchrist moves back to his more natural position at cornerback. Hall is a smart, athletic player who will provide a nice compliment to Deandre McDaniel. He put in numerous snaps at safety last year and tallied six interceptions, second on the team to McDaniel's eight. Other players to watch for: LB Corico Hawkins, CB Byron Maxwell, LT Chris Hairston, RB Andre Ellington.
Will we ever see:
Spencer Adams? One of the most highly touted recruits in recent memory at Clemson is yet to see significant time on the field (aside from special teams). In fact, Adams is undergoing a position change from safety to cornerback. On the current depth chart, he is listed as a third string corner. Not very exciting. We know Adams has track star speed, but the question since day one has been whether he could add enough weight and muscle to play safety at the major college level. Apparently that hasn't happened yet. Maybe the position change will help Adams get on the field.