FIVE POSITION BATTLES
Wide receiver: Sammy Watkins vs. everyone else not named DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins, a freshman, will likely grab one of the starting wide receiver positions, but there should be intense competition for the other two receiving positions. Sammy Watkins might be the best WR prospect to enter Clemson since, well, ever.
Defensive end: The New No. 93 vs. the incumbents
Great expectations come with the jersey No. 93. Gaines Adams wore it. Da’Quan Bowers wore it, and it now belongs to freshman Corey Crawford. Crawford, 6-5, 270 pounds, enrolled early and dominated the spring game. He will push the veterans for playing time.
Left tackle: The former walk-on vs. the underachiever
Phillip Price, a former walk-on tight end, finished spring practice as the first-team left tackle. But the more athletic and highly recruited Brandon Thomas, a redshirt sophomore, was not healthy and is now said to be in great shape. This could be the best battle in camp.
Kicker: Catanzaro vs. the golden leg
Swinney notes sophomore Chandler Catanzaro finished the season strong by making six field goals in seven attempts. But he missed seven of his first 15, costing the Tigers at Auburn, at Florida State and at Boston College. Freshman Ammon Lakip will offer immediate competition.
Middle linebacker: the undersized veteran vs. the prototype
Corico Hawkins started a bowl game as a true freshman. He has impressive determination, but his lack of size is a liability. Freshman Tony Steward is the mold of Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and one of the top linebacking prospects to ever sign with Clemson.
FIVE BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
Bashaud Breeland, cornerback
For the second straight year, Clemson lost a pair of starting cornerbacks. Enter Breeland, a freshman who had an outstanding spring. He is quick and has great anticipation.
Jonathan Meeks, safety
DeAndre McDaniel is gone, but a McDaniel clone exists in Meeks. The sophomore safety looks the part: he can run, he can hit, and he has good size at 6-1, 205.
Tajh Boyd, quarterback
Boyd has taken ownership of the quarterback position. He lost weight, improved his footwork, and has always had arm strength and athleticism. The redshirt sophomore should be ready.
Kalon Davis, guard
This massive 6-5, 325-pound redshirt freshman has made tremendous progress according to line coach Robbie Caldwell. While he is a reserve entering camp, Davis should see playing time early.
Tavaris Barnes, defensive tackle
Clemson needs someone who can rush the passer at defensive tackle and Barnes, a redshirt freshman, has the athleticism and frame to be an interesting prospect.
FIVE PLAYERS ON THE SPOT
Bryce McNeal, wide receiver
McNeal arrived as a four-star receiver two years ago, billed as a player who could stretch defenses. McNeal has shown flashes but has not lived up to expectations. It’s a make or break camp for the redshirt sophomore.
Jaron Brown, wide receiver
Speaking of wide receivers on the spot, for three years Clemson Nation has heard about Brown’s merits but are still waiting for production. The incoming class of receivers puts extreme pressure on Brown and McNeal to perform in camp.
Rod McDowell, running back
In the rear-view mirror, the competition is gaining quickly on redshirt sophomore McDowell. One to watch is freshman Mike Bellamy, who was a 100-meter state champion in Florida.
Kourtnei Brown, defensive end
Defensive end is getting crowded with Corey Crawford’s emergence. Senior Andre Branch and junior Malliciah Goodman are penciled in as the starters. Brown needs a big camp.
Jonathan Willard, linebacker
Speaking of positions getting crowded, LBs Justin Parker and Quandon Christian are just sophomores, while Steward and Stephone Anthony should play early, which leaves Willard fighting for his job.