Clemson University

Clemson spring practice observations

Sure I’ll have plenty of time to expand on so many of these topics later, but thought I’d pass along a few observations from Tuesday night’s spring football practice, which was open to the public.

It goes against my writing nature, but am going to try to make these quick so I can get at least 5 hours of sleep before heading out the door for the ACC tournament Wednesday morning (pulling the Kyle Parker schedule here):

Naturally, all eyes were on the Parker vs. Willy Korn competition at quarterback.

This might be premature, but methinks this battle will go down to the wire.

Contrary to what he said Monday night, Korn appears to have drastically changed his throwing mechanics. New OC Billy Napier seems to have overhauled it completely, and the result has Korn throwing the ball almost like a pitcher with a three-quarter arm slot – ball’s extended out from his right shoulder, and its and extended delivery.

Not sure Korn looks too comfortable doing it right now, but I’d imagine that’s to be expected.

On the other hand, the spiral on his passes is much tighter, and he’s getting sufficient velocity on the ball. And, true to Korn’s figurative form, he looked a lot better throwing the ball when the team got into live drills as opposed to drills without a defense. He made a couple of nice throws on deeper corner routes and reads over the deep middle.

Meanwhile, the hype behind Parker’s arm is legit. That ball hums. And his motion is so quick and effortless – he’s just a natural passer.

That said, we have yet to see how effective Parker can be using that arm – as in, seeing how he handles touch passes, reads defenses or handles a pass-rush and getting moved out of his comfort zone.

Stay tuned.

Not exactly the hands team. In my “Five Questions” story for last Sunday, I wondered whether it will even matter whom Clemson’s QB will be, given the massive void left at receiver by Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham’s graduations.

This practice just validated the suspicion.

Granted, the unit’s only proven guy, Jacoby Ford, is out this week because of track. But it’s not as if Ford was regarded as a superlative route-runner in the first place.

Current 1st-teamer and Kelly’s heir apparent, Xavier Dye, continues to have stretches where he’s plagued by drops. I’ve thought 2009 will be a breakthrough year for Marquan Jones, but Jones had the same issues as well.

It does appear former walk-on Terrance Ashe will indeed factor heavily into the rotation, if for no other reason than necessity.

Expectations are high for redshirt freshman Jaron Brown, probably too high if folks are expecting an instant impact. He is still very raw, but he made the best catch I saw all night, leaping high above backup corner Coty Sensabaugh to snag a 20- to 25-yard Korn throw down the left sideline.

Dre Day. No matter how many positive reviews I’d heard about redshirt freshman running back Andre Ellington, I considered it typical hyperbole when coaches suggested Ellington deserves to be the next “Lightning” when C.J. Spiller departs.

I was wrong.

Who knows how so many other variables could play out as his career progresses. But I wasn’t the only one who witnessed Ellington’s speed or slick change of direction against Clemson’s first-team defenders and thought he’s a star in the making. He just glides.

Other personnel notes:

I’d written off Richard Jackson being a legitimate contender for any of the kicking jobs by now. But on this day, his punting was outstanding and superior to that of projected starter Dawson Zimmerman.

Who the Tigers are going to use at the safety spot opposite DeAndre McDaniel is anyone’s guess. Veteran journeyman Sadat Chambers seems clearly to be the default option. Walk-on Kantrell Brown got as much run as redshirt freshmen Rashard Hall and Carlton Lewis (who is McDaniel’s backup).

Redshirt freshman Dalton Freeman seems to be the guy coaches want as the No. 2 center.

One guy who caught everything was walk-on tight end Phillip Price, a 6-5 sophomore from Dillon. It wouldn’t stun me if he winds up with more playing time next year than a number of the scholarship players at that position.

That’s all for now. Time to switch gears back to basketball.