Clemson University

5 story lines to watch during Clemson bowl practice

Five storylines to consider as Clemson starts preparation for Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

1. Linebacker controversy?

After allowing nearly 600 combined rushing yards against South Carolina and Georgia, Swinney said defensive personnel changes might be in order during bowl preparation. While he did not address individual players, the linebacker group seems to be most suspect.

The staff needs to get a further look at freshman linebacker Corico Hawkins who entered as a decorated recruit but has recorded only 13 tackles. Outside linebacker Tig Willard is a big hitter and figures to be in the mix along with freshman Quandon Christian.

2. Visiting the Tajh

You won't be seeing freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd, a game away from redshirt status, playing in any circumstance in Nashville. But what the 10 bowl practices might allow is for Boyd to take some more snaps with the regular offense. It is important for Clemson coaches to scout Boyd thoroughly and create a plan to appease both Kyle Parker and Boyd, because this is the worst-case scenario: a frustrated Boyd transfers next December, and in the summer 2011 a Major League team throws a seven-figure signing bonus at Parker.

3. Star search

Not to ruin your day, but remember the Music City Bowl is the last time Clemson will have the services of C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer. While Andre Ellington, Jamie Harper and Roderick McDowell might ease the loss of Spiller the runner, and Dwayne Allen could become an excellent tight end, what of the wide receiving corps? The Tigers need a player or two to emerge from this group.

4. Staff continuity

It seems Swinney wants to keep at least the majority of his staff together, saying this season he knows he has hired the right coaches. A source said a priority is redoing Kevin Steele's contract - especially with new television money floating around the SEC. Billy Napier also has likely become more valuable, holding down the offensive coordinator duties in addition to his recruiting abilities.

5. The kicker

Richard Jackson has proven to be serviceable, but has only one year of eligibility remaining. Spencer Benton has a big leg and three years of eligibility, but needs to display consistency to allay concern.

- Travis Sawchik, The (Charleston) Post and Courier