What we learned from Clemsons training camp
CLEMSON — The Clemson campus is no longer devoid of activity. Students are back. Classes are in session. And Clemson’s training camp is over as regular football practices begin today.
So what did we learn about the defending ACC champions after 16 summer workouts? Here’s the good and the bad as Clemson prepares for its season opener Sept. 1 against Auburn:
Trouble on the line
After graduating three starters, Clemson’s offensive line figured to be a source of concern. The Tigers tested three different left guards with the first-team offense before settling on David Beasley this week. The injury to Gifford Timothy — who is doubtful for the opener — forced the team to try three different players at right tackle. Clemson has even toyed with the idea of moving its only proven returning starter, center Dalton Freeman, to right tackle. The Tigers entered August with questions along its line and now the questions seem to be more pronounced.
Can Morris work magic?
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris is always seeking to stay on the cutting edge, always searching for “a better mousetrap,” as he says. It’s why he traveled to Nevada in the offseason to learn more about the “pistol” formation, a hybrid shotgun formation that is designed to improve short-yardage running. It’s why he traveled to Oklahoma State, which is on the forefront of offensive innovation with its packaged run-or-pass option plays. The Clemson offensive line is a question mark that threatens to derail an offense laden with talented skill players but Morris just might have enough smoke, mirrors and misdirection to overcome the flaw.
Receivers are ready
Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake are on the brink of becoming game-breaking threats. The two receivers might not earn the volume of snaps to put up all-conference numbers, but their speed and skills could make them major players this season, adding to a wealth of playmakers to give Clemson one of the nation’s best receiving corps.
Depth a concern
Depth will again be an issue as it was in 2011. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Tuesday he has “11 to 15” defenders he feels he can trust. Injured cornerback Martin Jenkins might be headed to a redshirt, ditto for talented linebacker Tony Steward, who is stuck behind a logjam at weak-side linebacker. On offense, Mike Bellamy’s dismissal leaves Andre Ellington as the only real running threat.
Boyd is better
Tajh Boyd seems to be ready to move past his sluggish close to the 2011 season. He is in better shape, has managed the game better in scrimmages and has demanded his teammates be more accountable. With protection, he could improve on his 2011 passing stats.