On the beat: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney looking forward to backup QB competition, improved secondary this spring


CLEMSON – One of the more intriguing spring camp position battles Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will be watching is the backup quarterback competition between incumbent No. 2 quarterback Cole Stoudt and redshirt freshman Chad Kelly, who was a highly-touted prospect, recruited and hand-picked by offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Not only will the eventual winner play an important role in having to lead a likely preseason top 10 team in the event quarterback Tajh Boyd is injured in 2013, but the winner of the competition could also have a leg up on the 2014 starting role after Boyd graduates.

Swinney spoke with reporters on Tuesday to preview spring practice, which begins next Wednesday.

“Cole is clearly our No. 2 guy but I think it’s going to be a heckuva battle,” Swinney said. “(Kelly) is a guy that turned some heads in fall camp. It’s going to be a fun competition.”


Secondary measures:

Perhaps no Clemson positional group should be more improve than the Tigers’ secondary in 2013.

Swinney is excited to have cornerbacks Martin Jenkins, Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland healthy for the start of spring practice.

Jenkins was Clemson’s most effective cornerback in 2011, allowing the team’s fewest opponent yards per pass attempt when targeted, but he missed the entire 2012 season with a sports hernia.

Clemson was without both starting corners – Robinson and Breeland – late in the 2012 season. Robinson, missed the second half of the season with a broken leg and Breeland missed the South Carolina game and Chick-fil-A Bowl due to a groin injury.

“We have a chance to be a pretty good secondary,” Swinney said.

Clemson also heavily targeted the secondary in its 2013 recruiting class, signing eight defensive backs, including 5-star corner Mackenzie Alexander. Those prospects will not arrive until summer camp.

Corner Garry Peters will not participate in the first several spring practices as a disciplinary measure.


Bounce-back campaign?:

Swinney is encouraged by what he’s seen this offseason from receiver Sammy Watkins, who did not play up to his freshman All-American standard as a sophomore due to injury and suspension.

“I’m really pleased with Sammy,” Swinney said. “He’s fine injury-wise, going through all the drills. His focus is outstanding. He has really grown.”


Extra points:

Swinney said he has no concerns about the running back group despite not signing an elite prospect and graduating senior Andre Ellington. “We had no problem handing that ball to Rod McDowell (in the Chick-fil-A Bowl),” Swinney said …. Swinney said Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones was a “pain in the rear” for the offense in practice last fall and looks forward to seeing him be a part of the linebacker rotation. Swinney said the linebacker group has “an incredible core.”

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