CLEMSON - Same as last year, Clemson has to make the most of every preseason practice.


Clemson's tentative practice plans Aug. 1-20:

Aug. 1: 6:00-8:30 p.m.

Aug. 2: 5:00-7:30 p.m.

Aug. 3: No practice

Aug. 4: 5:15-8:00 p.m.

Aug. 5: 4:20-7:00 p.m.

Aug. 6: 4:20-7:00 p.m.

Aug. 7: 4:20-6:45 p.m.

Aug. 8: 9:45-11:45 a.m.; 7:15-8:30 p.m.

Aug. 9: 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. (scrimmage)

Aug. 10: No practice

Aug. 11: 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 7:10-9:00 p.m.

Aug: 12: 4:10-7:00 p.m.

Aug. 13: 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 7:05-8:45 p.m.

Aug. 14: Practice TBD

Aug. 15: 9:45-11:30 a.m.

Aug. 16: 10:00 a.m.-noon (scrimmage); 6 p.m. team picture

Aug. 17: Fan Appreciation Day

Aug. 18: 10:20-11:30 a.m.; 6:10-8:00 p.m.

Aug. 19: 2:15-4:15 p.m.

Aug. 20: First day of class, no practice

There are no exhibition games in college football; they all count. Many teams open with one of those "cupcake" opponents from the FCS or mid-major ranks which effectively serve as a warmup round for the real big games down the road.

However, by virtue of its Week 1 jaunt to Athens, Ga., to face Georgia on the first Saturday evening of the 2014 season, Clemson puts its College Football Playoff hopes on the line right away.

Here are the five storylines to follow as Clemson embarks on fall camp starting Friday night:

1. Stoudt's spotlight

We've seen Cole Stoudt do his thing in front of the camera at conference media days, which is remain even-keel with a touch of silliness. We've heard how well he's managed the offense in 7-on-7 drills this summer with no coaches around. Now it's time for Stoudt to take true command of the Tigers, since he's the unquestioned starter - a title unlikely to change unless Deshaun Watson lights the world on fire on Saturdays in September.

2. Steward vs. Boulware

Perhaps the fiercest position battle on the field, weakside linebacker is a critical spot to pick up gobs of tackles next to middleman Stephone Anthony. Spencer Shuey was a sure thing as a senior in 2013, but now it's up to veteran Tony Steward or youngster Ben Boulware to replace Shuey. Steward was listed as the starter coming out of spring, but much more to come before Aug. 30.

3. Staying healthy

Had a random coach been polled as to which 2013 true freshmen would help out most on offense and defense, the consensus answers would have been running back Tyshon Dye and cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Injuries crushed both their seasons, a painful reminder there's a balance between going hard and overdoing it. The Tigers can't afford much attrition at quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive tackle or safety.

4. Running the rock

Speaking of Dye, he's probably out for all of fall camp with an Achilles tear suffered last spring, so the prime candidates to line up behind Stoudt at Georgia are senior D.J. Howard, junior Zac Brooks, junior C.J. Davidson and freshman Wayne Gallman. Certainly a rotation isn't the worst plight, though Clemson might prefer a workhorse, but no matter what, effective rushing and pass protecting is a must.

5. Coachspeak

Dabo Swinney is a relentlessly positive human being. If Swinney's not happy, he'll let the media know about it, which works to call out his players to step up their game in the dog days of August practices. Look for specifically-timed praise or disparagement from Swinney, offensive coordinator Chad Morris and defensive coordinator Brent Venabes to spice up the 20 sessions.