Clemson notes: Cornerbacks audition for starting jobs Saturday

Quarterback Kelly Bryant (right) runs as Ryan Carter defends during Clemson’s spring game last year. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark Crammer)

CLEMSON — There might not be a brighter spotlight Saturday during Clemson’s annual spring game than the one facing the cornerbacks.

Because spring practices largely avoid full contact, it’s easier to evaluate perimeter positions such as corner or wide receiver this time of year. With senior Cordrea Tankersley set to return at boundary cornerback, there are three candidates to replace Mackensie Alexander as field corner.

Those three are Ryan Carter, Marcus Edmond and Mark Fields, moving up the depth chart when Adrian Baker tore his ACL and Kaleb Chalmers was dismissed from the program in the past month. On Saturday, that trio figures to be tested against Clemson’s speedy receivers Artavis Scott, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud during a high-profile audition.

Carter is the oldest and most experienced of the group. The redshirt junior had been working at safety and nickel back before the departures of Baker and Chalmers forced him back to corner.

“I feel like I’ve got to maximize my opportunities,” Carter said. “Those things are unfortunate, but I’ve got to step up for this defense. I’m ready to go.”

Of playing three different positions this spring, the 5-9, 175-pound Carter said: “That’s good for me. I start to know what people are doing around me. Learning strong safety, I can see what he’s doing when I’m at corner. Being at multiple positions makes me more comfortable with the whole scheme of the defense.”

Clemson’s recruiting class of 2014 was ranked No. 13 nationally by Rivals.com, and two years later an interesting trend has emerged.

Only two of those 22 signees are entering their third season as Clemson players, and they are arguably the team’s two best players: quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Artavis Scott.

Among the other 20: 12 redshirted, three grayshirted and five are gone from the program (receivers Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester, tailback Jae’lon Oglesby, linebacker Korie Rogers and safety Jefferie Gibson.)

Key players who sat out 2014 and are entering their redshirt sophomore seasons include middle linebacker Kendall Joseph, defensive end Richard Yeargin, left guard Taylor Hearn and wide receiver Trevion Thompson. Running back Adam Choice was the team’s leading rusher in mid-October 2014 before tearing his ACL, and took a medical redshirt in 2015.

Tight end Jordan Leggett, a Mackey Award finalist in 2015, left Monday’s practice early due to illness. After going through a stomach bug, Leggett returned to Wednesday’s practice.

“The last two days weren’t my friend,” Leggett said Wednesday. “But I got over it. It was a 24-hour type thing.”