The release of Clemson football’s 2014 Summer Depth Chart shows some potentially risky decisions made by head coach, Dabo Swinney. With freshmen listed to start over seasoned athletes, one could believe that Swinney is also using this chart as a tactful approach to gain more determination and drive from some of his older players to match that of the freshmen striving to take their positions. The depth chart also shows Swinney’s confidence in his newest players.
It is clear that Clemson has been recruiting well with the number of backup and starting freshmen and redshirt freshmen listed on the chart. The talented five-star recruit from Florida, Mackensie Alexander, has fully recovered from his groin injury last season and is listed to start over senior Garry Peters at cornerback. Sophomore Cordrea Tankersly also beat out senior Martin Jenkins to start at cornerback alongside Alexander. Redshirt freshman Tyrone Crowder is also competing with senior Reid Webster for the backup position at right guard, under senior starter Kalon Davis. True freshmen Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester, are listed as backup wide receivers to senior Adam Humphries, junior Charone Peake, and sophomore Mike Williams.
One of the most unique and surprising aspects of the 2014 depth chart is the four-way tie for the starting position at strongside linebacker/nickelback. The tie is between junior Travis Blanks, sophomores T.J. Burrell and Korrin Wiggins and redshirt freshman Dorian O’Daniel.
This is not the only position with such ambiguity either. Although senior D.J. Howard is listed to start as running back, there are three talented athletes listed as backups. Juniors Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman may have a chance in competing for the starting position over the continuation of the summer.
There is also a three-way tie for one of the defensive tackle positions between seniors Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams and junior D.J. Reader. Defensive ends will be senior powerhouses Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford with help from Tavaris Barnes and sophomore Shaq Lawson. With such strong athletes in line for these starting positions, Clemson’s 2014 defense seems like it will be a force to be reckoned with.
The quarterback battle is officially over for now as senior Cole Stoudt is listed for the starting position. True freshman Deshaun Watson is listed as a strong backup. Since Chad Kelly was dismissed from the team due to behavior that does not align with Clemson Football standards, junior Nick Schuessler and newcomer David Olson are the only remaining quarterbacks that have been left off the depth chart. Olson graduated from Stanford this year and still had a year of eligibility left. He decided to return home to the state of South Carolina to play for Clemson. However, with the amount of quarterback talent that already exists, it is doubtful that Olson will get to play.
Although it is only the training tool for the summer, the depth chart provides some insight into the coaches’ thoughts on where the team is at now, and allows one to speculate outcomes for the 2014 season. Throwing the less experienced players on the field to start against Georgia in the season opener will be a true test of the players’ ability to perform in a real-game setting. With a defensive line that is fortified by talented veteran players and a team leader that has trained under Tajh Boyd for years, the new starters have plenty of people to guide them through the season.