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Clemson Tigers' Spring Game 2012
Orange 23 White 20
The Tigers went to double overtime in their annual spring game, ending when Catanzaro nailed a 45 yard field goal in the second overtime lifting the orange team to a 23-20 victory over the white. Nuke Hopkins had 7 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown to lead the white team. Hopkins added 20 lbs of muscle in the offseason to improve his conditioning and his ability after the catch. This was Hopkins first full offseason with the football team because he also played basketball for the Tigers and was unavailable for the offseason football program. The extra time and effort showed on Saturday as he appeared more motivated, stronger, and faster than last season and that spells trouble for opposing defenses trying to cover him and Sammy Watkins this fall. Watkins finished with 6 catches for 66 yards. Sophomore Charone Peake who was rated by some scouts as a 5 star recruit out of high school looked good and had 75 yards receiving. Martavis Bryant showed flashes of the great talent he possesses and made a beautiful leaping grab in the endzone for a TD.
QB Tajh Boyd was 20 of 26 for 229 yards and a touchdown, but made a couple of costly mistakes resulting in interceptions. Cole Stoudt remained at the #2 QB spot by default not being able to distance himself from Morgan Roberts, the 2 players appear even with the only advantage Stoudt has is that he was #2 last year and has game experience. Stoudt completed 14 of 23 passes for 99 yards with one TD and one interception, while Morgan completed 14 of 24 with one TD and one interception.
RB Mike Bellamy had 55 yards rushing for the orange but fumbled once, leading to a field goal for the white team.
Jonathan Meeks intercepted 2 passes and returned one 49 yards to the 1 yard line setting up McDowell's 1 yard touchdown run to tie the game at 20 in the third quarter. Safety Robert Smith led the white team with 10 tackles and LB Spencer Shuey led the orange squad with 8.
All in all the Clemson offense looks great. Their receiving corps is arguably the best in the country from top to bottom. We all know what Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins can do we've seen them do it. According to Dabo Swinney the backup receivers have closed the gap considerably on the starters. Charone Peake is a gifted athlete in his second year in the Clemson offense. At 6' 3" 205 he can be physical and go up and get the ball over smaller DBs and he showed flashes of the talent that had some scouts rating him as a 5 star recruit out of Dorman High School in South Carolina with 75 yards receiving in the spring game. Martavis Bryant is a gifted speedy athlete with soft hands and he showed he is learning to use his 6' 5" 205 lb frame to go up and get the ball in traffic and he is the second fastest player on the team behind Sammy Watkins. Adam Humphries is a gifted athlete and playmaker in the mold of a Wes Welker in my opinion and he will contribute heavily in the slot this season. Look for Boyd to break some more records this season and he has more than enough weapons to carry the Tigers to another Orange Bowl this year.
The RB situation for this season will be ok with Ellington being healthy and ready to go by the start of the fall offseason program. There are a couple of dependable backups in McDowell and Howard but Bellamy has shown a penchant for putting the ball on the ground and he continues to struggle with pass protection.
TE Brandon Ford is a converted WR and at 6' 4" 240 pounds he has the speed to beat linebackers down the seam and the size to go up and get the ball in traffic. If a team somehow figures out how to cover all the WRs look for Ford to have a few big days underneath or up the seam.
This all depends on the offensive line this season which will feature 4 new starters along with center Dalton Freeman. Converted defensive tackle Tyler Shatley 6' 3" 295 has been great in his transition to guard and is projected to start at RG. Center Dalton Freeman 6' 5" 285 is a potential all conference selection. Gifford Timothy 6' 6" 315 is projected to start at RT and has looked good this spring. Brandon Thomas 6' 4 " 280 was projected to move inside to guard but with youngster Isaiah Battle not quite ready, the responsibility for protecting Boyd's blind side will fall to Thomas and this spring he appears ready for the challenge and will start at LT. Kalon Davis 6' 5" 335 has emerged as the leader for the LG spot. It was hard to gauge them as a unit in the spring game as they were split among the two squads but all indications are they will be more than adequate in the fall.
The defense looks to improve on the horrible tackling displayed last season. DC Brent Venables appears to be focused on improving the technique and aggressiveness of the defense.
DB Robert Smith showed good tackling skills in racking up 10 tackles from his safety spot in the spring game. Safety Jonathan Meeks intercepted 2 passes and returned one 49 yards. He shows a good nose for the football but needs to improve a bit on his tackling. The Tigers have a lot of youth and inexperience in the secondary but the competition is close and things will fall out before the season starts to see who gets the starting nod, but the Tigers are young, fast and talented at this position.
LB Spencer Shuey 6' 3" 250 has a nose for the football and showed good instincts in pass defense. Rising sophomore LBs Tony Steward 6' 1" 245 and Stephone Anthony 6' 3" 235 were both highly rated prospects out of high school and need to be ready to perform and lead this young defense. Lateek Townsend 6' 2' 215, Justin Parker 6' 1" 225, Corico Hawkins 5' 11" 230 and Quandon Christian 6' 2" 220 will provibe quality depth at LB. I expect the LBs to be the strength of the Tiger defense this fall.
The defensive line will try and replace Brandon Thompson's run stopping presence in the middle with a couple of young defensive tackles in DeShawn Williams 6'1 290 and Tra Thomas 6' 0" 290 both are strong and athletic and have good explosion off the ball. Grady Jarrett 6' 0" 290 has looked good in spring practice and will receive playing time along the defensive front. Malicah Goodman 6' 4 " 280 and Corey Crawford 6' 5" 280 will man the DE positions. I look for Crawford to have a breakout year filling the shoes of potential NFL first round pick Andre Branch.
The special teams look to improve their tackling as well but its hard to gauge where the kickoff and returns teams are at this time of year. Sammy Watkins will be deep to receive a few punts this season and should make for some exciting moments for Tiger fans and headaches for opposing coaches. It appears Catanzaro will continue to handle the place kicking duties for the Tigers. Freshman punter Bradley Pinion averaged 56 yards per punt in high school and will be a weapon for the Tigers this fall.
The Tigers appear to have the talent in place to make another run at the ACC Championship and a BCS birth, but don't expect it to end with a beat down like it did last season. The whole team has practiced with a chip on their shoulder and a bad taste in their mouths all spring, let's just hope it carries over into the fall.