10 players to watch in Clemson spring football – The State

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Just seven weeks removed from its loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, the Clemson football team will be back on the field Monday for the start of spring practice. These 10 players are among those worth paying close attention to as the Tigers begin preparations for their 2016 campaign.

1. MIKE WILLIAMS, WR

No Tiger’s return to the field this spring will be more anticipated than that of Williams, who was considered to be one of the best wide receivers in college football going into 2015, but suffered a season-ending neck injury in the team’s season-opener against Wofford. While Williams will be kept away from contact this spring for precautionary reasons, he will be back in pads and practicing for the first time since September.

2. ADAM CHOICE, RB

Named as one of Clemson’s future impact players, Choice practiced with the Tigers this past season but did not play, as he took a redshirt year to recover from a torn ACL. After impressing coaches in 2015 with his work on the scout team, Choice has the talent to make a significant impact as a complement to Wayne Gallman in 2016.

3. DEON CAIN, WR

Cain’s status on Clemson’s roster is perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Tigers entering this spring. Cain is coming off a breakout freshman season in which he demonstrated star potential, but he has to earn his way back into the coaching staff’s good graces – and presumably, back up the depth chart – after being suspended for the College Football Playoff due to a violation of team rules.

4. AUSTIN BRYANT, DE

As Clemson coach Dabo Swinney noted during his National Signing Day press conference, the spotlight will be on the defensive end position this spring, where Clemson is replacing two potential first-round draft picks in Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd. That spotlight will shine especially bright on Bryant, who goes into his sophomore season as the Tigers’ top candidate to emerge as their lead pass-rusher.

5. JAKE FRUHMORGEN, RT

Clemson’s 2016 offensive line will include two new starters, one of which is likely to be Fruhmorgen at right tackle. After seeing occasional playing time as a true freshman, Fruhmorgen will be groomed this spring to take over as a bookend opposite fellow sophomore Mitch Hyatt.

6. MARK FIELDS, CB

While Adrian Baker will enter this spring as the favorite to start opposite Cordrea Tankersley at cornerback, Fields goes into his sophomore season as one of Clemson’s most likely breakout players. A four-star recruit, Fields has the athletic upside to challenge for a major role in the Tigers’ secondary.

7. DEXTER LAWRENCE, DT

The highest-ranked player in Clemson’s 2016 recruiting class, Lawrence is on campus as a midyear enrollee and eligible to participate in spring practices. While the Tigers have more returning experience at defensive tackle than at linebacker, Lawrence will likely prove this spring he is too talented to keep off the field this season.

8./9. RAHSHAUN SMITH AND TRE LAMAR, LB

Smith and Lamar, who were both ranked by Rivals as being among the top 16 recruits in the high school class of 2016, will have an opportunity to immediately compete for playing time this spring as early enrollees. With Ben Boulware being Clemson’s only returning starter at the linebacker position, the door is open for Smith and/or Lamar to earn starting spots.

10. KORRIN WIGGINS, S/LB

Wiggins will likely be limited this spring, if he is able to participate at all, given that he is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in August that forced him to miss the 2015 season. When Wiggins does return, however, he has experience playing both nickel linebacker and safety and could compete for a starting spot at either position.

Spring practice

Clemson tentative spring football practice dates:

February: 29

March: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30

April: 4, 6, 7

Spring game: April 9