Officially, spring is not yet here. That will come upon us in the next few weeks. But for the Clemson football team, the seasons have changed. It is time to put the pads on and get to work building a championship team in 2018.
Despite a having a roster that is the envy of most every program in the country, Clemson still has some questions that need to be answered before its Sept. 1 opener. Dabo Swinney and his staff will be looking for some less experienced players to develop this spring and they also hope that a few key contributors can make an even bigger impact when the real season begins.
Here are five players Clemson fans will be watching this spring.
Kelly Bryant, QB
Bryant enters spring as the starter and barring injury will enter fall camp atop the depth chart as well. When the Tigers open up against FCS opponent Furman on the first day of September, odds are that Bryant will take the first snap. But he has two highly publicized quarterback recruits fighting for time behind him. The Clemson staff would love for Trevor Lawrence and Hunter Johnson to play well this spring, but for Bryant to light it up and eliminate any thought of a quarterback controversy.
Tee Higgins, WR
The five-star recruit out of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, saw some action in 2017, but with Ray-Ray McCloud, Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow on the roster, significant playing time was hard to find for the young receiver. With McCloud and Cain now off to the NFL, Higgins will get his chance as a sophomore and has the potential to develop into a No. 1 receiver. Amari Rodgers and Derion Kendrick are also talented prospects that will be competing this spring, but neither has the stature of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Higgins.
Isaiah Simmons, S
With 49 tackles on just 258 snaps played, Simmons was in on nearly 19 percent of the plays in which he was on the field. For defenders that participated in more than 200 snaps, that led the team. With great size (6-3, 225) and a ton of athleticism, the Olathe, Kansas, product could play any number of positions for the Tigers in 2018. Van Smith is gone from the free safety spot and Simmons could get a look there. But at his size, he also may be moved closer to the line of scrimmage. It will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Brent Venables has in mind for Simmons.
John Simpson, OG
The expectation is that Simpson will slide right into the left guard spot that was left vacant when Taylor Hearn declared for the NFL draft. With Mitch Hyatt and Sean Pollard sure things at tackle and stalwart Justin Falcinelli at center, Simpson taking hold of that slot over the next few weeks would solidify an already reliable front and make right guard the only question mark heading into the fall.
A.J. Terrell, CB
Terrell will play, but the question is, how will he be used? He could be a starter at cornerback opposite Trayvon Mullen. However, senior Mark Fields is more adept at covering on the outside, so the versatile Terrell may go against slot receivers as a nickel back. Wherever he is placed this spring, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has to prove that he will be a dependable option in an expanded role.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.