Spring practice is an opportunity for the coaches to re-introduce the fundamentals of the game, while also prepping the squad for what they want to accomplish in the fall.
Clemson will begin doing that Wednesday when it kicks off spring drills on the practice fields behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex.
For the players, spring is an opportunity to grow as they prepare themselves and their bodies for the rigors of a new season. Spring practice is also an opportunity to show the coaching staff how much they have improved and for those who have not played as much an opportunity to prove they can be someone they can count on in the new season.
Each year, there are always one or two players who emerge in the spring that become stars in the fall. Who might those players be this year? Here are five players to watch move up Clemson’s depth chart this spring.
Richard Yeargin, DE: The redshirt junior had his best spring of his career last year and positioned himself to challenge Austin Bryant for a starting spot opposite Clelin Ferrell at defensive end. However, he never got his chance to compete in the summer due to a car accident that fractured his neck and ended his season before it even got started. Now Yeargin is back and he will be hungry to prove he can be the same player he was before the injury. He may not start for the Tigers in the fall, but if he performs like he did last spring, he will definitely provide the Clemson defensive front with solid depth on a line that is already considered the best in the country.
Logan Rudolph, DE: The rich keep getting richer, right? The redshirt freshman is also hungry to get back after a shoulder injury in practice prior to Week 3 ended his year prematurely. Because Yeargin’s injury forced Rudolph into action earlier than the coaches wanted him to, it still worked out for all involved. It showed the coaches he could get himself ready when called upon and it showed Rudolph that he can be a contributor on a team that is loaded with talent on the defensive line. Like Yeargin, Rudolph will provide Clemson with solid depth at defensive end this year, something it has not had in recent years.
LeAnthony Williams, CB: Despite not being as polished as some of Clemson’s other cornerbacks like Trayvon Mullen, Mark Fields and A.J. Terrell, Williams came close to playing as a true freshman based solely on raw talent. In fall camp, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney raved about the freshman on continuous bases. The Clemson coaches, despite injuries at the positions all year, waited until the very last minute to redshirt Williams because they knew he needed to get a year wiser and stronger so he could be ready to compete this year. Williams played both the boundary and the field positions in fall camp and did well, even playing with the first-team defense a few times during scrimmages. It was good experience for the 6-foot, 175-pound freshman from Atlanta. With the Tigers having to replace Ryan Carter and Marcus Edmond in the secondary this spring, you can expect to hear Williams’ name again from Swinney.
Matt Bockhorst, OG: With all the excitement surrounding the signing of Jackson Carman in the 2018 class, fans kind of forgot about a guy they already had on campus in offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst. Due to an injury he suffered in his final season of high school, Bockhorst was redshirted last year, but by the end of the year he became one of Clemson’s best scout-team linemen. It also helped that he went up against Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence every day in practice. Bockhorst was one of Clemson’s big signees in 2017 and after redshirting last year, he is one of the favorites to take over at one of the starting guard spots on the offensive line. A guy who plays with a lot of physicality and nastiness that you need on the offensive line, but can also talk a good game as well, don’t be surprised to see the redshirt freshman provided some leadership as well.
Isaiah Simmons, S/ LB / NB: Simmons has already proved what he can do on the field. He is arguably Clemson’s most athletic player on the roster. He can play both safeties positions and could compete at either nickel back and/or the SAM linebacker positions as well. I’m not sure exactly where Simmons will fall in Brent Venables’ scheme, but you can bet Venables will find a way to get him on the field as often as possible. Last year, Simmons recorded 49 tackles in 12 games, though he did not start a single one. He was the third leading tackler in the secondary behind Tanner Muse and Van Smith. He had three tackles for loss, one sack and five passes broken up in 2017.