CLEMSON – Clemson football begins preseason training on Friday and the focus will be on a few intriguing areas. Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have decisions to make for significant playing time as center linebacker, offensive guard and defensive tackle.
Here are Clemson’s most intriguing positional battles:
For the first time in what might seem like forever, Clemson won’t have James Skalski jumping up in midfield and shouting instructions and tackling people.
Skalski played six years for the Tigers and was just hanging out a few weeks ago, prompting Swinney to say, “Are you still here?”
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At linebacker, Clemson is strong three straight and three in the middle.
With Trenton Simpson and Barrett Carter on either side, it’s a contest between third-year juniors Keith Maguire and LaVonta Bentley as well as second Jeremiah Trotter Jr., whose talent is compared to his father, a four-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker. Jeremiah Trotter.
Having another coach on the pitch like Skalski could be as important as talent.
Marcus Tate admitted he was overwhelmed as a rookie in last season’s opener against eventual national champion Georgia and no one can blame him.
It’s been a tough learning experience all year, but he enters this season as Clemson’s top inside lineman with the most job security. Across center Will Putnam are co-starters in junior Mitchell Mayes and sophomore Bryn Tucker. They will take turns with the first-team offense and it could be that way in the season opener on September 5 against Georgia Tech as well.
After:Despite his new position, Will Putnam is considered among the best in the country
On the Clemson offensive line, saves and even saves to saves look closer to being starters than at other positions. Tigers train to better plug holes, which tend to crop up regularly. Redshirt freshman Dietrick Pennington and redshirt sophomores Trent Howard and John Williams have plenty of opportunities.
The entries are indisputable.
Sophomore Bryan Bresee and senior Tyler Davis give Clemson perhaps the best duo in the country. They are the best prospects in the NFL. Bresee, who only played four games last season due to a knee injury, is considered a first-round player.
Sophomore Payton Page could have as much upside as anyone else for Clemson at defensive tackle and he’s serious, dropping from 380lbs to 335lbs. and Tre Williams. Orhorhoro, who replaced Bresee last year, led the team in tackles for loss.
Who comes out of this pack?
Todd Shanesy covers Clemson athletics for the USA TODAY Network.