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NCAA Football Clemson Tigers

Clemson Football: 5 Spring Practice Positional Battles To Watch

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Five Key Positional Battles For the Clemson Tigers

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

I know it’s almost time for March Madness and football is not being played right now, but that doesn't mean we have to ignore football.

My wife and I both graduated from Clemson and are huge fans of the Tigers. We get season tickets some seasons, which is a blast, but we still watch every Clemson football game even if we don’t.

Clemson finished the season ranked eighth in the nation in the final AP poll after an 11-2 season. The Tigers capped out the 2013 season by beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl. Both QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins put up great performances in their last game for Clemson. Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns and Watkins had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

It was incredibly fun to see them both put up monster numbers in their final game as Clemson Tigers. They will be missed at Clemson, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do at the next level. Hopefully they both get drafted by teams I don't despise, as I have been unlucky with that in the past. Going a little ways back, QB Woodrow Dantzler was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, my least favorite team in the NFL. WR Jacoby Ford was drafted by and still plays for the Oakland Raiders. While I loathe the Cowboys most of all, I certainly am not a fan of the Raiders. RB C.J. Spiller went to the Buffalo Bills. While I have nothing personal against the Bills, I am a New England Patriots fan so I cannot and will not root for any of the other teams in the AFC East. That’s not to say all Clemson football players go on to play for teams I hate, but it happens more than it should. I’m hoping Sammy and/or Tajh can buck that trend this year.

With the departures Clemson suffered after the 2013 season ended, there are some holes that need to be filled and that will create some positional battles. Here are five that you should keep an eye on going into the 2014 season.

Justin Patrick is a New England Patriots writer for Follow him on Twitter @calling_allfans, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Defensive Backfield

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland decided to skip his last year of eligibility and enter the 2014 draft. Clemson also lost Darius Robinson, who was a senior in 2013. Who will make plays on defense for the Tigers? Jefferie Gibson, the three-star safety in the 2014 class? What about C.J. Duller? Both of those guys may redshirt though, unless they prove they have to be starters. There are three guys returning at safety who all played significant time for the Tigers in 2013, including Travis Blanks, Robert Smith and Jayron Kearse. Will one of them be a shutdown guy for the Tigers in 2014?

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4. Tight End

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, five different tight ends combined for 45 receptions. In 2014, there will be no leadership from Darrell Smith or his blocking ability. Will the Tigers spread the ball around the tight ends again in 2014, or will one of them step up and become a playmaker? It will be interesting to see what 2014 commits Milan Richard and Cannon Smith bring to the table. Will Jordan Leggett step up and become a starter? What about Sam Cooper? Will he get a chance to show his blocking ability in the backfield? What will Stanton Seckinger bring in 2014 after an inconsistent 2013 season?

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3. Running Back

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson has had some really good RBs in the past, including James Davis and Spiller, but last season they lacked a big back that offensive coordinator Chad Morris would love to have. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has already stated he wants the Tigers to be a more run-oriented next season. With the loss of Roderick McDowell, which running back(s) will step up in 2014? Will it be D.J. Howard, Zac Brooks, C.J. Davidson, Jay Jay McCullough, C.J. Fuller or Wayne Gallman? It won't be Tyshon Dye who recently tore his Achilles tendon. It could end up being a RB-by-committee approach, but all the RBs on the roster will be looking to prove they deserve a bulk of the carries in 2014.

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2. Wide Receiver

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Watkins leaving creates a huge hole that needs to be filled at the WR position. In addition, Martavis Bryant elected to forgo his senior season and will enter the NFL draft this year. Adam Humphries is the top returning receiver for the Tigers and needs to be very reliable in 2014. What about Germone Hopperr? Will he be asked to take on a bigger role in 2014? With the departures, I think he will. Will Charone Peake step up in 2014?

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1. Quarterback

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson fans really enjoyed watch Boyd, but he graduated after the 2013 season and is entering the 2014 NFL draft. Will it be Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly or Deshaun Watson taking over as signal caller? There’s even a chance Nick Schuessler could take over under center, but it will most likely be Stoudt, Kelly or Watson. I personally feel this is Stoudt’s job to lose but Watson is impressive.