Football season is still over two months away but it’s on my mind everyday. I recently received an email for the University ticket office that stated my request for Clemson tickets was approved and would be mailed at the end of August. I felt like a six-year-old on Christmas morning upon reading that email. Football has always been my first love even though I have come to enjoy Cardinal softball since I started covering it for CSZ. You should really go to a softball game. It’s a great time and you will be pleasantly surprised with the product on the field.
By now you know the players who are going to be really, really good this season. We are counting on those guys to be as good as advertised but we need some of the other guys that don’t get a lot of attention or are role players to step up and help carry us to the next level. Of course you have heard Lamar Jackson is pretty good and you know about six or seven receivers from last season. You heard that Brown, Fields, Harvey-Clemons and Kelsey all decided to return to Louisville instead of going to the NFL. You know we are stacked at running back and tight end. You also know we lost Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei and James Burgess. The question is who will fill the void of those guys and how much the offensive line has developed since last season.
The official depth chart won’t be released until about mid July but after watching spring practice and having so many returning players, I have a pretty good idea who we will see against Charlotte at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on September 1, 2016 at 7p.m. I will be keeping a close eye on a few players. The first two people I will be watching are James Hearns and Stacy Thomas.
Hearns (6-3, 257) is an edge pass-rushing specialist and will probably be playing outside linebacker although he primarily played defensive end last season. That OLB position could be pretty solid if Traveon Young can recover from his off-season hip surgery.
Thomas (6-1, 236) stepped into the shoes of James Burgess after he was (unfairly) ejected in the first quarter of the 2016 Music City Bowl and led the team with eleven tackles. While Thomas filled in nicely for Burgess in that one game, he will be counted on this season to do it every game. I’m confident he will be just fine.
Another guy that showed glimpses of greatness last season was Drew Bailey. Bailey (6-5,285), played behind Sheldon Rankins last season. Although Bailey is a little taller and lighter than Rankins, it would be tough for him to play at the level of Rankins. If he plays anywhere close to that level, opposing offenses are in big trouble. I also love the fact that he wears jersey #14.
A few of other guys who will get playing time on the defense that I think are key to a solid defense are Dee Smith, Johnny Richardson, G.G. Robinson, Ronald Walker, Zykiesis Cannon and Khane Pass. I am also expecting big contributions from Chucky Williams, Shaq Wiggins and Trumaine Washington.
On this young high-powered offense, the key will be the improvement of the offensive line. The left side of the line with Lukayus McNeil and Geron Christian will be pivotal for protection of Lamar Jackson. Geron has the potential to be an All American in a year or two.
With the development of Lamar’s passing you will see a lot of receivers catch balls. You know Quick, Staples, Smith, Savage, Bagley and Samuel but I feel the guy who has all the potential in the world is DeVante Peete. Peete (6-6,203) is the perfect physical specimen for a receiver but needs to improve on route running. He could end up being the best of the group before he graduates if he puts in the work. If Jaylen Smith makes the typical freshman to sophomore progression he could be your leading receiver. I am also excited to see Dez Fitzpatrick. No matter where Lamar looks, he will have plenty of quality options. It’s going to be a fun year.
After the 4 guys (Fields, Kelsey, Brown and Harvey-Clemons) announced they were returning to school I put together a short highlight video. This was shortly before I started here at CSZ so I don’t think it’s been posted here before. If you have already seen it, please enjoy it again. Thanks for reading Cardinal Sports Zone. We appreciate you. Enjoy…….