Dabo Swinney doesn’t have many questions for this spring after Clemson reached the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive year in 2017.
The Tigers return a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and are early favorites to reach the playoff again in 2018.
But there are players that Swinney wants to see step up between now and the spring game on April 14.
“I’m looking for Diondre (Overton) and Tee (Higgins) to take another step,” Swinney said. “I really don’t have any questions about them. I know exactly who they are. I think they’re right on schedule to be great players, but I want to see them take that step.”
The two receivers will have an opportunity for more playing time this year with Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud leaving early for the NFL draft.
Overton, a rising junior, played in all 14 games last season but managed only 14 catches for 178 yards. Higgins, a sophomore, played in 13 games during his freshman season with 17 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He was fourth on the team in receiving yards.
The two players have a similar build with Higgins listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and Overton at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds.
Other players that will battle for playing time at receiver this spring are Trevion Thompson, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, T.J. Chase and early enrollee Derion Kendrick.
Senior Hunter Renfrow is Clemson’s most proven returning receiver.
“Amari, Cornell, the same thing. It’s time for Cornell to kind of take the governor off a little bit and really cut it loose like I know he’s capable of,” Swinney said. “And then Amari, he made great strides last year. I want to see those guys assert themselves a little bit more and assume different roles, but I’m not really concerned. I don’t really have any questions about them; I just want to see them go do it.”
Other positions where Clemson must replace starters include left guard and right guard after Taylor Hearn opted to leave early for the NFL draft and Tyrone Crowder graduated.
John Simpson is expected to slide into Hearn’s left guard position, while Sean Pollard, who split time with Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle last season, will get a shot at right guard.
“I think we’ve got the answers. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to play a lot of guys. We’ve got a lot of guys that are coming back. John Simpson can step in there. We’ll probably start off with Pollard in there at right guard, try to get our best five on the field right out of the gate,” Swinney said. “Is it best to have Pollard in there? Is it best to move Gage (Cervenka) over? Is (Matt) Bockhorst going to beat somebody out? Does Anchrum go? Does Pollard stay? We’ve got a lot of moving parts, but we’ve got the answers. So I’m confident in that. I’m not really concerned. I just want to get the guys in the right spot to give us the best chance.”