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Departure of Forcier leaves a three-horse QB race

The Sports Xchange

Youth is being served during Clemson's spring practices, which conclude with the spring game on April 14, and nowhere is that youth movement more evident than along both the offensive and defensive fronts.

The Tigers lost three of their top four defensive linemen and five of their top seven offensive linemen.

"We've got to bring these young guys along," coach Dabo Swinney said. "At the end of spring ball we have got to be able to go in there and look at our personnel board and really feel like (defensive) guys such as Tavaris Barnes, DeShawn Williams, Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson are better football players because of these 15 days of spring practice. It's the same thing on the other side with guys like Kalon Davis, Giff Timothy, Joe Gore and Shaq Anthony."

The good news is that Swinney has a lot more bodies to work with than he did at this time a year ago. With an all-time program-high eight early enrollees -- representing nearly half of the freshman class -- and a minimum number of players sidelined by injury, all but a couple of Tigers are participating in spring drills.

"Ninety-five percent of the team is here, so I think we can get further down the road than we were by the end of last spring," Swinney said. "I'd like to see us come out of spring with a little bit of a swagger, a little bit of an identity on both sides of the ball."

The offense has been ahead of the defense through the first half of spring practice, as might be expected from a unit that returns its top three playmakers and is now familiar with the up-tempo offense introduced by then-new offensive coordinator Chad Morris last year.

The learning curve has been steeper on defense, where new coordinator Brent Venables is implementing his system and terminology and trying to help his holdovers to purge the memory of the 70 points surrendered in an Orange Bowl debacle against West Virginia on Jan. 4.

"He is coaching every play as hard as he can go," Swinney said of Venables. "All the defensive coaches are, because they've got a lot to do."

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