Tigers Who Need to Step Up in Spring Practice

The Clemson Tigers open spring practice in a little over a month, here are five players that need to have a big spring for the Tigers.
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Derion Kendrick: The Clemson wide receiver turned cornerback two years ago, and his 2019 season had NFL teams drooling over his potential as a lock-down corner. However, 2020, as it did for the entire world, threw a monkey wrench into his plans.

When Kendrick was on the field, as he spent extended time and games in Dabo Swinney's "Love Shack", he was far from the corner that many had hoped he would be heading into the season. The decision to return was no doubt fueled by a desire to improve his draft stock. He can take the first step in doing so by dedicating himself fully to becoming the best corner, and leader, he can possibly be this spring.

Lyn-J Dixon: The career backup running back has patiently bided his time behind the ACC's greatest running back of all-time. But with Travis Etienne taking his talents to the NFL, Dixon's patience will be rewarded with a chance to not only earn the starting job but also be a leader of the running back room.

Dixon has waited patiently for his time, for his voice to be heard, the spring is when that transformation will have to start.

Xavier Thomas: Thomas entered Clemson with all the promise in the world, and has had his moments. No one will ever doubt his talent or ability, but it is his ability to stay on the field that has people scratching their heads.

Thomas was unavailable for the last few games of the 2020 season, with Swinney offering no comment on the reason. Was it lasting effects from his battle with COVID over the summer? Was it some other ailment that kept him off the field? We may never know. But one thing is clear, when Thomas is on the field, he is one of the most dominant defensive linemen in college football. Getting a focused, healthy Thomas back for the Tigers could be a game-changer.

Cade Stewart: The Tigers' only senior on the offensive line. Stewart has not announced yet whether or not he intends to return for a final season, but if he does he needs to find a nasty streak.

The Tigers missed the Jay Guillermo, Sean Pollard center. The guys that have a nasty streak in them. They don't care if you are on their team or the opposing team, they are going to let you know where you stand with them. Stewart needs to find that nastiness and voice–especially with a freshman quarterback now running the show.

Lannden Zanders: Outside of Nolan Turner, the play of the safeties was no good in 2020. Poor technique and miscommunication plagued the Tiger pass defense. If Turner decides to return, many of those issues will be fixed. If he doesn't, someone will have to rise to the challenge.

That player is Zanders. The safety position is the quarterback of the secondary and someone will have to step up this season. Even if Turner returns, the Tigers will need to have someone that they can have confidence in in the event that Turner is out for a game or a half—as was the case in the CFP semifinal.