The day after he hit a three-run home run for the baseball team in a 10-9 loss to Duke, Kyle Parker came in to throw for 79 yards and catch -- yes, catch -- a touchdown pass for the winning White team in Clemson's spring game.
Which moment ends up defining Parker's future will have a tremendous impact on the Tigers' football fortunes in 2010.
With him in the lineup, the Tigers have the potential to win the Atlantic Division and get back to the ACC championship game, where they could make amends for last season's loss to Georgia Tech.
Parker started as a redshirt freshman last year and threw for 2,526 yards, building momentum after a slow start and ending up with 20 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions.
"We have a great chance of being really good," tight end Dwayne Allen told the Greenville News. "If we get Kyle back, we're going to be real strong."
But if Parker, considered a potential first-round pick in the major league baseball draft coming June 7-9, signs a baseball contract and gives up football, the Tigers are looking at a redshirt freshman (Tajh Boyd) and a little-used senior (Michael Wade) at the position.
Coach Dabo Swinney told the newspaper he would be "shocked" if Parker doesn't return, and that might seem the case since Parker has spent so much time going back and forth from football to baseball and back to be able to take part in both sports in the spring.
Parker himself remained non-committal after the final scrimmage, but his father told the Charleston Post and Courier earlier it would take a life-changing situation for his son to give up his last three years of college football.
But Carl Parker added that no decision had been made.
Swinney has taken a wait-and-see approach.
"We'll see what happens when he gets drafted," Swinney told the Greenville News. "He's living the life of a rock star right now."NOTES, QUOTES
--With all the attention devoted to the departure of C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, it's easy to overlook another key personnel loss for the Tigers. TE Michael Palmer leaves after a senior season in which he had 43 receptions, a school record for a tight end and 13 more than he had in his first three years combined. Thus it was encouraging to see sophomore Dwayne Allen top off his spring with three catches for 61 yards in the spring game. Allen had 10 catches in a backup role last season.
--The play of the linebackers (Brandon Maye eight tackles, Quandon Christian seven, Spencer Shuey six, and Kourtnei Brown and Corico Hawkins five each) in the spring game pleased coach Dabo Swinney. "I feel as good about the linebacker positon as any on defense," Swinney said.
RB Jamie Harper -- Harper drew praise from coach Dabo Swinney for his play in the spring, which could be critical to lessening the impact of the loss of C.J. Spiller. Swinney told the Columbia State that the junior has made "kind of the same type of improvement that C.J. made between his sophomore and junior years."
LB Quandon Christian -- The redshirt freshman topped off an impressive spring by making seven tackles in the spring game. At the very least, he will add depth at a position of need and push for a starting position.
LB Jonathan Willard -- A sophomore, Willard showed a big improvement over his redshirt freshman year when he played mostly on special teams. He could have a starting spot when fall camp opens.
QB Tajh Boyd -- If sophomore Kyle Parker does decide to devote 100 percent of his time to baseball, Boyd will be the likely successor. He had an outstanding spring overall and four completions of at least 20 yards in the Orange-White game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have good depth on defense. I feel good about where we are there." -- Coach Dabo Swinney, assessing the Tigers after the spring game.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Clemson returns seven starters on offense but the loss of game-breakers C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford means the defense, which returns six starters, will have to step up if the Tigers are to successfully defend their Atlantic Division title. They play three of the top teams in the Coastal Division, including two (Miami and North Carolina) in their first five games and get a rematch with 2009 champ Georgia Tech at home in late October.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: No one player can replace Spiller, who did it all for the Tigers in 2009, but sophomore Andre Ellington (491 yards rushing as a true freshman) has big-play potential, and junior Jamie Harper is a powerful inside runner at 6-0, 230. Wide receiver is a position of concern with senior Xavier Dye (14 catches) the leading returning receiver. The offensive line looks solid after coping with injury problems the last two years. QB Kyle Parker finished strong last year and is a proven commodity, but there is still a possibility he could end up signing a baseball contract, leaving redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd to step in.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Returning starters Jarvis Jenkins, Brandon Thompson, and Da'Quan Bowers up front, Brandon May at linebacker, and DeAndre McDaniel and Marcus Gilchrist in the secondary provide Clemson a solid nucleus on defense. Junior DE Andre Branch looks to file the spot in the line with senior Scotty Cooper and sophomore Corico Hawkins stepping in at linebacker. The real question is at corner. Gilchrist, a senior who was a top cornerback prospect coming out of high school, moves back to take one spot with promising sophomore Rashard Hall taking over Gilchrist's role at safety. Senior Byron Maxwell and junior Coty Sensabaugh will compete for the other corner.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Both P Dawson Zimmerman and PK Richard Jackson return, but the Tigers need improvement out of both. Zimmerman averaged 39.1 yards on 55 punts and Jackson was only 20-of-31 on field goal attempts. Jackson also serves as the backup punter. Sophomore PK Spencer Benton made his only attempt. The loss of Spiller and Ford means the Tigers will be looking for new return men for both punts and kickoffs. Andre Ellington and Marcus Gilchrist both have experience, but freshmen likely will land the jobs when fall drills open.
QB Tajh Boyd -- Yes, Parker is the starter, but Boyd, a redshirt freshman, could add another dimension to the offense. Coaches liked what they saw of him working with the scout team last year.
RB Roderick McDowell -- The redshirt freshman could push both Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper for time.
WR Bryce McNeal -- Clemson is looking for help at wideout, and McNeal, a redshirt freshman, could be very much in the picture. He was listed behind sophomore Marquan Jones on the depth chart heading into spring. Listed at 170, he needs to add a few pounds to his 6-1 frame.
DT Josh Watson -- An early enrollee taking part in spring drills, Watson was rated the No. 1 defensive tackle prep school prospect in the country (Rivals.com) after playing at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. Getting an early jump on his classmates could pay off in the fall.
--Junior RG Wilson Norris sustained a torn ACL that has put his 2010 season in doubt. He will have surgery. Wilson, who played in all 14 games last year, was listed as No. 2 on the depth chart heading into spring behind junior Antoine McClain.
--Sophomore DB Spencer Adams spent time with the track team in addition to his spring practice responsibilities. Adams has been limited the past two years after having knee surgery, but Rivals.com ranked him the No. 5 safety in the nation when he came out of high school in 2008. Adams also has been working at cornerback, where the Tiger must replace two lost starters.
--QB Kyle Parker, who missed the first scrimmage because of his obligations with the baseball team, also was held out of the Tigers' second scrimmage to protect a minor back injury. He played in the spring game, however, and was 7-of-15 passing for 79 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass on an end-around from WR Marquan Jones.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010