Now that August camp is wrapping up, and the season opener is nearly upon us, I'll be breaking down each position group. Naturally, I'll start with the most important position on the field.
Enthusiasm is high for the Cade Klubnik era to begin in earnest with his first season opener as the starter. This is his team now, and by all accounts, he has stepped into that leadership role seamlessly. Surprisingly, Cade has been given the fourth-best odds to win the Heisman even though he has just one start under his belt, and that didn't go so well. As expected, last year's Heisman winner, Caleb Williams, is the prohibitive favorite to repeat this year at about 5 to 1 odds. Tied for 2nd behind him are Quinn Ewers from Texas and Jayden Daniels from LSU at 9 to 1 odds. Cade is right behind them at 10 to 1 odds. I was shocked that Cade was given better odds than Drake Maye and Michigan RB Blake Corum. Let's hope Cade lives up to the preseason hype! The addition of new Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley should help him do that and maximize his skill set. After all, he led TCU backup QB Max Duggan to a second-place finish in the Heisman voting last year. Duggan was the backup going into last season, but the starter was injured in the opener, and the rest is history. I can't wait to see what Riley does with a quarterback as talented as Cade, who was named Elite 11 MVP as a senior in high school over the likes of Quinn Ewers.
Cade had ups and downs in his role as backup last season but was brilliant in the ACC Championship, earning MVP honors. He made some mistakes, however, in his first career start in the Orange Bowl. He threw two interceptions and, most notably, demonstrated poor clock management at the end of the first half, opting to run twice with no timeouts, allowing the clock to run out when they were well inside field goal range. He also took a couple sacks that he shouldn't have. Chalk all that up to the growing pains of a freshman quarterback. It was his first loss as a starting quarterback since middle school, and I'm sure he still has that bad taste in his mouth. You can bet that he has learned from those mistakes and won't repeat them. Sure, he will make more mistakes this season, and that's all part of the process. But he is a born winner, and the game will slow down for him with each game as he gains experience.
The Tigers have a solid backup in former walk-on Hunter Helms. He's had plenty of offers to transfer elsewhere and be the starter, but he has stayed the course because he loves Clemson so much, and now he's just an injury away from being the starter. Helms played very little last season behind DJ, Cade and Hunter Johnson, but he's shown his capability going back to the spring of 2022. I was told that in the scrimmages, he moved the ball better than DJ did, and he performed about as well as Cade did last spring. Hopefully Cade will remain healthy all season, but if Helms is called upon, I truly believe the Tigers are in good hands and can win with him behind center.
Helms sprained his foot a couple weeks ago in practice and was wearing a boot. It was initially thought that he'd be out 2-3 weeks but ready for the opener if needed. However, he's always been a fast healer, and he was able to play in the scrimmage just a week after the injury. Just after the injury, Dabo told me that Paul Tyson, the transfer from Alabama and Bear Bryant's grandson, would be the next man up behind Helms. Freshman Christopher Vizzina is a star in waiting, but he's not ready yet, and they are hoping to redshirt him this season.
More analysis of position groups to come!
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