A record fifty thousand fans clad in orange came
to watch a hundred odd college football players
don the orange and white to play in
a game where the score doesn’t matter.
The Orange team won 17-9 but what matters is the performance of individual players. Of course Deshaun Watson will light up the defenses, but what is more important is how the younger players and backups played.
The good performances:
Adam Choice showed why he won more awards at the 2015 Team Banquet than Deshaun Watson as he cemented his status as the backup behind Wayne Gallman. Choice showed impressive acceleration and selected the correct holes to run through. While Wayne Gallman should be the entrenched starter it has nothing to do with Choice’s performance, especially coming off of an ACL tear. Choice could start on most teams in the country and should have a heads up on the starting job if Wayne Gallman likely leaves after this year.
Ray Ray McCloud shined as he caught three passes for 98 yards and a touchdown including a sixty one yard pass where he had a step on the defender, Watson dropped it in the bucket, and he beat the tackle to score. McCloud showed many facets of his game including his ball skills, agility, and speed. Something to note is that McCloud is not that tall yet won on the deep balls thrown to him. Artavis Scott is already an All ACC player, but he excelled in both the receiving and returning games this Saturday. He showed a willingness to play larger than his size and break tackles until the end. To be fair, the special teams were diluted so many players could play according to Coach Swinney.
The Davis twins have been questioned by many fans of Clemson, but they showed their nose for the ball this Saturday while playing for opposite teams. JD Davis for the Orange team had the better game as he tied for the second most tackles at seven along with Kendall Joseph. Joseph also had an excellent game and Venables said that he was the best Mike linebacker last spring until he was hurt. His competition at the spot was the veteran BJ Goodson who had an excellent season and who can play as a two down linebacker in the NFL to stop the run. Judah Davis played for the White team as he tallied five tackles including a “sack” (a tag on the quarterback). Early enrollee freshman linebacker Tre Lamar led both ‘teams’ in tackles with ten tackles on the day.
Sophomore cornerback Mark Fields had a good (but inconsistent) day where he showed the talent to be an elite cornerback. He still needs to grow up and be consistent according to Coach Venables, but he has the makings of an excellent player.
Veteran backup quarterback Nick Schuessler was steady as usual and showed what he needed to hold off challengers Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel in the summer. He doesn’t have the talent of the two younger players but he has enough ability combined with an excellent brain to keep Clemson afloat if something happens to Watson.
The Mixed Performances:
Redshirt freshman Tucker Israel had to redshirt due to injuries so this was the first look fans have had at him in a while. It took him a while to get warmed up as a combination of drops and bad decisions put him in a hole early and looked bad on the stat line. However he performed better than his two completions on ten attempts showed. He can throw the ball all over the field and is willing to take certain risks with the ball. He threw an excellent throw over the middle in the end zone to Trevion Thompson in a last chance situation on fourth and seven that was dropped. Most importantly, he showed the ability to go through his progressions and lead receivers on throws. He is undersized so time will tell how he will fare.
Walk on quarterback James Barnes performed better than expected as he went 4 of 9 for 29 yards. He won’t unseat any of the other quarterbacks, but it is nice to have good walk on depth to use if necessary.
Trevion Thompson showed his talent as he hauled in some impressive catches (six for 87 yards). Unfortunately he dropped several balls including the game tying score from Israel. Seth Ryan had an impressive catch as well but he also dropped a ball later in the game and he ended for 4 catches for 39 yards.
The Bad Performances:
Kelly Bryant went 9 of 17 for 208 yards but had two interceptions and no touchdowns. He showed the speed to get away from defenders but because the quarterback could not be tackled, would be runs turned into ‘sacks’. Despite his athleticism, he has a long ways to go in the art of quarterbacking. He was terribly inaccurate on the deep balls as both interceptions were inaccurate deep throws and was only average on the shorter throws. He struggled to anticipate throws, and often stared recievers down instead of going through his reads. Sometimes the ball would fly out of bounds and other times the receivers made an excellent catch to move the chains from his throws. He showed flashes at times last season, but he currently cannot win a game with his arm and legs the way that Watson can.
The special teams and punting situations were not comforting sights as an extra point was missed, Artavis Scott crushed the return teams, and the kicks were particularly ugly. This could be an omen of continued struggles or it could be a product of diluted talent due to the mixed split teams. Regardless, special teams should be the primary focus of the Tigers this summer and fall.
Despite the complaints and things to be improved, Clemson had one of the best spring games in the nation and topped the games for attendance this weekend at 50,500 people. Clemson is one of the deepest teams in the country and many new freshmen have not enrolled yet. Clemson also looked better than the reports of what South Carolina looked like at their spring game.