Spring game observations


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – One hundred and thirty-eight days. Just shy of 20 weeks.

Those numbers reflect the time that Clemson fans have to wait until Death Valley once again hosts a football game. Saturday’s Orange and White Game marked the end of spring practice, and without a National Signing Day or spring practice to look forward to, the longest wait begins.

However, we have a Sunday of reflection under our belts, and we can take a look back at Saturday’s scrimmage and take a look at some of the things that jumped out at us.

The first thing, of course, is freshman quarterback Chad KellyChad Kelly
So. Quarterback
#11 6-2, 210
Buffalo, NY

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. Kelly’s time on the field was brief, but I don’t think that anyone that watched the game can deny his athleticism and arm. It would have been fun to see him compete in a full game- he completed 6-of-7 passes for 43 yards and a score before suffering his knee injury.

Head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said after the game that he expected Kelly to play at some point next season, but knee injuries are always tricky. We’ve seen with linebacker Tony StewardTony Steward
Jr. Linebacker
#7 6-1, 235
Hastings, FL

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that sometimes it takes almost up to a year to come all the way back from a torn ACL, and I would expect that a decision on whether to let him play or seek a medical hardship won’t occur until late October or even later.

I got to spend some time with Kelly’s uncle – Hall of Famer and former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly – before the game and he gave me some insight into the maturation process of Chad. We’re gonna run our interview with Jim Kelly later this week.

*Defensive end Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
RS Jr. Defensive End
#3 6-3, 225
Adairsville, GA

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has had an outstanding spring, and we’ve heard that he has practiced on both sides of the line during practices and scrimmages. However, Beasley told us last week that he is now taking the majority of his snaps at the weakside defensive end position he shared with Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Jr. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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last season, leaving me to wonder if it was a two-man battle between Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes
RS Jr. Defensive End
#6 6-4, 275
Jacksonville, FL

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and Shaq LawsonShaq Lawson
Fr. Defensive End
#90 6-4, 240
Central, SC

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over on the other side.

However, I was told before the game that Crawford has moved to the strongside defensive end spot, clearing the way for Beasley to start at weakside in the fall.

With that in mind, I grabbed defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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in the hallway outside of the locker room after the game, and asked him if that was the case and he said that yes, Crawford was seeing snaps on the other side as the coaches endeavor to get the best players on the field at the same time.

However, he told me that in his defense, they don’t really have “weakside” and “strongside” designations, that he prefers to call them left and right, and that he now wants his ends to be able to play both sides of the line. Venables said that if Clemson played in a league that was run or I-formation dominant, he would worry more about strongside or weakside, but the ACC has a lot of spread teams, so they prefer left and right and he expects the ends to cross-train at both spots.

*Speaking of Beasley, he had a decent spring game, but he was matched up against left tackle Eric Mac LainEric Mac Lain
RS So. Tight End
#88 6-4, 260
Hope Mills, NC

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for much of the contest, and I thought Mac Lain more than held his own. Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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told us after the game that Mac Lain is going to be a great player – he isn’t there yet – but will be a great one at some point soon. Mac Lain didn’t move to the offensive line until late last season, and even then he spent most of his time on the right side.

However, he moved to the left side during spring practice and has looked pretty good at times. He is big and strong and athletic – all good traits for a left tackle.

*The other left tackle is the talented Isaiah BattleIsaiah Battle
So. Offensive Tackle
#79 6-6, 280
St. George, VA

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, the player the coaches really wanted to see grab the starting spot and run with it this spring. That didn’t happen, but Battle did a lot of good things Saturday, pleasing his head coach.

“I thought he did some things. He showed me some good things today,” Swinney said. “He had a good block one time, switching off. Then, he goes and makes a tackle on the interception. Those are the things you love to see out of a young player. He’s starting to develop some kind of a motor.”

*I spent a good portion of the game watching the secondary, and as expected, there were some rough spots. Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
RS Jr. Cornerback
#17 6-0, 195
Allendale, SC

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didn’t play after injuring an ankle last week, and with the already-thin corners split up into two groups, they had some issues covering the talented receivers.

Swinney said that he hopes that Breeland, Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
Cornerback
#21 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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, Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
Cornerback
#14 5-10, 180
Roswell, GA

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and Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS Jr. Defensive Back
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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continue to get better over the summer, and then reminded those players and everyone else that secondary help is on the way.

"We've won with all four of those guys," he said. "We need them to get better, and I don't have any doubt that they're going to do that because there's competition among that group and then we've got some really good players coming in here to add to it."

Venables said the corners were still a “work in progress.”

“It’s still a work in progress. We’re still competing outside at the corners,” he said. “So there are enough guys out there. Between [current roster players] and the guys that are coming in, we’ll find a couple of them by the time we get to fall camp.”

*Anyone who watched the game noticed the play of wide receiver Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant
Jr. Wide Receiver
#1 6-5, 200
Calhoun Falls, SC

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, who merely continued what has been a strong spring. He made some tough grabs, and with his combination of size of speed, he looks almost uncoverable at times. Considering his wealth of talent, you knew he would really take off once the lightbulb went off with him. It appears the lightbulb went off when he stayed home during the bowl game and watched his teammates compete without him. Bryant has been a man on a mission this spring.

*Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Jr. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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had a good day, showing the speed and playmaking ability Clemson fans are used to. However, he also had a few drops, and Morris said that Watkins needs all the reps he can get.


“He needed to play,” Morris said. “He needed as many reps as he could possibly get going into summer. If he wants to pick up where he left off his freshman year and pick up where Nuk left off, he's got a lot of work to do."

*Freshman tight end Jordan LeggettJordan Leggett
Fr. Tight End
#16 6-6, 235
Navarre, FL

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drew rave reviews this spring, and had a solid game Saturday, impressing his offensive coordinator.

"That kid is going to be special. He really is,” Morris said. “He's got to get more physical to complete his game."
*Running back Zac BrooksZac Brooks
So. Running Back
#24 6-1, 185
Jonesboro, AR

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showed a great burst off the line of scrimmage, and also showed his physical side when he just ran over a linebacker (I think it was Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Jr. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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). No juking or cutting, just ran him over. It’s obvious he has talent, and he could see the field a lot in the fall.

*Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
So. Punter
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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showed what kind of weapon he can be, drilling his kickoffs into the endzone and even nailing a 56-yard punt. He told me that his last kickoff didn’t reach the end zone because he was simply tired after kicking off all day.

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