Elliott says "different world" will affect the depth chart from week to week


by - Senior Writer -
DJ Uiagalelei has turned heads early. (Photo courtesy of CU Athletics)
DJ Uiagalelei has turned heads early. (Photo courtesy of CU Athletics)

There weren’t many surprises when Clemson released the Wake Forest game depth chart Monday, but offensive coordinator Tony Elliott provided further clarity at a few of the key positions beforehand.

Elliott was asked about the depth chart at running back, where the Tigers have veteran (and starter) Travis Etienne followed by veterans in Darien Rencher, Lyn-J Dixon, Chez Mellusi, and Mikey Dukes. Freshmen Demarkcus Bowman and Kobe Pace have each flashed in camp, but still have a ways to go.

Elliott said in the world of COVID-19, he has to make sure they are all ready to play.

“This is a different world. You’ve got to have them all ready to play,” Elliott said. “So, obviously, we know Travis and who he is. He was able to reassert himself as the first one to run out there, and obviously you do have a little bit of a pecking order. But in my mind, every last one of them in that room is a backup, just because of the environment that we’re in with the testing protocol. You may not know who’s available every single week because that’s going to be determined as you go throughout the course of the week with the testing protocol. But Lyn-J would be the second guy, but again, I’ve got to have Rencher ready to go, I’ve got to have both those freshmen and obviously got to have Mikey Dukes as well. And then as soon as Chez is back with us, he’ll be ready.

“So, it’s probably as we left it. But truthfully, if you want an honest answer, I’ve got to have all those guys ready to be the backup, and they’re actually one play away from being the starter just because of the different environment that we’re in.”

At the quarterback spot, Taisun Phommachanh has been battling freshman DJ Uiagalelei for the second-team spot. However, Elliott said he is leaving that decision to quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter and head coach Dabo Swinney.

“First of all, I love all three of those guys,” Elliott said. “The good thing is we’re in a situation, I know which one’s going to run out there first. But those other two guys have had a good camp. They’re continuing to battle. I know that coach Streeter and coach Swinney are having some serious conversations about which guy to run out there next.

“But for me, I love all three of them, and it doesn’t matter to me which one runs out there second. Both of those guys would be deserving, but at the end of the day, coach Streeter is still working through the competition, and I’ll know probably when you guys know which one’s running out there next.”

Clemson is young at the offensive line spot, and several freshmen will likely be asked to play significant roles this season. Which two will be the first ones off the bench?

“That is a tough question, but we will know that as we get closer to the game because we have so many young guys with the game plan paring down, as opposed to the entire installation part during camp,” Elliott said. “But right now, the guys that you feel good about will, obviously, I have to say you feel good about Walker Parks being a guy that can go in there and function. You like where Walker Parks is at. You like where Hunter Rayburn was progressing to.

“Again, that situation, just as any position, has just kind of been all over the place with the everyday things you having to battle through. I definitely feel good about those guys. I like where Mitchell Mayes is progressing to. It gives us a lot of depth at tackle. Paul Tchio has really done a 180 since early on in camp. I think early, it was really, really fast for him, but you are starting to see him settle in at guard for us a little bit and trending in the right direction. So, those will probably be the guys right at the top of my head that I feel good about and I am sure Robbie [Caldwell] knows it in more detail, which guys might be able (to help), but that is just my perspective.”

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