All eyes on Trevor Lawrence and Xavier Thomas as spring practice begins
|Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 6:03 PM- -|
CLEMSON – It isn’t the first practice of the spring or fall unless The Boys Are Back In Town blares from the loudspeakers in the indoor practice facility. The song and practice started around 4:20 Wednesday afternoon.
Heavy rain in the area moved the entire practice indoors, and the media spent the first 40 minutes or so watching the proceedings.
Here are some takeaways, and we’ll get started with what everybody wants to hear about – the quarterbacks:
*Kelly Bryant looks like the veteran he is. He’s calm and runs through all of the drills with practiced ease. Still very much a leader. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told us before the start of practice that Bryant is, of course, the number one guy, but also reiterated that he has to go out every day and prove it. Judging by what we saw, he has a lot of competition. The coaches were pushing tempo today – as they always do – and Bryant’s group didn’t go as fast as Jeff Scott wanted and they were required to do up-downs.
Hunter Johnson, to me, looked fantastic throwing the football and he looked comfortable running the offense. His passes were crisp and on target. There is no denying his arm talent – in fact, he could make the short throws to the backs a little more catchable – but he was on point today. Another media member and I stood there watching him go through drills and agreed that almost every other team in the country would love to have this kid.
Swinney called Chase Brice a gunslinger earlier today, and it’s easy to see why. He’s another one that has all the tools to be a great quarterback. Brice performed well at scout team quarterback last season, and he was very accurate out there today.
That brings us to Trevor Lawrence, the one everybody wants to see. Lawrence makes it look easy, but he did have a freshman moment when a couple of passes went astray. He recovered, however, and had a nice session. He runs a lot better than people think, and his arm strength might be the best we’ve seen around here in a while.
Watching these four this spring is going to be fun.
*The three wide receivers that went out to receiver first-team reps were Trevion Thompson, Amari Rodgers, and Hunter Renfrow. Tavien Feaster went out with the first-team unit, Travis Etienne with the second-team group and Adam Choice with the third group.
*Freshman defensive end Xavier Thomas has, as I’ve written before, the best motor I’ve ever seen. He goes full speed, all the time, on every drill. He throws his body around with abandon, and his first step is a thing of beauty. One observer there said he watched Thomas a lot last season and remarked that he not only has a great work ethic, but he also has football smarts. He will be a force this season.
*Jackson Carman is one big dude. He was roaming around on the sidelines – a big human in a sea of big humans – and he stood out. He has better feet than I remembered, and he moves well for such a big man. We might see him at tackle and we might see him at guard, but he will get on the field at some point.
*With Ray-Ray McCloud taking his chances in the NFL, Clemson’s starting punt returner job is open. Hunter Renfrow will always be the steadying hand at returner - someone you can put on the goal line and you know he’s going to make the catch under pressure - but Clemson needs to establish a threat in the return game. So, it makes sense that freshman wideout Derion Kendrick is getting the first crack in the punt return game.
Kendrick played running back, wide receiver and quarterback at South Pointe and he’s quick, shifty and fast in open space - all of the makings of a good return man. He looks, at least to me, like a potential superstar. And the thing I like best about him is that he plays with an edge.
*With a guy like Brent Venables leading the defense, some of the other staff members may get overlooked, but Todd Bates immediately jumps out you. The second-year coach is one of the few college coaches I’ve ever seen actually perform a tackling drill. He’s energetic, always teaching and seems to be the perfect fit for Clemson.
*A lot of talk will be about the freshman but two veterans really jumped out. Linebacker Shaq Smith looks to be quietly turning into a team leader and an energy guy on defense. This could be the year he finally breaks out. Also, defensive tackle Albert Huggins looks trim and in shape. He was moving around well during drills and looks to be poised for a good senior campaign.
*Sean Pollard is going to start out at right guard as they try to get their best guys on the field, and he ran out there with the first team. Heffects like a good fit out there at that spot.
*Tre Lamar - who suffered a shoulder injury against Florida State late last season - was participating in all drills. The drills were non-contact, but he didn’t appear to be suffering any affects from the injury.
*After missing last season with a torn ACL, Garrett Williams was moving around well and running full speed. He wore a bulky knee brace but it didn’t seem to slow him down any.