Clemson offense looking to finish strong as quarterback battle lingers


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T.J. Chase continues to impress Jeff Scott
T.J. Chase continues to impress Jeff Scott

CLEMSON – Last season’s Clemson football team proved that it isn’t how you start, it’s how finish. The Tigers started the season slow, and even fell behind Alabama in the title game, before finishing with a National Championship.

Now, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott wants to see his offense learn the same lessons as spring camp winds down this week and ends with Saturday’s spring game.

The Tigers scrimmaged inside the indoor practice facility Monday, and Scott told the media the coaches are looking to see which players finish the right way.

“We really challenged the guys coming back from spring break. Now, how are we going to finish? That is the biggest thing,” Scott said after Monday’s scrimmage. “A lot of our successful teams the last few years have been known for finishing games and finishing seasons. So that is really the biggest challenge for this offense is how we are going to finish this last part of spring practice.”

The reports out of camp this spring have had the defense far ahead of the offense, but Monday showed the offense is beginning to catch up.

“Monday was probably the best day we've had all spring. Throwing and catching were by far the best Monday, and the promising thing was it wasn't just one quarterback or one or two wide receivers,” Scott said. “There were a number of guys that were making some key plays in key situations. Young guys were out there making plays. T.J. Chase had several nice plays, Cornell Powell continues to make plays, and those guys are earning trust just like Deon (Cain), and Ray-Ray (McCloud) have to take the next step. We are challenging those young receivers to be guys we can count on for 30 or 35 plays a game. I have been really pleased, especially by T.J. and Cornell. Trevion (Thompson) made some plays, along with Ray-Ray and Deon.”

Of course, the biggest competition this spring is at quarterback, where Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper, Tucker Israel and Hunter Johnson are vying to replace Deshaun Watson.

“The quarterbacks threw well. I felt like the quarterbacks did a great job of moving and being able to move the ball outside of the pocket and extending plays,” Scott said. “Kelly Bryant had a long touchdown on a play where he extended the play after we gave up a little pressure in the pocket. He kept his eyes downfield and found Ray-Ray down the sideline. And Hunter Johnson continues to do well. The arrow is definitely up on him right now. “

What does he want to see in Saturday’s spring game?

“Can we put the consistent drives together? There were very few three-and-outs by the offense Monday,” Scott said. “We had four or five touchdown drives in a row with either the first or second group. Against our defense, that is promising. We just want to finish confidently. We want to leave spring ball being confident in our top 22 guys, and we are getting closer to that right now.

“It's one thing to do it in front of a few hundred people. But it's another thing to do it in front of tens of thousands. In college football, we don't get preseason games and we don't get to play anybody else in the spring or fall camp, so this is the only game-type scenario for them as far as the pressure and people watching.”


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