Hunter Johnson shines as Tigers scrimmage in Death Valley


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Swinney says freshman Hunter Johnson stood out
Swinney says freshman Hunter Johnson stood out

CLEMSON – Hunter Johnson is starting to trend upward, the defense started fast and some Ducks were on hand to watch the proceedings.

Clemson held a two-hour stadium scrimmage Wednesday as Oregon head coach Willie Taggart looked on, and head coach Dabo Swinney said he was pleased with the younger players and disappointed in the veterans.

“Scrimmage two and day 10 in the books. I think we've gotten a lot accomplished during the first ten days, but we've got a lot to evaluate off the tape,” Swinney said. “I'm anxious to watch the film. I thought there was really good competition out there today. There were wins and losses on both sides. There was a lot of good. We saw some young guys do some good things. I was a little disappointed with some of the veterans that we're counting on that I didn't think performed quite like they needed to. They know who they are.”

Swinney said that the Tigers had good and bad in all three phases of the game.”

“The defense had another solid day outside of the coming out defense. They did a poor job playing, coming out defense. I thought they had a pretty consistent day. There were a few big plays, but overall it was decent,” Swinney said. “Offensively, same thing. Pretty solid day. Competitive. Very disappointed in the two-minute because we had a chance to kick a field goal to win it and we gave up a sack fumble. Great play by Cle (Clelin Ferrell) and Christian (Wilkins). It was very competitive on both sides.

“We did a lot of special teams work - kickoff coverage live, kick return, punt return, field goal work. We put them in a lot of different situations. The biggest disappointment to me is there were too many penalties. I quit counting procedural penalties. The last scrimmage we didn't have hardly any procedural issues and today we couldn't stay on side. We had a ton of penalties on the offensive line just jumping offside and stupid stuff. Defensively, we had some careless, undisciplined penalties. We had two personal fouls - one in the redzone on a throw away where we hit the quarterback late and the other on coming out where there was a personal foul after the whistle. Those are things that lose ballgames.”

The quarterbacks were “live” during the scrimmage, meaning they were fair game for defenders to tackle.

“We went live with the quarterbacks today, which is something we haven't done in a while. We haven't really had the need to. I felt like today was a good day and I didn't tell anybody til right before because I didn't want them to sit around and stew on it,” Swinney said. “It was very good for both sides to see how the quarterbacks handled the pressure and some of the tackles that I've blown the whistle in practice; they aren't tackles anymore. It exposed a few things defensively.”

The coaching staff will now begin to build a depth chart based off of what they’ve seen.

“The thing I told the team is that we've got ten days and two scrimmages under our belt now. We're not basing everything off of today, but with ten days of work and a true body of work for ten days and two full scrimmages, that's all we can go on as far as evaluation,” he said. “The reps starting Friday will either stay the same or change based on that ten days of evaluation for every position. Big day tomorrow for the staff as we get through this film and talk about our personnel. Some guys will move up, and some guys will move down as far as how we manage the reps the next practice or two.”

Freshman Hunter Johnson, who enrolled in January, had a good day. In fact, he had the best day out of all the quarterbacks. First-team quarterback Kelly Bryant was 8-14 for 94 yards and had a rushing touchdown. Zerrick Cooper was 4-10 for 28 yards and a touchdown, while Tucker Israel was 7-13 for 37 yards. Johnson completed 5-11 for 110 yards and a score.

“He did. I thought he had the best day, for sure. He played with good poise. He had a couple of times where he looked like a rookie,” Swinney said. “He forgot the motion and those are things that have to be like blinking. They have to be automatic. We don't have time to correct the quarterback on the motion. Outside of those two things, he was very poised. He threw some really nice balls. He took advantage of his opportunities and made some really nice runs, extended some plays with his legs, but put the ball where it needed to be. He had the best day today.

“Kelly (Bryant) was efficient. He made some big plays as well. He had a couple of nice throws that were dropped. He made a huge fourth down play in the two-minute. He had a big scramble and a long run. He was efficient. Zerrick (Cooper) did some good things too. He missed a couple. He had three of his balls dropped. Very good throws.”

Another youngster that stood out was redshirt freshman receiver T.J. Chase.

“T.J. Chase caught my eye today. He had some nice catches,” Swinney said. “Cornell Powell, he showed up and made some nice plays. Ray-Ray was in position and did what he needed to do. Deon (Cain) had his worst day today. Trevion (Thompson) had his best day today. The backs all ran hard. (Adam) Choice, (Tavien) Feaster and (C.J.) Fuller all had some bright moments.”

Punter Will Spiers also caught Swinney’s eye as Spiers tries to earn a scholarship.

“Will Spiers won the day. We're trying to create a competitive environment,” Swinney said. “We're looking for consistency, and we're looking for pressure. Who can perform under the pressure? It was great to come to the stadium today. We had a punt off at the end of practice with people in stands and teammates around them to see who can perform under the gun. Spiers definitely won the day. All throughout the spring, he's a little bit ahead.”

The Tigers are also looking to replace snapper David Estes.

“The biggest thing for us is punter and snapper. (Austin) Spence and (Patrick) Phibbs are nowhere near consistent of enough as far as throwing strikes like we need them,” Swinney said. “They both have their good moments but that's a position where I should never notice them, and unfortunately I have noticed those guys way too much. I should never notice those guys. Both of them are very capable and can do the job.”

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