Offense keeps rolling despite injuries


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Watson could have returned if he'd been needed
Watson could have returned if he'd been needed

CLEMSON – The Clemson offense entered Saturday’s home game against Syracuse without starting right tackle Jake Fruhmorgen and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, and the Tigers lost starting quarterback Deshaun Watson to a shoulder injury late in the first half.

No problem.

The Tigers rolled up 565 yards of total offense, backup Nick Schuessler filled in admirably for Watson and freshman tackle Sean Pollard got the start in place of Fruhmorgen and more than held his own.

All in all, a good day, but not one that co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott is ready to call the best of the season.

"You know it's hard to gauge. I will say, there was a lot of concern from the coaches going in,” Scott said. “Syracuse played really well the last two weeks and they had our full respect and they did a lot of things defensively and we need to give a lot of credit to the offensive line. This was probably the toughest week of any for them because of all the tweaks and the movement up front is very hard to pick up and they did a great job and allowed the skill guys to do their thing."

Scott said Watson could have played if he’d been needed.

"Yeah, he was cleared to go. Obviously, the score at halftime we felt like we were in position to hold him. I know Coach Swinney will talk more, but we were told the shoulder was bruised and that he'll be fine,” he said.

Schuessler was 11-for-17 for 177 yards and two scores.

"I think he did a great job. I think that was the first time Clemson has had two passers over 160 yards so that's really good,” Scott said. “Nick is a senior who has kind of been waiting his turn and been preparing himself and he did a great job with the opportunities he was given. What we've kind of said was it depends on the game and situation with what we want to do because both those guys have unique skill sets but Nick has definitely been prepared for every opportunity he's been in.

"Actually, he's a slippery guy when he keeps the ball in his hands. He's got good tempo and timing and was able to pull some balls down and run it. It's hard. Being the senior and being the guy that hasn't had an opportunity to start and do all that in your career and you're playing behind such a talented guy, it's not easy. We always tell guys to be ready for any situation. I felt like mentally and physically, he was ready to do that."

Pollard and fellow freshman Tremayne Anchrum both did well, but Scott said both have things to work on.

“Absolutely, that was a big part and those guys, we'll go back and watch the tape because I'm sure there were plenty of things for those guys to correct,” he said. “The biggest thing was you didn't notice them, and for an offensive line that's a good thing."

Sophomore wide receiver Deon Cain had his best day as a Tiger, catching five passes for 125 yards and two scores.

"I think he did a lot of really good things and with conversions. Just watching him on the sideline I'd say it was his best day,” Scott said. “He's been a nice weapon coming off the sideline. Him and Mike were on a roll over there. I think both those guys ended up with over 100 yards. I've been really please with Deon and his practicing and the progress he's made. He definitely does well on game days and hopefully that'll continue down the stretch.

"Obviously not being in spring practice probably held him back a little bit. even though he was able to stand back and learn some more, physically he didn't get those opportunities. I felt like he's been coming off maybe a little bit of a slow start and I think at one point he was leading us in touchdowns. We don't want a let down from the first group to the second group and I really felt like that's where we are right now."

Scott said Cain has a chance to be the best deep threat Clemson has seen since Martavis Bryant.

"I think Martavis Bryant was in that conversation, same boat. They're definitely different receivers but Martavis was one of those that had the yards per catch, I'm sure Deon's yards per catch are pretty high,” Scott said. “He's an explosive athlete and able to get by. In that first touchdown they were in cover three and the corner was supposed to have the deep throw and it's hard to run by a corner who is in cover three. Deon got on him really fast and was able to get over the top and Deshaun had a great throw."

McCloud didn’t play after injuring his ankle last week.

"He's been banged up a little bit with a sore ankle. He could've gone if we needed to,” Scott said. “Really wanted to challenge the other guys with some opportunities. Cornell Powell is a guy who has been coming on in practice. The decision was made to hold him and fortunately for us, it was a game we could hold him."

Scott said the coaches will know more about Fruhmorgen and McCloud – and whether they’ll be able to play against Pitt next week – when they get back to practice on Monday.

"We'll see when we get back. Neither of them are that far away,” he said. “Those decisions will be made next week and we'll get some more treatment this weekend and Monday and Tuesday and see where we are because I can't really say right now. Ray-Ray is really close for sure."

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