Scrimmage update: Bryant excels but Cooper and Johnson "are coming"


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Zerrick Cooper is battling for a starting spot
Zerrick Cooper is battling for a starting spot

CLEMSON – The Clemson football team held a situational scrimmage in Memorial Stadium Wednesday morning, and head coach Dabo Swinney said the effort was much better than in Tuesday’s practice, a practice that left him a little aggravated and frustrated.

The team practiced for two-and-a-half hours inside the stadium, and Swinney said the offense had a better day but still has to clean up the mistakes.

“They were much better. I thought they would respond and we have a bunch of veterans on this team,” Swinney said. “We still are making too many mistakes and we talk about not losing to Clemson and we did that too many times today on both sides with just boneheaded mistakes.

“That's one of the things I love about this scrimmage here is when we are in a situational scrimmage, we get a lot of work - a lot of work in situations -and you get exposed because you have to process and think. It was good. We got better as a team today. We got a lot that we can teach from and grow from on this tape. We have a lot of good things, just too many offsides and too much stuff - forgetting the play, two ends coming off the sidelines, we had twelve men on defense on 4th down, last play of the game. Just some sloppiness.”

Swinney said the coaches will be able to learn more about their team after watching the tape.

“But the competitiveness of it, the effort and the mental toughness was much better today. Again, we're repping three groups, we're coaching a lot of guys and we'll continue to do that into next week when we really hone in.,” he said. “This will be a big tape for us, we'll get better with this tape - no doubt about it. We had a lot of situations come up where we had 3rd-and-two in two-down territory, win or lose, we had a lot of 4th downs. Our first group managed the clock really well, but the second group was really poor with just the operation and command of what we're trying to do. We finished with some last plays - balls on the 30, it’s the last play of the game with one second on the clock, ball’s on the 15, ball’s on the 5. We're trying to create these types of situations and get these guys to think and teach them. From that standpoint, it was a very productive day. We are nowhere near the execution that we got to have or expect to be a great team but we did make progress today.”

He then broke down the quarterback competition and said that Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson are still chasing Kelly Bryant, with neither of the freshmen making any separation from the other.

“Those two are still right there. They both do some good things and then they will both make a mistake that you just scratch your head on,” Swinney said. “But they are freshmen, and I understand that. We have to keep putting them in those situations. They both made some huge, explosive plays but they will come back and forget the motion. Well, that's a problem. It's a tackle for loss and you're behind the chains. They will take a tackle for loss on the sprint out. It's some little things like that they have to continue to go through. We are trying to expose these guys, and if they are coachable they will learn from it and get better. And then when we go play and that scoreboard is lit up for real, they've learned from that. I think both of those guys have done a good job..”

Swinney said Bryant is still atop the depth chart but has to go prove it once the games start.

“Kelly had an excellent day today. I was really pleased with him today. He has been very steady and made some explosive plays today,” he said. “It was good to see some guys finish better today and catch the ball down the field. We caught the ball better today better than we did yesterday. Zerrick and Hunter are coming, and it's just going to continue to go. And the next step is to go and perform in the games. There is no way I can answer anybody's question. All I can tell you is where we are today, and when we go play the game unless Kelly just goes backward he will be the guy we run out there. I don't know. We aren't there yet. Every play counts. And if he's the guy he has to go do it on game day.”


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