Swinney says it's "game on" with the quarterbacks as Cooper has best day


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Zerrick Cooper had his best day Monday
Zerrick Cooper had his best day Monday

CLEMSON – As spring practice for the defending national champions begins to wind down, the quarterback competition continues to take center stage.

Head coach Dabo Swinney told the media that Monday was redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper’s best day and that all of the quarterbacks continue to compete on a daily basis.

“With the quarterbacks, I'll tell you that we've got some elite guys and it's fun to watch them compete. They've all kind of settled in a little bit here and it is game on,” Swinney said Monday evening. “Zerrick had a couple of touchdowns, Hunter (Johnson) made some big plays, Kelly (Bryant) was tremendous again especially in some of the plays he made in critical situations. Tucker (Israel) made some nice plays. They’re just all competing, and I love to see that. Just a healthy competition and all of them being ready when their number is called.”

Swinney also liked the way the wide receivers responded from last week’s scrimmage when there were a lot of drops in critical situations.

"I think that we've had a good spring and today was a day I thought the offense won the day,” Swinney said. “Went live on all phases with the quarterbacks again today. I picked two days to do that this spring and that'll be it for the spring as far as going live. It was a really, really productive day today and I thought it was the best day offensively we've had all spring. Pleased with plays that were made outside today. Ray-Ray (McCloud) had a big day, Deon (Cain), Trevion (Thompson) had two great catches, Cornell (Powell), T.J. Chase, (Diondre) Overton had a couple nice plays but really all of them. The tight ends, the backs ran well so pleased with what they did up front.”

However, Swinney wasn’t overly impressed with the defense.

"Overall, did not finish like we're capable to finish consistently today but they've had a great spring,” he said. “This is really the first day where I can say, 'Wow the offense kind of won the day.' There's been some close competition at times, but defensively they've been very consistent all spring long just today was too many big plays, and we have got to get off the field like we need to consistently."

With only one more practice, there’s still a lot Swinney wants to accomplish.

"The biggest thing Wednesday is we'll have another half practice 50/50 kind of day and then a half scrimmage,” Swinney said. “We've got a couple of situations we have not hit yet but we will on Wednesday just to kind of touch on all the bases so that we can teach and we pretty much always go good on good. Then Wednesday will be a day we'll probably do 1s on 2s and challenge them in that regard and what I want to see Wednesday is those 2s step up and compete and hopefully not a lot of drop-off.

“Sometimes you get conditioned where you believe you're good on good all the time, and I'm going to mix it up on Wednesday and see how some of those young guys respond and say that they're ready and now we're going to see because it's going to get mixed up a little bit. We've got some more special teams work to get done and really just installation and finish up a couple of these situations we need to cover.”

The most important thing Swinney wants to see is a huge crowd on hand for Saturday’s spring game.

“Thursday we'll split up the team and we've got some things we've got to cover over the summer and make sure guys understand how to run their skills and drills this summer and split the team and draw the battle lines and get the staff split up and get ready to have an unbelievable game atmosphere on Saturday,” he said. “If we can have 70,000 show up for a parade surely we can have 70,000-plus show up for the game because it's a huge part of the evaluation piece to have a true game environment with that many people and see how some of these guys respond so it's a fun week and got a lot going on and got the All-In ball on Friday night. Coach (Gene) Stallings coming into town to speak at that and looking forward to a good week."

Other notes

What did the tape reveal about last week’s scrimmage?

"Too many penalties was the biggest thing. We could never get in rhythm offensively. Just too many things that take you completely out of rhythm procedurally. We had a world record of procedural penalties last week so that was really disappointing but that was probably the biggest thing. Like I said, Hunter probably had his best day the other day of the spring and Zerrick probably had his best day of the spring today. They've been kind of coming and Kelly has been incredibly consistent across the board and really so has Tucker, it's a lot of little things we needed to correct on both sides of the ball.

“We got a lot of special teams work done on Wednesday, and a lot of special teams work today. Live punt coverage, live punt return and a good amount of field goal. Pleased with what I've seen from the kickers this spring, (Greg) Huegel's been solid. Alex Spence has by far had his best stretch as a Tiger, very consistent and really pleased to see that and what we've been kind of waiting on because we really haven't had a lot of competition at that position so it's good to see him step up and compete. Same thing with the punters, we've put them in all kinds of situations to evaluate them and that's a job that is good and bad on different days but will probably carry on into the summer and fall camp because we don't play until September but I like the guys we've got, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out."

Shaq Smith

"He's progressing very well, and I'm really proud of Shaq. He's one of those guys that redshirted and wasn't quite ready to play, and the game has slowed down for him, and you just notice him more, and he's had a good spring. He had a couple of nice plays out there today."

Xavier Kelly

"We'll see, but he's progressing, and it's easy to see his talent and athleticism and physicality and all that stuff, but he just needs a big summer and big fall camp but I don't think there's any doubt we'll see him this fall for sure, but he's got a bright future."

Jamie Skalski

"Man he just brings a great name, Skalski, does that just not sound like a linebacker? First of all that's where it starts-Skalski. He's just awesome and he's had a great spring. I can't say enough about him, he's a player. He's going to be a really, really good football player for us. We didn't know what to expect last year when he got here. Sometimes you just assume some guys are going to play and some guys are going to redshirt and I think he's one of those guys. From the moment he got here he caught everybody's eye. He's very natural, very instinctive and very athletic, you have no idea how athletic he is. He punted 63 yards the other day after a practice. He's just a heck of an athlete and has great instincts for the game so I'm just excited about his future too."

Logan Rudolph

"We're working on it (to find where he fits in). He fits in with that shoulder and helmet pads on. He's the epitome of a football player. This has been a big spring for him and we'll sit down and start exit interviews with every player and I can't wait to sit down and talk with Logan about his experience and what he's learned and what he's got to do this summer. He's going to be a great player if he stays healthy. He'll probably be a guy that moves around a bit but he's got all the tools and intangibles and measurables."

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