Wed. practice report: McNeal's long touchdown highlights offense's good day

by - Senior Writer -
Kyle Parker's bad back wasn't an issue as he shined in Wednesday's practice

CLEMSON – A “Look Z” at Wednesday’ s Clemson football practice hopefully provided a “look see” into the big-play capabilities head coach Dabo Swinney has been searching for with his offense.

Redshirt freshman receiver Bryce McNeal caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Parker to highlight play during Wednesday’s early afternoon practice, and McNeal said his instructions were clear on the play.

“It is what we call a “Look Z”, and it’s where I go out and play the “Z” position,” McNeal said. “They told to just run out there and run right by him [the cornerback], and then K.P. put it right on the money. I caught it in stride, it jumped right in the pocket, and I took off.”

McNeal said that he has been mentally gearing himself up for Saturday’s Spring Game, and has relished the chance to learn this spring.

“I knew today was really the last practice in pads, and I wanted to get myself mentally ready for Saturday,” McNeal said. “Everything I know, I have learned this spring. In fall, in working with the scout team, I really only learned two concepts, so everything has been new to me this spring. But after spring practice is over, I am not going to take any time off – I am going to be in the playbook the whole time. I don’t want to take a step back.”

Swinney said that the practice was a great way for the offense to finish spring drills.

“It was a really great way to finish spring practice,” Swinney said. “It was the best day by far for the offense. It was very crisp, and the execution was outstanding. The offense made a lot of big plays. Kyle Parker had a big day. Brandon Clear had two touchdowns, really great catches. Bryce had a big day, caught a long touchdown pass.

“No. 8 [Jamie Harper] and No. 23 [Andre Ellington] had good days. Ellington had a long touchdown run. But it all goes back to the guys up front, and those guys were clicking pretty good out there today. It was a good thing for them to break practice with some confidence. And I have been impressed with both Richard Jackson and Dawson Zimmerman. They have both been consistent.”

Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said he was pleased with the way the offense has responded since being “scolded” about their lackluster play in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Really, it was a just a group effort, and just another good lesson for our guys about focus,” Napier said. “They are learning what it takes to be successful. We had to scold them pretty strong after Saturday, and they came out and showed good attitude and effort. They knew what they had to do and they played like it. We’ve still got a long way to go, but today was a step forward. It helps when your young guys see some success.”

Swinney was once again asked about the offensive line, and he said that he continues to be impressed with the starting five, and looks forward to the return of Mason Cloy from his ankle injury, which will provide needed depth in the fall.

"I feel so much better right now about them than I did this time last year because I feel so good about the first five,” Swinney said. “I really feel like we can line up and go play, plus we're getting Mason Cloy back, and I’m confident about him too. We’re coming out of it with six guys that I'm very confident can play winning football for us. Last spring we went into it with about two guys and a lot still to prove. I feel good about where we are. I feel like Phillip Price made a lot of progress this spring, and he needs a big summer. And Brandon Thomas made a lot of progress this spring, and he needs a big summer.”

Swinney was asked if he has accomplished what he wanted to over the summer and Swinney said he was definitely pleased with the first groups and looks for more out of the second groups.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the first group on both sides of the ball,” Swinney said. “And we have depth in certain areas. Being able to focus on technique and fundamentals. We're further along. It's pretty evident now that we've been able to accomplish a lot at a lot of positions. A lot of these guys have to have huge strides this summer. They've got to work hard this summer and study and come into fall camp a better football player.”

The teams will practice on Thursday, but Swinney said most of the practice will be spent in letting the coaches get the game plans together for Saturday. Swinney said that he asked each of his coaches to divide their position rosters evenly, and the teams were split up by Swinney.

Just to ensure that the coaches didn’t load up on one roster, none of the assistants know as of yet which team they will be coaching. The rosters are already split, and Swinney will assign each of his assistants to a particular staff. Once that is accomplished, they will flip a coin and the winner gets to pick which roster they coach.

Swinney said that he would love to see 40,000 fans in the stands for Saturday’s contest.

“I hope Saturday is a great day to be a Clemson Tiger,” he said. “Come out and enjoy our beautiful campus. Let’s get 40,000 people in here, and when they show this thing on TV this spring, let’s show everybody that Clemson is serious about some football.”

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