Clemson's Spring Game gave us both of those as well as some observations to kick around for the next four months.
Since we don't care about the Orange/White team divisions, I've combined the statistics to make it a bit easier to read.
Watson: 7/11, 141 yrds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Bryant: 9/17, 128 yrds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Schuessler: 14/21, 133 yrds, 1 TD, 0 INTs
Israel: 2/10, 40 yrds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
- Watson played for both teams on the first couple drives and then hung back with Coach Swinney and watched the remainder of game. In his limited time, he carved up the secondary. Most notable were his deep passes to Hunter Renfrow and Ray Ray McCloud. It's always hard to tell if the secondary play is poor or the QB play is good. In this case it was probably a little of both, but mostly the latter.
- It's hard to judge Kelly Bryant on a day when his running ability was effectively neutralized by a quick whistle. On roll outs where he has one or two simple reads and can run if they're not open, he looked good. Sitting back in the pocket, he still has more development to do. He had two interceptions and Coach Swinney noted that he still holds onto the ball too long.
- Nick Schuessler looked better than I've ever seen him. Coach Swinney said he is in a "dead heat" with Kelly Bryant for the back-up QB job. I tend to agree with the folks from the Clemson Pawcast in that - God forbid - if we ever need to replace Watson in a competitive contest, our best bet may be a dual-QB system that utilizes both Schuessler and Bryant because they are such different QBs.
McCloud: 3 rec, 98 yrds, 1 TD
Thompson: 6 rec, 87 yrds
Renfrow: 5 rec, 85 yrds, 1 TD
Scott: 5 rec, 52 yrds
Seth Ryan: 4 rec, 39 yrds
Leggett: 2 rec, 34 yrds
Cannon Smith: 1 rec, 7 yrds, 1 TD
Greenlee: 1 rec, 10 yrds
Milan Richard: 1 rec, 3 yrds
- The Clemson Pawcasters nailed it when they said Artavis Scott looked like he got his burst back. He looked very good both receiving and returning on special teams. That said, he still isn't the tall boundary receiver type that can high point the ball in a jump ball situation. He had one of those opportunities in this game and didn't come down with it. Bringing back Mike Williams will make for an excellent WR duo.
- Ray Ray McCloud looked good overall, leading the game in receiving yards, but he made a blunder on a punt return. As the ball was bouncing into the end zone, he inexplicably reached out and stopped it. He then had to recover it to prevent a needless turnover. The net result was a loss of 10-15 yards from what would have been a sure touchback. The staff would love him to provide Scott a respite from special teams work, but he is good enough as a wide receiver that it seems equally productive to allow Scott to handle the return game and lean on McCloud a bit more as a receiver. At this point, I expect to see Scott handle kick/punt returns. Scott is hands down our best option.
- Trevion Thompson led the game in receptions and was very involved throughout. He dropped a 4th & 7 pass from Tucker Israel that would have brought the White team back in the game. The drop effectively ended their chances (and hurt Israel's stat line), but overall he looked good. I expect him to be much more involved this season.
- Jordan Leggett looked sharp at TE. Cannon Smith caught a TD and dropped a pass. We'll hopefully get some more production from TEs other than Jordan Leggett, but he is certainly the best pass catching TE on the roster by a wide margin.
Gallman: 8 rushes, 58 yrds
Choice: 17 rushes, 88 yrds
Fuller: 16 rushes, 58 yrds
Dye: 6 rushes, 29 yrds
- It's easy to be pleased with the running backs. Gallman only had 8 rushes, but looked good. Giving Adam Choice the redshirt year seems like it was a good call as he is now healthy and primed to be the second-string back. He should take some of the workload off Gallman's shoulders, which will help keep them both fresh. Dye should also contribute. He too seemed to hit the hole faster than what we've seen from him in the past. Fuller looked fine as well and you have Tavien Feaster coming in too.
- Remember when Roderick "Hot Rod" McDowell graduated and we relied on D.J. Howard, C.J. Davidson, and Zac Brooks until the freshmen really started contributing (Choice, Gallman, Dye, and Fuller). It's not a knock on those guys to say we've improved at the position since then and should have a best corps since C.J. Spiller was in Clemson. We'll have good talent with a proven track record at the top of the depth chart and plenty of depth behind it.
Bryant: 1 sack, 2 PBU
Lawrence: 1 sack
Carlos Watkins: 1 sack
Boulware: 1 sack
Judah Davis: 1 sack
Huggins: 1 sack
Fields: 2 PBU
Tankersley: 1 PBU
Van Smith: 2 PBU
Ferrell: 1 PBU
Ryan Carter: 1 INT
Marcus Edmond: 1 INT
- There were quite a few sacks in this game, but you have to keep in mind the touch rules on the QB made them easier to come by, especially with Kelly Bryant. The offensive line actually held up quite well considering the talent and depth on the D-line two split O-lines went up against.
- Marcus Edmond made a good play on a Kelly Bryant thrown jump ball and returned it pretty nicely too. The secondary is the most suspect part of the defense, but they were good enough to hold the back-up QBs in check.
- Greg Huegel was no fluke last year. He's a great kicker and an amazing find for the Tigers! He still doesn't blast kicks out of the end zone. Alex Spence struggled on field goals and kickoffs.
- Kick and punt coverage still look like a weakness Hopefully, this is something they figure out in Fall camp. It doesn't seem like it was an "easy fix" they took care of since the National Championship. Of course, we didn't expect it to be. Hopefully they're able to resolve it.
Overall, I don't take too much from the Spring Game, but this one gave me mostly positive feelings. The offense looks great. I'm very pleased with the depth at WR and RB. Once again, we really need Watson to stay healthy. The depth behind him isn't ready, at least not the lofty expectations we're placing on this team. I'm very optimistic about our defensive line (I've learned not to doubt Dan Brooks and Marion Hobby) so the offensive line was impressive in that they at least held their own. The secondary got a little sliced up by Watson, but fortunately they won't face someone of his caliber. Special teams is still a work in progress, but we haven't gone into a season with as solid of a place kicker as Greg Huegel since Chandler Catanzaro. I'll keep my fingers crossed about the rest of special teams.
We'll need to take a breath and keep expectations realistic, as 11-1 shouldn't be a disappointment to anyone, but frankly I'm excited about this team and am ready for a trip to Tampa. Spot the ball!
Video Courtesy TigerNet: