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Clemson 2018 Spring Game - Takeaways

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NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson’s annual Orange and White scrimmage gave the nearly 55,000 in attendance an excuse to trek up to Clemson on a beautiful Saturday. It also provided a data point to analyze as we anxiously await the 20 weeks until Clemson hosts Furman and we get another chance to watch Clemson play.

Ryan Kantor

Kelly Bryant’s Struggles

Kelly Bryant’s struggles were the most obvious story of the day so let’s start there. The down-on-contact rule in the game took away his biggest asset - physical running. Confined to being a pocket passer he did not look good.

He finished 8-15 with 0 TDs, 0 INTs, and 35 yards. They only picked up just one first down while he was in the game.

There were four or five opportunities he missed that stood out. We’ll look at two. The first was a throw in the intermediate passing game.

The ball and Milan Richard are highlighted above. Richard looks to be running an out route and is open at the 37-yard line. The ball needs to be lofted over the defender standing at the 30 and lead the receiver.

Bryant’s throw is far too deep. It has forces TE Richard to go four more yards downfield and puts the safety right on him.

The ball sails the receiver even after he adjusted to the errant pass.

As you can see from the pictures and captions above, he sails the open TE on what would have been a beautiful out route. Those are the intermediate throws that could make this offense deadly.

Bryant has good arm strength, but accuracy on the deep ball was often lacking. Here’s a pass to Hunter Renfrow gone awry.

Hunter Renfrow has broken free from the secondary and looks to take one deep. Sadly, Bryant put too much on the throw and Hunter had no chance at it.

It’s worth noting that this is just one of 15 spring practices. Coach Swinney said he played better in the previous practices, which makes sense, as we wouldn’t expect Bryant to regress from last season.

All the QBs didn’t struggle though. Hunter Johnson looked good and Trevor Lawrence made waves.

Trevor Lawrence lets it fly

Lawrence wasn’t scared to let it rip on Saturday. He was aggressive in racking up 122 yards on 11-16 passing. His deep ball accuracy was impressive. Here’s his deep TD to Tee Higgins.

This is perfect ball placement.

It wasn’t all perfect. He took 5 sacks, though it is hard to read much into that given the QBs weren’t “live.” Coming into the game, I wasn’t convinced that would do enough this offseason earn playing time as a true freshman, but I’m starting to believe. A Lawrence-Higgins combo will be deadly.

It’s worth noting that Lawrence looks awfully skinny out there - reminiscent of FSU’s James Blackman. Both could probably stand to add some good weight to help them stay healthy.

Coach Swinney on the QB Situation

“I think we can really truly win with any of the four... If we played today, Kelly would run out there, but we don’t play today, we play in September.” -Dabo Swinney

He reiterated Bryant’s accomplishments last season, but also noted that he has to earn it. Tony Elliott said it even more directly when he said it’ll be the best player, not favoritism. It sounds like it’ll be treated like a true meritocracy.

Stand-Out Players

Tee Higgins stole the show. Playing on the orange team, he caught deep passes from both Hunter Johnson and Trevor Lawrence that brought the crowd to their feet. He had four catches for 118 yards and two TDs. He could’ve added another 30+ yard reception to the tally too, but the referees blew the play dead as Lawrence was touched by a defensive lineman as he threw it.

I was also impressed by Trevion Thompson who had 4 catches for 76 yards and Deondre Overton who had 3 catches for 71 yards. They’ll provide excellent depth at the 9-WR spot (the tall Nuk Hopkins role), and I expect the 6’2” Thompson to slot in wherever snaps are available. I continue to believe the WR corps will be better this year than last year despite losing Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud.

There were 12 sacks in the game. The defensive line looked great, but it’s extremely hard to judge since QBs were not live. There’s certainly good depth there. Justin Foster stood out as someone who can provide quality reps behind the starters at DE. He gets forgotten about with superstar recruits Xavier Thomas and KJ Henry coming in, but he looks poised to contribute.

Although the secondary is thin, several players made big time plays. Mark Fields had an impressive pass break up. AJ Terrell made several big plays including an INT. K’Von Wallace had an INT of his own and Trayvon Mullen had 2 INTs, one that he returned for a long TD. The starters in the secondary look excellent. If they can stay healthy I am very confident in this group as well.

Who stood out to you? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to click back over to Shakin the Southland later this week for more analysis on the game from our other writers.