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Spring Game gives clues about future of Clemson football

A record 60,000 were reported in attendance for Clemson’s Spring Game this past Saturday. It was a special day in April, not only because it was a glimpse into the progression of the new Tigers’ players and recruits, but also because it featured the ring ceremony for the seniors at halftime. It was a nice last hurrah for the players headed to the NFL and a chance for them to give their love to the many Clemson fans.

However, many people were interested in which quarterback would try to fill Deshaun Watson’s incredibly large shoes next season. Four quarterbacks were on hand, two for orange and two for white. The two younger players, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson switched off on the White team while junior Kelly Bryant and redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel played for Orange. 

“If we played a game today, Kelly [Bryant] would be the guy,” commented Swinney after the game. “But we don’t play today. We play in September, and everything counts. I’m pleased with the spring all of them have had.” 

It isn’t a conclusive statement, but, it is  a telling one. There is plenty of time left before Swinney and co. have to make a decision, but as of right now Kelly Bryant is in the lead. 

The game stats offer the same evaluation that Swinney gave which is to say that no one really stood out. Bryant, the de facto starter, went just 4-for-13 passing with 42 yards, but he did pick up 47 yards on the ground. Bryant’s inability to throw the ball is probably due to a torn tendon in his pinkie finger that he suffered on the first series of the game. 

Tucker Israel did quite well, and he was the only quarterback to not throw an interception. Israel almost did throw an interception, but it was dropped by safety Isaiah Simmons midway through the first quarter.

Lost in the race for the new quarterback is the race for the new running back. Wayne Gallman was a large piece of Clemson’s offense last year, but there are players on this roster capable of filling his role. 

Sophomore Tavien Feaster impressed with his breakaway speed and lateral playmaker’s moves. He also featured well as a kick and punt returner, opening up the second quarter with a return that could have gone for 50 yards or more if not for him  being pushed out of bounds around the 40.  

On the defensive side of the ball, Van Smith sparkled in his new transition to strong safety making big hits all over the field. A relative unknown, Lasamuel Davis was stellar in recording the game’s first sack and providing a constant stream of pressure at the defensive end position. Though we might not see him much this year with incumbent players like Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Richard Yeargin already at the position. 

The defense doesn’t have much to worry about as most of the important pieces will remain for at least one more year. The loss of Ben Boulware as both a leader and a playmaker for the Tigers’ defense is going to be tough to fill, but both Trey Lamar and Rashaun Smith will have a chance to fill that role. 

The Tigers don’t have any real games until Sept. 2, but the competitions will rage on through the rest of spring and summer as Clemson gets ready to defend their national title.

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