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Spring Game: A preview for fall season

Ashley Stout, Asst. Photo Editor
Ray Ray McCloud

Last Saturday, 50,500 fans made their way into Death Valley amidst 30 mph winds to watch the annual Clemson football spring game. Fans had a chance to catch a glimpse of what the 2016 season holds as well as the players that will lead their team on Fridays and Saturdays next fall. For the players, it was a chance to prove to coaches that they deserve playing time; for the freshman players it was a chance to get a feel for the atmosphere they will be experiencing in Death Valley.
Coach Swinney thanked the fans for coming out in support of his team. “To have 50,000 fans today, that was awesome. It creates a game day environment for our team, and is especially important for our young guys. It shows them what it is like. You just can’t simulate that atmosphere in practice.”
Fans broke the spring game attendance record with 50,500, answering Coach Swinney’s challenge to show up Saturday afternoon.
Deshaun Watson easily stood out amongst his teammates, though he played in only four drives, two for each of the teams. He threw two touchdown passes to sophomores Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud, and spent the remainder of the game watching and coaching beside Swinney.
The search for the backup quarterback continued as Nick Schuessler, Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel played the duration of the game in Watson’s shoes.
Bryant was more comfortable running the football, while Schuessler worked the passing game.  Neither stood out, still leaving the debate as to who will fill Watson’s shoes. Israel, in his first public appearance since his injury last spring, struggled in the passing game, only going 2-10.
Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott are two forces to be on the lookout for next year. Gallman looked stronger and more aggressive than at the conclusion of last season, if that’s even possible, and Scott looked like the answer for the return game. Each of these two were standouts and can be expected to make their presence on the field known this fall.
The youth of Brett Venables’ defense left the defensive coordinator unsatisfied following Saturday’s performance. “I didn’t think we were great today. I just thought it was okay.” “OK” isn’t at all promising for Clemson’s defense, which is in need of strong competitors and standouts as they face competitive teams like Florida State and Georgia Tech this fall.
Venables has spent spring practice looking for defensive ends and left Saturday with more questions than answers. In response to if he can find three defensive ends, all he could say was “I don’t know,” and that “we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
From a game standpoint, however, Christian Wilkins is a potential answer, and is considered for both defensive end or tackle position this fall. The veteran had six tackles on Saturday and has already proven he can compete in game-time scenarios with his performances last season.
With only 26 total points scored Saturday, 17 for the Orange team and nine for the White team, the defense did something right, even if it didn’t impress the coach. Freshman Tre Lamar had 10 stops for the White team, making him the top tackler of the game. Two defensive backs for the white team, Marcus Edmond and Ryan Carter, made two interceptions, the only two of the game. For the Orange team, J.D. Davis and Kendall Joseph each had seven stops.
The kickoffs and punting weren’t anything outstanding from either side. With less than stellar performances from Greg Huegel and Andy Teasdall, the steadfast wind may have played a factor in this. However, the Tiger’s special teams must stay consistent in order to compete with the stiff competition in the ACC.
With football season fast approaching, the Spring Game gave coaches and fans one last chance to see the strength of the Tigers. Though the offense is a force to be reckoned with, there is still work to be done on both the defensive and special teams sides of the ball. If the Tigers want to keep their dreams of a repeat National Championship appearance alive, these issues have to be addressed. Look for improvements on all sides of the ball as Clemson faces Auburn in their season opener on September 3. 

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