On Thursday evening, Clemson held its final practice before the Tigers take the field in Death Valley for the annual Orange & White Spring Football game. Head coach Dabo Swinney urges fans to come out and support the work the reigning National Champions have put in throughout the spring in order to create the feel of a real game. Swinney and others met with the media following practice to provide more details on the event.
Here is what we heard:
The team has been broken up into two teams and the coaching staffs have been decided. As of now, quarterbacks Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel will lead the Orange team while Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson will be the play callers for the White team. The only factor that could change is if Bryant is not fully healthy on Saturday afternoon.
“Kelly (Bryant) kind of tweaked his hamstring just a little bit the other day, but they didn’t think it was bad. If he can go, that is how we’ll roll,” Swinney said. “He practiced today, so hopefully he’ll play. If for some reason he can’t go or he tweaks it again, we move Hunter (Johnson) over and will probably swing Tucker (Israel) back and forth. We’ve got a good plan.”
Swinney also announced on Thursday evening that the quarterbacks will go live in the spring game to help the coaches come up with a true evaluation of their performances. Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott added the competition is so close the live action will be necessary to reach a decision.
“It is a tough decision, and I think had the circumstances been different and it wasn’t such a close battle, you might air on the side of not being live with those guys,” Elliott said. “But when you’ve got three guys legitimately vying for the spot and it’s close, you need that live evaluation to see who’s going to be the guy when the live bullets are coming at them.”
Elliott believes the quarterback battle remains as one of the biggest position battles on the team. While there may be two to three running backs or receivers all competing amongst each other at an equal level, Elliott said determining one starting quarterback is the most important.
“I think the quarterback is the biggest position because everybody looks at that position and that’s the leader of our offense, and rightfully so,” Elliott said. “Most of the time you just want to have that one guy that takes the reigns. So I think that’s the biggest position.”
Regardless of which player is on which team for Saturday’s spring game, Swinney has been impressed with what he has seen from his second string players. He’s been encouraged by the plays both the second-team offense and defense have made against the first-team, and he credits that to having good, developed depth.
“Our depth is good. We have a lot of spots where there’s not a lot of drop off, just good quality depth,” he said. “There is a difference between having depth and quality, competitive, functional depth. I think that we are going to have that in a lot of areas which is encouraging. We are really fortunate because we have most everybody here this spring. I think we’ve only got like 15 kids coming in this summer, 10 signees and about five more walk-ons.”
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