The big plays were back in Death Valley on Saturday.
In Clemson’s final stadium scrimmage of the preseason the offense finally showed up for Dabo Swinney and the offensive coaches. Earlier in the week, Swinney called out the offensive unit, saying they wilted in the heat as the Tigers underwent several day-time practices.
He said they allowed the defense to push them around all over the field. However on Saturday, the offense did the pushing.
Under the sun on a clear-and-hot summer day in Death Valley, running back Tavien Feaster rushed 105 yards on nine carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run, while quarterbacks Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson all made big plays in the passing game.
“We are just bonding, we are coming together,” Bryant said after the scrimmage. “Everybody is just buying in. We really can be special. We are just taking it one day at a time and not trying to do too much. Everybody is doing their job and that rhythm is coming along so we are just trying to build on each day, each practice, each meeting when we come out here and scrimmage.”
Bryant completed a 28-yard pass to Tee Higgins and a 40 yarder to T.J. Chase in the three-hour scrimmage. Cooper threw a pair of touchdown passes, one to Trevion Thompson and one Higgins. Johnson had a scoring pass to Chase, while Chase Brice had a 31-yard completion to Will Swinney.
Besides’ Feaster’s 105 yards on the ground, Higgins finished the day with five receptions for 76 yards, while Chase had four for 79 to lead the receivers.
“We had a good day,” Feaster said. “I wouldn’t say the defense had a bad day, I just think we brought the energy today and we stepped up today. Everybody definitely showed what they had on offense.”
After the situational scrimmage earlier this week, Feaster was hard on himself saying he needed to bring it every day if he wanted to win the Tigers’ starting spot at running back. After Saturday’s performance, he was feeling a little better about himself.
“I definitely think I took a huge step today,” he said. “Just running the ball and pass blocking, I think I got better today. I’m not quite were I want to be, but I did get better.”
“I would say this is one of my better days,” he continued. “I would say I was down and I had to pick myself up, but I think today I came and showed the coaches what I had to give.”
Swinney not discouraged about the defense. If the offense had a good day, then the flip side is the defense had a bad one. Despite that, Swinney said he was still encouraged with his defense, who has owned the offense for much of the camp.
“I have been encouraged by the defense all preseason and they have done very well. But today the offense had their day,” he said. “It did not seem to matter who we played at quarterback, there were just so many big plays today.”
The top performers on defense were Jalen Williams, who had eight tackles, while Chad Smith, Dorian O’Daniel and Tanner Muse had five tackles apiece. The defense had six sacks overall, including two by defensive end Chris Register.
Safety Isaiah Simmons had the only takeaway with an interception.
Injury updates. The defense was without linebacker Shaq Smith and cornerback Marcus Edmond, who both were held out with injuries.
Bright spots. Swinney has been pleased with the play of his secondary in camp, especially when it comes to pass interference penalties. Clemson led the nation in pass inference penalties last season so it has been an area of emphasis in camp.
The Tigers started using boxing gloves on the defensive backs, which has helped clean up their technique as well as forced them to use their feet in transition.
Clemson was called for just one pass interference in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Trapp and Robinson are coming along. Swinney mentioned he has been extremely pleased with the performance of Amir Trapp, even saying he has been one of the surprises of camp thus far.
“Amir has really improved and has been consistent at cornerback. He is a competitor,” Swinney said.
Swinney also said defensive tackle Jabril Robinson has taken advantage of his opportunities and is playing at high level. He indicated if Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are the first-team then, Jabril Robinson is I-A.
“He is going to get starter snaps,” the Clemson coach said. “The light has gone on for him and he loves to play.”
Clemson will hold its annual fan appreciation day on Sunday at Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free.
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