Milan Richard sums up what fall camp is all about better than anyone else.
“When you start camp, you either improve or you are getting worse,” the Clemson tight end said.
For Richard and the rest of the Clemson offense, they have definitely improved. The Tigers’ offensive units had by far their best scrimmage of camp on Saturday, capping a few days that saw the offense go from head coach Dabo Swinney’s doghouse at the beginning of the week to the penthouse by early afternoon on Saturday.
“I definitely think everybody is getting better,” Richard said. “I think I had a good day, but that is for the coaches to decide. We will go back and watch it. It is never as bad as it seems and it is never as good as it seems. The tape will tell the truth when we look at it.”
What the tape will show is an offense that finally broke through and made some plays against a defense that has given them fits all preseason. 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.
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.
A week ago, the Tigers were unable to move the ball with any rhythm at all against their own defense, while in this past Wednesday’s situational scrimmage the defense had the upper hand as well. However, the offense kept working to get better and on Saturday their hard work shined through.
“Everything I would say, from mentally to physical stuff and just trying to attack each day,” Richard said. “A lot of people, when they get the calendar, they say, ‘Wow! We are in camp the whole month of August.’ But you can’t look at it like that. It is very important that you take a day-by-day mentally and attack each day.”
And that includes working on himself. Richard feels he has improved in every area of his game over the last 16 days “from the run game to the passing game to mentally knowing the offense, and I would say just trying to improve in all areas,” he said.
As for being confident enough to tell tight ends coach Danny Pearman he wants to be the starter when the Tigers open the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Kent State, Richard says “That is his decision.”
“I have confidence in my ability,” Richard continued. “I’m never going to say that I don’t feel like I’m confident. I definitely have a lot of confidence, but that his job. Our job is to come out here and play and showcase what we can do and then let them make the overall decision.”
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