During the spring, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott told Ray-Ray McCloud they wanted to see a little bit more from him with playmakers like Mike Williams, Jordan Leggett and Artavis Scott all moving on to the NFL.
McCloud had showed flashes here and there of how good he could be during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but if he was going to be a starter in 2017, Swinney and Scott wanted to see a little more consistency and a little more ownership in what he was doing.
In other words, they wanted to see McCloud mature. Swinney admitted during his weekly press conference on Tuesday that McCloud and the coaches were not always on the same page the last two years.
But this year, Swinney said the junior has grown up and has done exactly what the coaches asked him to do.
“It’s Just work ethic,” Swinney said. “Just maturity, attention to detail, how he handles himself in practice, going hard every play and just knowing how hard you have to work to be elite… I just think that’s part of growing up and maturing, and he’s battled some injuries.”
Through three games this season, McCloud leads the Tigers with 16 catches for 220 yards. He has one touchdown, a 79-yard pass from Kelly Bryant against Louisville last Saturday. He also caught passes of 29 yards and 34 yards from Bryant in the win over Auburn on Sept. 9.
“Being consistent week in and week out, that was one of the big things with him, and I’m really proud of him,” Swinney said. “He had an awesome fall camp and a great three games… He’s done a heck of a job. He’s really playing at a high level.”
Wilkins too strong. When someone scores a touchdown, Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins gets so happy and starts jumping and hitting whoever scored it in the head out of excitement. But Wilkins and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow have their own tradition.
“He hits you hard,” Renfrow said about Wilkins. “You have to be aware of concussions when he hits you on the head. I think it started as a joke in the ACC Championship last year. Christian and I do rock, paper, scissors and so I’m up 2-0 on him.”
Renfrow said he is looking forward to beating Wilkins many times this season in their new tradition. Renfrow has not scored a touchdown this year, but he took his 2-0 lead in last year’s title run.
“I scored one in the ACC Championship and I did it the first touchdown of the National Championship, and got him both times,” he said. “The second touchdown in the National Championship we didn’t get the chance to do it. But I’m looking forward to beating him the rest of the year. It was a nice compromise. I was getting tired of him smacking me on the head.”
Feaster has learned by watching. After spending much of the 2016 season on the sideline, Clemson running back Tavien Feaster said he learned a lot by watching Wayne Gallman and it made him appreciative of the opportunities he is getting now.
“I’m better because I’m appreciative of my opportunities,” he said. “I’m very thankful for every time I get in the game. I just know I got to go because this may be my last time to prove myself to the coaches so I play with that chip on my shoulder.”
Feaster has rushed for 176 yards so far this year on 19 carries. He had 92 yards on 10 carries in last week’s win at Louisville.
Doing his job. A lot has been made about the development of Bryant at quarterback, who is off to a good start so far this season, completing 57 of his 83 passes for 733 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Swinney spoke about quarterbacks coach/recruiting coordinator Brandon Streeter and the job he has done since he’s been at Clemson.
“Streeter has done a phenomenal job,” Swinney said. “He’s just a great fit. He is a very good quarterback coach. He is also our recruiting coordinator and does a great job.
“But he’s got a great demeanor. He’s a very poised guy. He works really hard as far as his preparation, week in and week out and his attention to detail, so he’s been a great addition to our staff.”