By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Lackluster won’t cut it this season, so the first scrimmage in Death Valley was a “wax on, wax off” lesson from the Miyagi School of football.
“From my perspective when you walk away you wish you could go scrimmage somebody else,” Dabo Swinney said Saturday.
“There were a lot of wins and losses on both sides.”
Clemson ran roughly 100 plays as offensive coordinator Chad Morris opened the playbook for Tajh Boyd and kept his foot on the accelerator.
“We’re moving at a little bit faster pace, and we are able to do that because of the experience we have out here,” Boyd sad. “Usually we have a specific emphasis at each practice. Coach called a lot of things, guys responded and there weren’t many missed assignments.
“The guys seem to have a great understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish all phases of the game.”
Boyd completed 12 of 18 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns and threw one interception – “his worst play of the day,” Swinney said. Other than that the first-team offense was relatively sound, even while rolling as many as 10 players through the offensive line as auditions continue for a starting five. Also indicative of the efficiency was a relative absence of penalties.
“I was very encouraged about this scrimmage,” Boyd said “We’ve got three weeks until that first game and we’ve got to do a lot of improving to do, but I’m encouraged that we can do that.”
Sammy Watkins caught two passes, both for touchdowns. “Our tempo was the best I’ve seen since the LSU game,” he said.
Typical in these instances was the dichotomy between the offense and a defense which is still not at full strength. Brent Venables has pressed his players to see who might flinch. Though he would not identify them, Venables said it was becoming evident.
Most discouraging for him has been the injuries to the secondary, the area requiring the most attention.
“Those guys need to practice,” Venables said. “The area that needs the most improvement just based on where we were a year ago, and another day that passes is an opportunity lost.”
Offensive line and cornerback depth may require further study, but Swinney said he foresees beginning to focus on those who’ll be needed for Georgia after the second stadium scrimmage next Saturday.
“There might be one or two spots that may go a little further than that,” he said. “Certainly by the time we come out of next weekend I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of who looks is going to start this first game.”
Ordinarily coaches tout “the process” of starting at ground zero and building to the summit, allowing room for error at the beginning with the possibility of marked improvement by the second week.
Clemson does not have that luxury.
“We’re not starting out with a game where you can maybe be a little off, make a few mistakes and just be good enough to win. This is not that type of game,” Swinney said. “This is the same type of game that we just played in our bowl game. The margin for error is very small. Three or four plays are going to make the difference.
“We’ve got to be clicking at a high level.”