Monday Morning Quarterback
Happy game week everyone!
Game week is finally here as second-ranked Clemson opens the 2018 football season on Saturday against Furman at Death Valley. In five days, more than 100,000 people will embark on Clemson to tailgate and celebrate another football season in Tigertown.
More than 80,000 of those will come inside Clemson Memorial Stadium to watch their Tigers play and see for themselves who the better quarterback is between incumbent starter Kelly Bryant and true freshman Trevor Lawrence.
Clemson is expected to release its depth chart this morning to the media which will officially announce who head coach Dabo Swinney will start between the two quarterbacks. If things stay like they have all spring and summer, Bryant should be listed as the starter.
Swinney has said all along that Bryant was still his fist-team quarterback and has done nothing to disprove that.
To kick off game week, the Clemson media will get the opportunity today to speak with co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and defensive coordinator Brent Venables as well as selected players. On Tuesday, Swinney will hold his first of his weekly press conferences and more select players will be made available to the media as well.
Of course the quarterback competition was not the only good competition that went on in camp this year. The battle to be the Tigers’ first-team running back is also a close race between last year’s starter Tavien Feaster and sophomore Travis Etienne. Both had a good summer, but in the last few days of camp, Feaster made big strides and was playing well according to Elliott, who is also the running backs coach. Etienne came into camp as the starter.
The tight end position was also up in the air between Milan Richard, last year’s starter, and Garrett Williams. They both came into camp as co-starters. At the end of camp there still did not seem to be any real separation between the two.
The position battles at wide receiver were tight as well, but I expect we will see Hunter Renfrow, Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins starting in Clemson’s three-wide receiver set. The offensive line, according to Swinney last Thursday, also seems set with Mitch Hyatt starting at left tackle, John Simpson at left guard, Justin Falcinelli at center, Sean Pollard at right guard and Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle.
Clemson’s starters are a little clearer on defense. Of course the front four will consist on defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, while Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence will start at defensive tackle.
Venables has already said Tre Lamar (middle), Kendall Joseph (weak side) and Isaiah Simmons (strong side) are his three starting linebackers, while Trayvon Mullen (boundary cornerback), Tanner Muse (free safety) and K’Von Wallace (strong safety) are sure to be starters on the back end.
There is still a question mark at the field corner position between senior Mark Fields and sophomore A.J. Terrell. However, Fields missed practice time last week with a knee injury, giving Terrell the edge. Swinney said he expects Fields to be available to play against Furman.
Swinney has already said, for the most part, Greg Huegel will get the nod as the starting placekicker after creating separation from Alex Spence, but Will Spiers is having to battle for his job with Carson King, who has really come on strong in the spring and summer.
Of course there are others Clemson fans will be anxious to see as well, especially freshmen defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry. Rookie cornerbacks Kyler McMichael and Mario Goodrich are also two guys a lot of the 81,500 will be eager to watch as well.
Besides Trevor Lawrence on offense, freshman running back Lyn-J Dixon should be a fan favorite as well as first-year wideouts Justyn Ross and Derion Kendrick and true freshman tight end Braden Galloway.
So, welcome to game week! Though the Tigers are not opening against a big-time opponent on Saturday, it’s obvious from above there is still a lot to look forward to.