The 2018 season kicked off against Furman last Saturday, when the Clemson Tigers began the journey they hope takes them back to the College Football Playoff.
In this edition of our Up Downs feature we take a look at which players made a move in the season-opener, and are elevating their game and their position on the depth chart.
We also take a look at which players have fallen down the depth chart due to injury or performance.
Shaq Smith: Clemson’s coaches talked throughout fall camp about the improvements Smith has made, and he looked like a different player Saturday. The redshirt sophomore linebacker showed up all over the field, making a handful of tackles and forcing a fumble as well. He played with a lot of condidence and appears to have elevated his game from a year ago.
Lyn-J Dixon: Dixon made the most of his opportunities against the Paladins, rushing for a game-high 89 yards on six carries, an average of 14.8 yards per attempt. The true freshman flashed the explosiveness and dynamic playmaking ability Clemson’s coaches raved about in camp. Dixon rushed twice for 76 yards on one of Clemson’s scoring drives.
Justyn Ross: Ross recorded a couple of catches for 16 yards, including his first career touchdown reception. The former five-star wide receiver turned a screen pass from Trevor Lawrence into a touchdown, making a move inside and juking a defender before sprinting into the end zone. His first catch was reminiscent of former Clemson great Sammy Watkins, who also scored a touchdown on his first career catch against Troy in 2011. Look for the Tigers to try to get the ball into Ross’s hands more often moving forward.
Braden Galloway: Like Ross, Galloway caught his first career touchdown reception from Lawrence. The two freshmen hooked up for a 9-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter. It was a glimpse of what should be a special quarterback-tight end connection in the years to come.
B.T. Potter: Potter looked as advertised against Furman with his big leg, booting six of his seven kickoff attempts for touchbacks. It was easy to see why Potter won the competition for the kickoff duties. The Tigers have a guy who consistently neutralizes the threat of the return game.
Kelly Bryant/Trevor Lawrence: Bryant and Lawrence each played five drives against Furman, with Bryant leading scoring drives on three of those and Lawrence leading scoring drives on all five. Bryant finished 10-of-16 passing for 127 yards and a 40-yard touchdown pass along with a 35-yard touchdown run, while Lawrence went 9-of-15 through the air for 137 yards and three touchdown passes. The bottom line is both Bryant and Lawrence played well enough to keep the two-quarterback system going. We should learn more about the quarterback situation this Saturday when Clemson travels to Texas A&M.
Jordan McFadden: The coaches decided to hold McFadden out in the Furman game. Ideally, the Tigers would like to redshirt the freshman offensive lineman if possible.
Chase Brice: The coaches have said all year they feel they can win with any of the three quarterbacks, but it’s hard to be successful rotating three quarterbacks into a game. Brice did not enter the Furman game until the fourth quarter and attempted only four passes, completing three of them for 13 yards. It’s clear that Bryant and Lawrence will see the significant majority of snaps at quarterback this season.
Alex Spence: Spence appears to be locked in right now as the backup placekicker behind Greg Huegel, who went 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts of 35 and 49 yards against Furman.