The good news coming out of Clemson’s scrimmage Thursday at Death Valley is both the first-team offense and first-team defense took care of business and had a strong day.
The bad news is the backups on both sides of the ball did not perform like the coaches wanted them to.
Offensively, the first team dominated the second-team defense. However, the offense took a noticeable step back when the second team took the field against the first-team defense according to co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“This scrimmage here, Coach (Swinney) always challenges us by mixing up the groups and letting the first unit go versus the second unit, and I thought our first group of guys got off to a good start,” Elliott said. “Pretty much consistent throughout the entire scrimmage. One mishap there at the end that we’ve got to clean up, but overall I thought they did a good job of executing.
“But can’t say the same about the second unit. Obviously one thing we pride ourselves on in the past is just having quality depth, and it can’t drop off. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first one to run out there or the second one – the standard is the same, and the second unit didn’t have the consistency and execution that we wanted to see.”
Clemson is dealing with some injuries, especially on the offensive line, and that contributed to some of the second-team’s struggles. But that was only part of the problem.
Second-string quarterback Chase Brice made some uncharacteristic mistakes, Elliott said, and overall it was simply a subpar scrimmage for the reserves on offense.
“They’re going against Brent (Venables) and that defense, and the speed of the game probably picked up a little bit on them,” Elliott said. “Obviously we’ve got some guys down on the offensive line, so you’re mixing and matching with some of those young guys. A guy in particular, that’s tough on (Hunter) Rayburn. If you’re in there running with the second team and you’ve got Tyler Davis and all these guys coming at you and they’re moving and doing different things…
“But also some of the older guys, too. Chase had a couple decisions that I thought he would have made a better decision. You’re used to seeing him make a better decision, and we had a couple drops. So, just inconsistency at all positions.”
For Brice specifically, it was mainly a matter of him holding onto the ball too long in certain situations.
“For quarterbacks it’s tough because the receivers, they might not be running as fast as they were day one,” Elliott said. “I made the comment the other day, ‘I think the legs wear out before the arms do on the quarterbacks.’ So, he just missed a couple throws in a couple situations. We’re in a couple of critical situations trying to get rid of the ball, and sometimes they get a false sense of security in practice because they can’t be touched. Sometimes they hold onto that ball and try to drive it down the field. We just want to see them get rid of it more consistently. But today was just a day. It’s not indicative of his camp.”
On a positive note, the poor performance can be corrected, and Clemson is in pretty good shape health wise.
Offensive lineman Cade Stewart (ankle), tight end Davis Allen (ankle) and wide receiver Frank Ladson (knee) are sidelined right now, but otherwise Swinney reports the Tigers are mostly injury-free on offense.
“Early on in camp, it was the tight end position,” Elliott said of injuries offensively. “We had a lot of guys get banged up there, but the majority of those guys have come back with the exception of Davis. Now it’s kind of the offensive line. We’ve had guys that have gone down on the offensive line, which is a good thing for us in terms of giving other guys opportunities. But at the same time, too, you hate it for those guys because they’re on the sideline and they can’t practice.
“But overall, with the exception of those couple guys on the offense line, the receivers and the backs and the quarterbacks have made it through pretty good.”
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