3 questions for Clemson's offense heading into spring practice

3 questions for Clemson's offense heading into spring practice


3 questions for Clemson's offense heading into spring practice


Spring is almost here for Clemson football.

The Tigers will return to the practice fields Monday. It will be the first of 15 spring practices culminating with the annual Orange & White Game on April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Here are three questions that Clemson’s offense will start trying to answer this spring.

What will it look like?

The offense is starting over under Garrett Riley, who will begin installing his system after being hired as Brandon Streeter’s successor in January. The Tigers’ first-year coordinator spent last season directing the nation’s No. 9 scoring offense at TCU.

Riley called plays at SMU the two seasons before that, and his offenses have produced at every stop (at least 38 points per game all three seasons). And while the former Texas Tech quarterback has an air-raid background, he’s proven to be adaptable. TCU, with a 1,300-yard rusher, had the Big 12’s third-best rushing attack last season.

Riley will start formulating what he wants his offense to look like at Clemson this spring, which figures to be dictated by his evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel. He’s got a 1,200-yard rusher to work with in Will Shipley and all but one of the Tigers’ starting offensive linemen returning.

Perhaps the most interesting unknown is how Riley will utilize quarterback Cade Klubnik, whose skill set Riley is familiar with having recruited him when Klubnik was playing his high school ball in Texas. The speedy Klubnik is far more of a true dual threat at the position than Riley’s most recent quarterback, Max Duggan, who rushed for more than 400 yards and nine touchdowns for TCU last season.

Who will take over at left tackle?

Clemson’s lone departure along the offensive line is a big one.

Jordan McFadden was a three-year starter for the Tigers, including the last two as the blindside protector at left tackle. McFadden is now trying his hand at the NFL after five seasons with the program, leaving a gaping hole at arguably the most important position up front.

Who are the realistic options to succeed him?

Blake Miller is one. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder started every game at right tackle as a true freshman last season but could make the flip to the left side similar to the way McFadden did a couple of years back.

Tristan Leigh is another. Entering his third year in the program, the former five-star recruit has bided his time and spent last season listed as McFadden’s backup on the depth chart. Marcus Tate, who’s cross trained at guard and tackle, could also get a longer look on the edge, but that wouldn’t happen until the fall since Tate (knee) will miss the spring.

It’s also worth noting Walker Parks, who moved inside last season after spending the previous two seasons at tackle, is always an option at his old position, though Clemson would have to feel comfortable enough with its younger interior linemen to bump him back outside.

Who else will emerge out wide?

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pinpointed a not-so-explosive passing game as an aspect of the offense that he wants Riley to help improve. Klubnik and his development will have a lot to do with that.

So will finding more playmakers at receiver.

Antonio Williams is back in the slot after leading the Tigers in receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman. Beaux Collins, who’s caught 53 passes (eight for touchdowns), has shown ability as a potential No. 1 target on the outside, though he missed the latter part of last season with a shoulder injury.

Whether or not Collins will be available for the spring is unclear. Regardless, Clemson needs some more consistent pass-catchers to emerge, particularly with Joseph Ngata no longer around. Ngata, who’s off to the NFL, was second on the team in receptions (41) and receiving yards (526) last season.

If Collins doesn’t go through the spring, that will mean more reps for Adam Randall and Cole Turner, a couple of promising youngsters coming off their freshman seasons. Randall saw his reps gradually increase last season coming off ACL surgery rehab, and Turner averaged 20.3 yards per catch over the last three games. Early enrollee Noble Johnson, a four-star signee, will also go through the spring.

Clemson hasn’t finished better than 65th nationally in passing yards since 2020. That was also the last time the Tigers had a 1,000-yard receiver (Amari Rodgers).

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