Spring Breakdown – Offense/Skills
Last year, the Clemson tiger offense led the ACC in every offensive category; points, total yards, rushing yards, passing yards, touchdowns. You name it, Clemson owned it. Nationally, Clemson was 5th in total offense overall, 13th in rushing offense, and 23rd in passing offense. Can those numbers improve in 2020? The answer is yes.
Not only is Clemson returning a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, there are several incoming freshmen loaded with talent to bring up the back end of the game on offense. Coach Jeff Scott has departed for the head coaching job at South Florida, leaving Coach Tony Elliott as the sole OC for the first time in a long time.The Clemson offense got a shot in the arm with the return of RB Travis Etienne. One of the top backs in the country, Etienne felt the 2019 season was unfinished and didn’t like the way it ended. Running back is a position of strength for the tigers. Look for running backs to be showcased in the spring game, but don’t count on ETN seeing many carries after the 1st quarter.Lyn-J Dixon probably secretly hoped for Etienne to head to the NFL so he could move up the charts, but his return to the team slots Dixon squarely on the 2nd unit. Rising senior Darien Rencher has become a fan favorite and is usually the next man up. This could change with the arrival of 5-star Demarckus Bowman. The spring will especially be important for two rising sophomores, Chez Mellussi and Marion Dukes. Freshman Kobe Pryor will arrive in the fall to add to the competition at running back.
Clemson returns two starters at receiver, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers. These guys are proven commodities and probably won’t see a lot of reps in the spring game. Frank Ladson, Joe Ngata, Cornell Powell and Brannon Spector are the next in line to take over Tee Higgins’ position at the other wideout position. Expect to see a lot out of Ngata and Ladson on the outside, with Spector and Powell working behind Rodgers in the slot. Incoming freshman E.J. Williams will also see plenty of action in April. There is a host of other WRs that will be seeing plenty of action in the spring game to include Will and Drew Swinney. New WR Coach Tyler Grisham is anxiously awaiting the Canadian-born Ajou Ajou in the fall.
Tightend’s Coach Dan Pearman welcomes back several players that makes this position one to watch in the spring. Braden Galloway, who missed all of 2019 due to suspension, returned for the CFP games and is expected to bring the receiving target needed out of the TE position. Four other TE’s that saw action in 2019 return in J.C. Chalk, Luke Price, Davis Allen and Jaelyn Lay. The staff would love to see Allen and Lay become receiving targets. Both are big TEs, Allen at 6-6 250ish and Lay is 6-6 270. Both are used in the running game, but Pearman would love to see these guys get their hands on the ball more often. Chalk led the TE position with only 13 catches and that stat needs to improve. Incoming freshman Sage Ennis could fit into the mold of a receiving TE but needs to add bulk on his 6-4 225 frame.
Quarterback? Trevor Lawrence is the returning starter and unsure how many series he will play in the spring game. With Chase Brice transferring to Duke, the battle for next man up will be between redshirt freshman Taisun Phommachanh and incoming freshman D.J. Uiagalelei. This is probably the most anticipated arrival on campus by a player since Trevor Lawrence stepped on the field in the spring game 3 years ago. Sophomore Ben Batson will also see reps in the spring game. Freshman Hunter Helms will arrive in the fall to provide further depth to the position.Fans routinely come to the spring game to see the stars from the previous year. It’s fun to watch Lawrence hitting Ross and Rodgers, but the battle to watch is how Ngata and Ladson have progressed. The much anticipated arrival of D.J. and Bowman will take center stage and it wouldn’t be surprising to see both struggle in the spring. The switch from high school to college is huge, roles are different, responsibilities increase. These are some of things to watch for in April. It’s a good time to be a tiger fan for sure.