Fall camp is complete and No. 4 Clemson will now turn its attention to the season opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Labor Day in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8 pm/ESPN).
With the end of camp and practice session observations and interviews, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to what we’ve learned and what we think on the cusp of another season.
Today, we take a look at the offense:
Head coach Dabo Swinney has a deep quarterbacks room, but there are really just two names you need to know right now: DJ Uiagalelei oath Cade Klubnik. Uiagalelei has drawn rave reviews during camp – even from defensive players – as we’ve heard from coaches and players alike that his increased mobility has given him increased confidence. He needs to improve his accuracy, but he also needs better play around him from his receivers and offensive line. While Swinney and offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter have bragged on Uiagalelei and have said he’s the no-doubt starter against the Yellow Jackets, you have to believe the leash will be short. Why? Because that Klubnik kid is pretty good.
We’ve been there at the end of most practices, and there has been one quarterback who has stayed late to throw every time, and that’s Klubnik. He still has to improve his decision-making, and he has to learn that it’s ok to throw the ball out of bounds on third down. But there is no doubting his talent, and there is no doubting his leadership abilities and will to win. He will get a chance to play regardless of what happens with Uiagalelei, but if Uiagalelei falters, the coaches won’t hesitate to insert Klubnik.
Things are a little more settled at running back. The Tigers bring back three experienced backs Will Shipley, Kobe Paceswear Phil Mafah. Shipley will likely get the nod to go out there for the first snap, but all three bring something different to the table, and the use of each might depend on the game situation. There might be a different leading rusher from game to game, but you look up after five games and see they’ve all carried the ball close to the same number. The three-headed monster is a good problem to have. — David Hood.
There may be no more hyped a group coming out of camp than Clemson’s tight ends, led by returning starter Davis Allen and an emerging receiver threat in Jake Briningstool. Swinney called Allen “a pro” after the last scrimmage and said that Briningstool, a former No. 1-rated tight end in the nation, was performing at the best he has in his time as a Tiger. Briningstool and Allen were made available to the media this week and both praised the new tight ends coach Kyle Richardson and his coming impact on the position group and the offense as a whole. Given the wide receiver group is still sorting itself out health-wise as kickoff approaches, more multi-tight end sets could be coming.
Slot receiver is the healthiest spot for the Tigers after a fairly injury-riddled camp Brannon Spector oath Will Taylor solid options and freshmen Antonio Williams oath Cole Turner getting their fair share of praise over the month.
EJ Williams returned to practice after a hematoma in his lower back but was still in a green more-limited contact jersey as of earlier this week. Beaux Collins (shoulder) has missed significant all-out action in camp as well. Sidelined largely in a yellow no-contact jersey, Adam Randall has had as much buzz as anyone in camp for his speed and route-running in his comeback from a torn ACL suffered in the spring. He is likely out for the early part of the schedule, but Clemson’s coaches can’t wait to get him back in the mix after impressing this spring.
Elsewhere in the receiver corps, does some extra opportunity serve a Dacari Collins well? It’s a dog Joseph NgataIs it time to shine over an entire season? Swinney was upbeat about the state of his receiver group after Clemson’s second scrimmage and we will start to get some questions answered under the lights in Atlanta. — Brandon Rink
Every position group undergoes scrutiny from time to time, but Clemson’s offensive line is under the microscope every day and has drawn criticism from fans for over a decade. There is hope, however, that things are about to change.
Thomas Austin has taken over as the offensive line coach, he’s bringing in big and talented recruits, and the group that had to endure last season’s vitriol is more experienced and itching to get better. We learned in camp that freshman tackle Blake Miller is in line to pull a Mitch Hyatt and started his first college game (at right tackle no less). We’ve learned that this group has held its own against the Tigers’ vaunted defensive line, and we’ve learned that Austin feels like he has 10 or 11 players he can count on.
That’s all good news.
Jordan McFadden is the likely starter at left tackle, followed by Marcus Tate at left guard Will Putnam at center Walker Parks at right guard, and Miller at right tackle. Backups like Dietrick Pennington, Tristan Leigh, Mitchell Mayes, Bryn Tucker, Mason Trotter, Ryan Linthicumswear Collin Sadler all look to provide depth and push the starters into the season. — Nikki Hood
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