A phrase Dabo Swinney embraced this spring alludes to Clemson’s best finish in the polls after last season. It’s something like: “We’re not trying to make up that much. We’re trying to go from 7 to 1.”
Based on the first look at the team since the Orange Bowl victory against Ohio State and the fact Clemson plays at Georgia and at Florida State in September, “7” may be a challenge.
Careful not to reveal anything substantive during its nationally televised spring game, Clemson forged ahead with the quarterback competition with its two healthy candidates.
Among the few nuggets culled from the game:
Needing to replace Rod McDowell’s 1,000 rushing yards, Clemson has tried to stockpile running backs.
Since the weeks leading to bowl game, Swinney has banged the drum for redshirt freshman running back Wayne Gallman, who totaled 61 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 28 yards for the Orange team.
Veterans D.J. Howard (nine for 59 and a touchdown) and C.J. Davidson (five for 44) led the White team, which won, 24-5.
Former Atlanta Braves farmhand Kurt Fleming rushed for 55 yards on three carries, including the longest play of the game, a 49-yarder.
“They’re all competing their tails off,” Swinney said. “They all have different things to bring to the table.
“We’re going to need all those guys.”
Several occasions this spring, Swinney has mentioned how impressive U.S. Army veteran Daniel Rodriguez has been in practice. It was evident Saturday as he led the Orange with five receptions for 53 yards.
“He has improved tremendously as a football player since the day he got here,” Swinney said. “He takes great pride in being the solider.
“He makes those plays all the time. “He wants to make sure people know he’s Daniel Rodriguez the football player.”
The three freshman receivers enrolled since January totaled 10 receptions for 50 yards. “When they report back in August they should look like redshirt freshmen, guys that have been around here for a year,” Swinney said.
Rounding into form
After a big spring game a year ago, tight end Jordan Leggett figured to have a big role last season. Leggett didn’t handle the sudden wealth and struggled to get on the field last season.
Saturday, he led the White with seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Leggett said he drew inspiration from Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, who has become a mentor.
Even with all the attention on the offense’s transition, the defenses limited the two squads to 588 yards on 132 plays.
Adrian Baker and Garry Peters had interceptions. DeShawn Williams forced a fumble and Tony Steward recovered it.
“There’s a lot to like and a lot to learn from and a lot to teach from,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “It’s just another day in the big picture in the whole process of getting ready for next year.
“There’s a lot to build from. It’s been a very good spring.”