Much of the rhetoric since Clemson’s bowl victory over LSU has been about the Tigers’ potential to play on the biggest stages.
And while coach Dabo Swinney has been effusive in his assessment of the subsequent progress, today’s spring game in Death Valley will not be a dress rehearsal for Georgia, let alone a cold reading.
Other than a few details, most of spring’s heavy lifting was done by Wednesday. The roster will be split for the 4 p.m. start in Memorial Stadium, distorting much of the evidence of progress.
All-America quarterback Tajh Boyd will be limited to a cameo appearance, which may disappoint fans expecting a grand show, but Solid Orange Weekend is an athletic festival built around football. Included are baseball, tennis and volleyball events. For the nostalgic, there will be a flag football game pitting former players; for shoppers, a veritable garage sale of leftover athletic gear at the indoor track; and for the business-minded, the IPTAY spring meeting.
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The game will feature Boyd’s understudies, Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly, competing for the backup job. Experience should give Stoudt the advantage, but offensive coordinator Chad Morris was stern in his critique of them after the most recent scrimmage. “I just want to see how they have progressed through 15 practices,” he said.
Other than intensity and discipline, defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ fondest wish seemed to be emerging from the game without injury.
Whatever the outcome, Morris’ vision won’t be distorted by the results. “We’re not going to gauge the whole spring on a split-squad game.”
The team’s overall progress has encouraged Swinney and tempered his expectations for the game.
“I just want to see them have some fun,” he said. “They have worked hard this whole offseason. We’ve grinded them pretty good from conditioning program to mat drills to spring drills, meetings. We’ve challenged them in a lot of areas, so I want to seem them come out here and have a little fun and finish spring on a positive note. But I want to see them compete.
“Any time you step on this field, I want to see a competitiveness that’s tangible. You should play to win,” he said. “And I want to see guys improve.”