Clemson co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott said earlier this spring that Trevion Thompson, Tee Higgins and Diondre Overton were in a close battle for the Tigers’ starting 9-man job.
Higgins might have gained some separation with his play in Saturday’s spring game.
The sophomore caught four passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns to help the Orange team to a 28-17 victory.
Higgins did all of his damage in the first half before playing sparingly for the final 30 minutes.
“Tee Higgins had an unbelievable day. I asked him if he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I didn’t know what was going on,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney joked. “He said, ‘Nah, I’m just trying to be your starting 9-man.’ I said, 'That’s a good answer and a good way to do it,' but a great day for him.”
Higgins averaged nearly 30 yards per catch and connected with Trevor Lawrence for a 50-yard score early in the first quarter.
Later in the first quarter, he caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Johnson.
At one point in the first half, the Orange and White teams had combined for 165 yards and 14 points. Higgins was responsible for 118 of the yards and both scores.
“Those guys were just throwing it on point. It’s a quarterback battle out there, and they’re all throwing good,” Higgins said. “Hopefully, I can keep this up.”
Christian Wilkins was dominant at defensive tackle on Saturday and also made a play at safety after persuading the coaching staff to let him show off his athleticism.
The senior finished with six tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in his final spring game.
One of Wilkins’ tackles for loss came on the final drive when he was in at safety, read the pass play and tackled Carter Groomes for a 1-yard loss.
“I pushed (the coaches to play safety) once the game was pretty much decided. I was like, ‘Let me get this last drive to have some fun,’” Wilkins said.
CROWD A FACTOR
Swinney asked for a large crowd to be on hand and he got his wish. An estimated crowd of 55,000 watched the spring game at Death Valley.
The lower deck was almost completely full and there were several fans in the upper deck as well.
“I’m really appreciative of our crowd,” Swinney said. “People don’t realize what a big deal that is … To be able to simulate a game; very few people can have a crowd like that to simulate a game and get so many guys that first deep breath of experience. It’s really neat to see a lot of those guys, to see their eyes that first time. Maybe it’s that redshirt that’s getting his first spring game, it’s those new guys that just got here, it’s a different deal than just going to practice, and you don’t get that if you don’t have a crowd like that.”
Clemson kicker Greg Huegel kicked four field goals during a break in the first half.
Huegel, who is recovering from a torn ACL, made his first two attempts before missing his final two from 49 yards out. One of his misses went off the upright.
Even with the two misses and without a rush, it was an encouraging sight to see Huegel back on the field and attempting kicks.
“It was good to see Huegel get back out there and be able to have a crowd to run him out there and kind of break the ice a little bit,” Swinney said. “He hit that one 49-yarder pretty dang good that he missed. I think that will go a long ways for his confidence."