Clemson has three weeks before it takes on a real opponent in a game that matters.
In the first real scrimmage of fall camp inside Memorial Stadium, the defending national champions didn’t have a game plan. It was just about execution, and it appeared the defense had a stronger day than the offense Saturday.
“Just overall inconsistent and didn’t catch a rhythm,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “I thought the quarterbacks were solid. I thought they were making the right decisions. We just didn’t execute.”
Coach Dabo Swinney said he told his team before the scrimmage that a lot of players can do everything right, but that one dropped pass or incompletion can make a good play go wrong.
He saw some of that Saturday, and he also thought the offense wasn’t nearly as consistent as it needs to be.
“I think we had three penalties on the receivers. Those are the things that get you beat,” Swinney said. “Some of those discipline things we’ve got to clean up, but overall, a good, solid day.”
Several key players, including left tackle Mitch Hyatt, linebacker Jalen Williams, defensive end Logan Rudolph and cornerback Marcus Edmond, didn’t participate because of injury.
Elliott said he was disappointed in how the offense performed in the red zone, but he said his unit bounced back and did well in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Swinney said junior quarterback Kelly Bryant had a tremendous practice Friday. A day later, he had some bounces that didn’t go his way. On one play, the defensive end was supposed to be cut blocked. Instead, he got a hand on a Bryant pass, and it was intercepted by safety Tanner Muse.
“He had a couple tough breaks like that, but he made the right decisions, he did what we asked him to do,” Swinney said. “That’s what we evaluate on.”
While passing stats weren’t provided from the closed scrimmage, the defense was credited with seven sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who had been in concussion protocol earlier this week, led the Tigers with six tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins added five tackles while end Austin Bryant had two sacks.
“Good conditions today. Probably exactly what Death Valley is going to be like when we play Kent State, a good steamy day,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We’ve got a ton to work on and a lot to improve at fundamentally, but it’s been a good camp up to this point.”
Linebacker Shaq Smith recorded five tackles and a sack. Safety Isaiah Simmons had three pass deflections while cornerback Mark Fields had the only other interception.
“The defense played real good today,” Kelly Bryant said. “Those guys were out there flying around and making plays. It was tough at times, but we’re going to learn from it and bounce back, get ready for practice Monday.”
There were several offensive standouts. The coaching staff said redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper had a solid day, and he tossed a 1-yard touchdown to Diondre Overton, who finished with 33 yards on three catches. Freshman QB Hunter Johnson threw a 23-yard touchdown, and Chase Brice found Tee Higgins for a 38-yard gain.
Elliott was pleased with freshman running back Travis Etienne, who finished with 56 yards on 10 carries.
“We play three weeks from today, so this was a good start for us,” Swinney said. “We got a lot of knowledge that we’ll get out of this tape. I thought they competed well.”