Football is back at Death Valley ... sort of.
Clemson is holding its spring game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. as a number of high-profile freshmen, including Trevor Lawrence and Xavier Thomas, will be playing in front of thousands of people for the first time as Tigers.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is hoping a large crowd will be on hand to create a game-like atmosphere as the Tigers wrap up spring practice.
“It’s going to be a huge thing for us on the 14th. It’s a big deal. As y’all have heard me say many times, we don’t get preseason games. When we play, the scoreboard is for real,” Swinney said. “This is a great opportunity to create the best environment we can to just give us another opportunity to evaluate our players and help them get better. ... I hope our fans will show up and it’ll be a packed house in here and we can really challenge these guys from a game-day environment standpoint.”
There will be plenty to watch for on Saturday, most notably the quarterback competition.
Returning starter Kelly Bryant will be paired with Chase Brice on the White team, while Lawrence and fellow former five-star recruit Hunter Johnson will be on the Orange team.
Co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott will run the Orange offense, while quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will be in charge of the White’s. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will call plays for both defenses.
“I’m as excited about this spring game as I have been for any of them, because of the amount of numbers that we have,” Swinney said. “I just want to see guys continue to play with clean execution and demonstrate that they know what they’re doing … just to see different combinations of our personnel and still, hopefully, see clean execution on both sides.”
Scott, who will be evaluating his receivers, is eager to see how his unit performs in front of a big crowd and on national television.
The Tigers must replace a pair of starting receivers with Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud turning pro, and Clemson has a freshman early enrollee receiver who will get his first action in front of a big crowd in former South Pointe star Derion Kendrick.
“Obviously, scrimmages are better than a practice as far as getting (coaches) off the field, but now you add all the fans in and kind of a game atmosphere, really the closest thing to a game without playing in the fall. It’s kind of that next level for all of our guys,” Scott said. "We’ve got a lot of guys that are being put in new positions, especially some of these young guys, the true freshmen that just got here and some of the guys that will be sophomores next year. This will be a good opportunity to see them … It’ll be great to see how those guys respond in, really, one of the last dress rehearsals before we kick it off next fall."