Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott approached Hunter Renfrow before the start of practice last Monday and asked if the senior would be ready if needed.
Tigers senior quarterback Kelly Bryant was not attending practice after being benched in place of freshman Trevor Lawrence, and Clemson did not have much depth at the position.
“Yeah, I’ll just play outside leverage,” Renfrow responded.
The senior assumed that Scott was asking him about playing cornerback after Dabo Swinney announced earlier in the day that Mark Fields would be out against Syracuse for violating team rules.
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A confused Scott had to clarify with Renfrow what he meant.
“I said, ‘No, quarterback,’ ” Scott recalled. “That’s just who he is. He’s like, ‘I can go play wherever.’ ”
Clemson never imagined that it would need to rely on Renfrow to provide depth at the most important position in football at the halfway point of the 2018 season, but that’s where the Tigers are entering Saturday’s showdown at Wake Forest.
While it is not an ideal situation to have Renfrow as No. 2 or No. 3 on the depth chart at quarterback depending on injuries, it is a luxury to have such a versatile player.
“He has that feeling. He can punt. He can punt return. He can play wide out. He can play quarterback. He could go over on defense,” Scott said. “He throws it well. That’s all he played until he got here. He played quarterback in high school. He didn’t play one snap of wide receiver in his entire high school career. So he likes the opportunity and the challenge.”
Hunter Johnson transferred following the spring, Bryant announced he was transferring last week and only Lawrence and redshirt freshman Chase Brice remain as scholarship players who were brought to Clemson to play quarterback.
When Lawrence went down with an injury during the first half of Saturday’s game against Syracuse, Renfrow was suddenly the backup.
The former Socastee High School quarterback was not needed last week, but the Tigers are getting him ready in case he is needed this weekend.
Clemson is hoping to get Lawrence back this week, although he is still in concussion protocol right now.
“A lot of positive signs,” Scott said. “Everything’s tracking the right way, and there’s a chance that he’ll be able to practice (Monday). But I think they’re going to let him lift and go through their protocol that they have but they’ve been very optimistic. I think they’re kind of finding out that it was a little more of a neck strain the way that he got hit than anything else. That’s been really good news. But no final decision on that’s been made.”
If Lawrence can’t go, either Renfrow or former walk-on safety Ben Batson will be No. 2 on the depth chart behind Brice.
“For us right now, where we are, we’re kind of preparing both of those guys. We’ll evaluate them as practice goes with Ben and with Hunter,” Scott said. “Hunter’s a guy that’s kind of going back and forth, and fortunately for me, he has a great understanding of what we’re doing from a wide receiver perspective. But he can spend more time in the quarterback meetings learning some of those calls. But I think for us, we’re going to evaluate both of those guys. They’ll get some opportunities in practice with the team, live reps and all of those type of things and kind of see where we are.”
Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who has some experience playing scout team quarterback for Clemson, has confidence in Renfrow if he is needed.
“He’s a great athlete,” Venables said. “His instincts, toughness, he’ll be fine. So yeah, I wouldn’t rank anywhere close (as Jimmy Greenbeans). He’s a lot better. A lot better.”