Clemson University

Why Dabo Swinney has a different philosophy than most when it comes to spring games

Dabo Swinney discusses the luxury of having two good quarterbacks

Trevor Lawrence and Chase Brice both have experience in big games
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Trevor Lawrence and Chase Brice both have experience in big games

Clemson always seems to be among the national leaders when it comes to spring game attendance, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney ensures that his fans get to see a show.

Clemson ranked No. 7 in spring game attendance last season with 55,000 fans in Memorial Stadium, and even more showed up last weekend as an estimated crowd of 60,000 was on hand for the 2019 spring game.

Those fans came to Death Valley hoping to see Trevor Lawrence, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and a host of highly-rated Clemson newcomers play significant snaps. And unlike some spring games around the country where backups receive most of the playing time, Lawrence, Higgins, Ross and other starters saw plenty of action as backup quarterback Chase Brice led the White team to a 30-10 victory against Lawrence and the Orange.

Lawrence threw 34 passes out of the 39 attempted by the Orange team, while Brice threw 19 out of the White team’s 33. It was a pretty typical game for Lawrence in terms of passing attempts. He averaged 26.5 passing attempts per game as a freshman in 2018.

“The quarterbacks ain’t getting hit. Ain’t nobody hitting those guys. They could’ve played every snap. I don’t worry about stuff like that. I don’t coach with fear or plan with fear. I don’t live my life that way,” Swinney said. “I don’t know how else to get a team ready to play football if you don’t ever play football. You best believe when you show up on Saturdays it’s real football, so if you don’t put your guys in those situations I think you’re doing your team a disservice.”

The quarterbacks were far from the only high-profile players getting plenty of opportunities. Starting running back and Heisman contender Travis Etienne had the second-most rushing attempts on the day with seven, and Higgins was the second-most targeted receiver with 10 passes being thrown his way.

Defensively, the starting secondary consisting of safeties Tanner Muse and K’Von Wallace and cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Derion Kendrick all played plenty of snaps.

With no preseason games or jamborees coming this fall, Swinney treated the spring game as a bit of a preseason game for the players that will be counted on this season. He didn’t let the fear of injuries factor into his decision.

“Yea, somebody can get hurt. That’s just the way it is. God never says oops, that’s what I always say. And things happen. But you can’t coach scared, you can’t play scared. That’s my personal belief,” Swinney said. “Now we’re smart, and you have to pick your spots, but when you get those opportunities you’ve gotta train your team... When you can play some football you better take advantage of it because that’s how you really find out where you are and what you’ve gotta do to get better.”