From what we've heard, it's been a productive spring for Dabo Swinney's Tigers

Clemson will put on its Orange-White spring show next Saturday, but don't expect to be shown much

Clemson's Chad Kelly hands off to Clemson's C.J. Davidson during spring football practice.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Chad Kelly hands off to Clemson's C.J. Davidson during spring football practice.

We ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Excuse the grammar; but now four weeks into Clemson's spring football practice, we - fans and media - have heard a lot and seen next-to-nothing.

The Tigers' practices, as always, have been closed - except for a pair of 30-minute photo ops (though, to give credit where it's due, the Tigers did actually begin their Paw and W drills on Friday with the media present).

Based on hearsay, it's hard to get an accurate read on exactly what Clemson has accomplished behind closed doors, both figuratively and literally. Though the Tigers have gotten a smattering of work outside, the new indoor practice facility has come in handy during an unusually winterish spring.

We'll get to see the Tigers in action next Saturday during the annual Orange-White spring game at Death Valley. But the format, while fan-friendly in being as close as to a real game as possible between evenly-divided teams, dilutes both the first-team offense and first-team defense, eliminating the good-on-good matchups that might reveal something about the Tigers' progress.

Interestingly, Georgia - Clemson's opening opponent - held its G-Day Red & Black game on Saturday before a crowd of more than 45,000 in Athens, and Mark Richt chose to stack one side with offensive starters and the other with defensive starters. The defense held the upper hand, but the overall performance prompted Independent Mail sports editor Scott Adamson to observe that "the Bulldogs are nowhere near ready for prime time or game time."

Spoiler Alert: Clemson's coaches will be saying exactly the same thing a week from now, regardless of who does what in the Orange-White game.

Reading between the lines and listening closely to what's said and not said, it appears safe to assume that this has been a productive spring for the Tigers, however.

The theme and tone of this spring has been a bit different than in recent seasons. There are no new coordinators to break in, no losing records or bowl debacle to make amends for.

Nor are there high-profile, head-to-head battles for starting positions to be decided. Reigning ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd is back for his third season as the Tigers' starting quarterback, and while Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly are battling for the backup job, how it turns out hopefully won't matter until this time next spring. There is competition at running back, but all three competing backs - Rod McDowell, D.J. Howard, and Zac Brooks - are going to play, along with at least one of the Tigers' two incoming freshmen.

On the offensive line, the coaches have put rising sophomore Isaiah Battle on the spot, hoping he can nail down the starting left tackle position and allow Brandon Thomas - the unit's only senior - to play elsewhere. Ryan Norton is solid as Dalton Freeman's replacement at center.

Sammy Watkins has moved from the slot to the boundary wide receiver position where DeAndre Hopkins excelled, and the progress made by Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Germone Hopper is worth keeping an eye on.

On defense, the Tigers are well stocked on the line, both inside and outside, and the spring has been all about letting the competition play out. It's been pretty much the same at the linebacker spots. The basic crew is set, with competition ongoing to see who'll start where, and how much of the playing time pie each player will earn.

The secondary is shorthanded, and will be until seven freshmen arrive this summer. But the limited numbers have been extra work for those in the mix, and that's a good thing toward developing a more solid, less mistake-prone unit for next fall.

Special teams have gotten extra attention this spring, particularly the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units. But we won't see much of that next Saturday.

It would be nice, however, to see Bradley Pinion deposit most of his kickoffs deep in the end zone, which, of course, would help solve the kickoff coverage problem.

The Orange-White game is part of a full weekend of activities on campus, including a three-game ACC baseball series against Wake Forest and women's tennis matches against Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Weather cooperating, a good time will be had by all, even though, on the football front, when all is said and done, we may still know next-to-nothing.

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