Backup QBs take spotlight, young talent on display in Orange-White scrimmage

Dabo Swinney: 'We've challenged them in a lot of areas, so I want to see them go have some fun and end spring on a positive note'

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins warms up at the first day of spring practice at the indoor football facility. Clemson's first home game is August 31, at 8 p.m. against the University of Georgia.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins warms up at the first day of spring practice at the indoor football facility. Clemson's first home game is August 31, at 8 p.m. against the University of Georgia.

The objective of Clemson's Orange-White spring game is always a paradox: put on a show for the fans, while not showing anyone too much.

Saturday's spring-ending scrimmage, which kicks off at 4 p.m. at Death Valley, will be no exception.

Reigning ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd is likely to play only briefly, if at all, and fans eager for a look at Sammy Watkins playing Nuk Hopkins' boundary receiver position shouldn't blink, as the former national freshman of the year isn't likely to get much more action than Boyd.

The game-type scrimmage will, however, offer an extended preview of next year's battle for the starting quarterback job, as well as a first look at many of Clemson's most promising young players.

Boyd to see limited snaps in spring game

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Dabo Swinney says he wants his players to have fun and enjoy the day, but also to compete and improve.

"They've worked hard and we've grinded them pretty good, from strength and conditioning, to mat drills, to spring ball, to meetings," Swinney said. "We've challenged them in a lot of areas, so I want to see them go have some fun and end spring on a positive note.

"I also want to see them compete - any time they step on this field, I want to see a competitiveness that's tangible. And I want to see improvement. Even though this is the last day and it's a split team, the assignments are the same."

Rising junior Cole Stoudt, a two-year backup to Boyd, and redshirt freshman Chad Kelly will likely get the majority of work at quarterback. Fans will also get their first look at Nick Shuessler, a walk-on quarterback from Grayson High in Loganville, Ga. who was originally a Mississippi State signee.

On the offensive line, Isaiah Battle, Kalon Davis, David Beasley, Reid Webster, Eric Mac Lain, Patrick Destefano and Spencer Region have the most to gain, as they jockey for positions in the pecking order. Both Ryan Norton and Jay Guillermo should get extended playing time at center.

At tight end, five players continue to work to define their roles. The same is true in the backfield, where Zac Brooks hopes to challenge Rod McDowell and D.J. Howard for playing time.

On defense, fans will get their first look at defensive ends Shaq Lawson, Ebenezer Ogundeko and Martin Aiken, while Kellen Jones - a transfer from Oklahoma - will make his debut at linebacker. It's likely that Tony Steward will play both the 'will' and 'sam' linebacker spots.

Special teams have been a point of emphasis for the Tigers this spring, and while there will be no live returns on Saturday, Bradley Pinion could offer reassurance by consistently booting the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.

The Orange-White game is part of a full day of athletic-related activities on the Clemson campus. The annual 'Sons Bowl' alumni flag-football game will be played in Memorial Stadium beginning at 1 p.m., while the baseball team will take on Wake Forest at 6:30 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

There is also a women's tennis match against Virginia Tech, which begins at 11 a.m., and spring exhibition matches for the volleyball and women's soccer teams.

Clemson will also hold its 'Be a T.I.G.E.R!' field day on the lawn at Littlejohn Coliseum, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Clemson student-athletes will guide activities for elementary and middle school students up to ninth grade.

A surplus athletic equipment sale will be held at the indoor track facility from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

With the exception of the baseball game, all events are free admission.

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