Dabo Swinney says Tiger defense 'night and day' ahead of this time last year

Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers productive in first of three full-scale scrimmages

Football - Cole Stoudt & DJ Howard

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Cole Stoudt & DJ Howard

Dabo Swinney put his Tigers through their paces during a productive first spring scrimmage on Wednesday, and while he was please with a broad range of performances on both sides of the ball, he said there's much room for improvement between now and the team's next full-scale scrimmage.

"This was the halfway mark and I was interested to see them play," said Swinney. "I saw a lot of good things - guys making nice plays. Our quarterbacks were solid...our backs ran hard and all three showed some flashes.

"But the thing I was most pleased with was defense...What was most exciting is how much further along we are this first scrimmage compared to out first scrimmage last year - especially up front. It's just night and day from where we were."

Cole Stoudt had the top passing performance in the scrimmage, as he hit six of nine passes for 113 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Tajh Boyd was 8-of-15 for 55 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, while redshirt freshman Chad Kelly was 8-of-14 for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

Defense performs in scrimmage

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"I thought Cole was incredibly confident," said Swinney. "Chad came in and did some good things and Tajh made some nice throws. And Nick Schuessler came in and took his group down for a score."

The Tigers' top rusher was C.J. Davidson, a former scholarship track athlete who decided to walk on with the football team. The former Daniel High star rushed for 70 yards on seven carries and had the only rushing touchdown of the scrimmage.

Martavis Bryant had a pair of catches for 46 yards - both for touchdowns. Freshman tight end Jordan Leggett (2-44) also had a touchdown reception, as did tight end Sam Cooper (1-25). Sammy Watkins caught three passes for 25 yards, and Germone Hopper and Stanton Seckinger had two receptions each. Walk-on Andrew Maass was the top receiver, with four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

The defense was led by walk-on defensive back Taylor Watson with nine tackles. Spencer Shuey, Robert Smith, Dante Stewart and Marcus Bullard had five each. Grady Jarrett, Kellen Jones and Shuey had sacks, while Shuey Travis Blanks and Carlos Watkins had tackles for loss.

Swinney said the defense was thin in spots, as defensive backs Jadar Johnson and Martin Jenkins are still not 100 percent, and Tony Steward missed the session, as well.

"The guys I know can play did a really good job," Swinney said.

He said there's plenty of room for improvement in all areas.

"We have one more full scrimmage before the spring game - a week from Monday - and I expect to see a lot of improvement compared to this time out," Swinney said. "We still have a lot of situational work to do, and a lot of good-on-good. But we only get to have three full scrimmages, so today was a big day.

"It's a good start, but we need to improve a ton between now and next scrimmage."

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