It is that time for Tiger fans.
Time to load up the cars one final time and head to Death Valley to enjoy the annual Orange and White Game, and soak in the football atmosphere one last time before September.
This year’s game will be an exciting one for many reasons, including the ring ceremony taking place at halftime, a chance to see your 2016 National Champions on the field and most exciting of all—live hitting.
That is right Tiger fans, for the first time since 1992 the quarterbacks will be “live” in the spring game—meaning they can be hit and tackled.
Now that your excitement level is peaked, we now give you the five things you should watch for in the 2017 Orange and White Game.
1: The Quarterbacks:
This should be a no-brainer, as this is the battle that most Tiger fans are going to show up to Death Valley to watch, and with emergence of true freshman Hunter Johnson and redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper, have signaled to starting quarterback Kelly Bryant that they have eyes on taking his job.
While both quarterbacks have drawn the praises of their coaching staff, Bryant has “done nothing to lose the job.”
But for Tiger fans with a memory, those exact same words were spoken regarding Cole Stoudt when an upstart Deshaun Watson challenged him and look what happened—Watson took Stoudt’s job, following his break-out performance against the Florida State Seminoles in the third game.
If Bryant has a shaky game, or if one of the other quarterbacks simply outplays him, it could turn a slim lead into no lead at all heading into summer workouts.
2: The Cornerbacks:
The Tigers will look to replace Cordrea Tankersley with one, who amassed 52 tackles and who all but eliminated one-half of the field for the 2016 Tiger defense—having only 11 passes thrown at him all season.
The battle to replace Tankersley has involved Trayvon Mullen, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Edmond and Mark Fields.
But with Fields still nursing a turf-toe injury suffered in the national championship game, the battle appears to, for the meantime, be between Mullen, Wallace and Edmond—who was the defenses 12th man of the year for his play last season.
3: “We are who we are. We are going to run Clemson’s offense,” or are they?
Gone are the like of Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Jay Guillermo—meaning this season will be the first one where Swinney’s claims regarding the offensive identity of the Tigers is put to the test.
Will the offense be more conservative? Will it rely on the run game more than it has in the past? Will the quarterbacks be used differently?
These questions, and more, will be answered for the first-time Saturday.
However, with every spring game now televised and opponents scouting every move a team makes, do not be surprised to see a very vanilla offense out of the Tigers. But even the flavor vanilla can still tell you a lot about the quality of the ice cream—or team.
4: Huggy’s time:
Former Orangeburg-Wilkinson standout defensive lineman Albert Huggins has patiently waited his turn behind some very talented defensive linemen, but it is time for Huggins to step out of the background and take a starring role on the Tigers’ defense.
With the departures of Carlos Watkins, who graduated and Scott Pagano, who transferred, the door is now cracked for Huggins to show what he can do.
The key for Huggins is to not knock at the door during Saturday’s game, but to kick the door down and make the coaches take notice of him.
5: Who will lead the defense?
Gone is the outspoken leader of the Tiger defensive unit, Ben Boulware, so the Tiger defense will look to find a new leader—a new voice who can rally the unit.
While many names have been mentioned as filling that role already this spring, nothing will show it more than to do it in front of 70,000 fans in a game-like atmosphere.
The sooner that leader steps up, the sooner the Tiger defense will begin to look like the dominant group they are expected to be.