CLEMSON— For Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Saturday’s annual Orange and White game was a chance to celebrate the past, while looking into the future.
The celebration began before the game with the announcing of the 2016 team awards, and continued through halftime when the seniors off last season’s national championship team received their rings in a ceremony in front of 60,000 roaring fans.
But when the pageantry was finished, it was time to get a first look at the 2017 Clemson Tiger football team, and if the fan’s (and coaches) were looking for a battle—that is exactly what the orange and white teams gave them.
“I thought it was a good competitive game,” Swinney said. “It was about what I expected—especially with how I saw the team divided. I knew it would be a battle all day.
“It is one thing to go out there and scrimmage. It is another thing when you have that type of environment. I don’t care how much football you play, there are always butterflies for the first time when you are in that moment, and I saw that from a lot of those young guys.”
The spring game has had many iterations over its lifetime, whether it has been offense versus defense or split-squad scrimmages this game featured something that the fans in attendance had not seen since 1992—quarterbacks being hit.
Swinney announced last Thursday that the quarterbacks would be “live” for the third time this spring due to the close nature of the quarterback battle to replace former Tiger Deshaun Watson.
However, it was not only for the quarterbacks benefit that the Tigers went live—it was to create a unique challenge for the defense as well.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that either played for the first time today or played significantly for the first time today,” Swinney said. “Saw some good things from the young guys—saw some good plays and nobody got hurt. The fact that we went live was good for our defense and everybody involved.”
For Swinney and the rest of the coaches, the fact that they were able to go “live” for the third time this spring speaks to the quality depth that the Tigers have on their squad heading into the summer.
With all but 10 signees on the team, the Tigers have had ample numbers allowing them the opportunity to do some more unique scheduling with scrimmages this spring.
“Our football team has been here this spring, so we’ve had some numbers,” Swinney said. “The main thing is it’s not just depth—it’s functional depth. It’s one thing to have depth and a bunch of guys who don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve got a lot of functional players and not a lot of drop off in some areas.
“I think we’ll be a team that its strength will be in its numbers as we go through the summer and fall. You’ll see guys that nobody is talking about that we know and think are ready to play. There will be a lot of new faces getting some opportunities to go play in the fall.”