CLEMSON – As soon as Rob Spence was introduced as Clemson’s new offensive coordinator, fans have anxiously awaited to see what his new style of offense would look like. Well, in the two and a half hours of the annual Spring Game, those who were in attendance at Memorial Stadium Saturday and those who watched it on television saw very little of what it will resemble come September.
With an estimated crowd of 17,500, the Tigers coaching staff ran about as bland an offense and defense as possible so as to not give folks at Texas A&M an idea of what the two sides of the ball will look like.
“You play it close to the vest both offensively and defensively,” Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. “It would not have been a high percentage (of the real offense). … We wanted to work on the running game and some new things. We didn’t throw it downfield a whole bunch, but we could have. You could see the kind of areas and ways where we’re trying to run the football.”
And while Bowden wouldn’t give what percentage of the new offense fans saw, wide receiver Kelvin Grant offered his opinion.
“We did about four percent of the offense, honestly,” he said. “It was going to be on TV and it was going to get rolled all summer and stuff. Come that Texas A&M game, be ready. That’s all I’m going to say.”
But even though both offense and defense were on the vanilla side, there were still some noticeable outtakes from the game.
The first string defense, as has been the case all spring, flexed its muscle and shut down the first team offense. In three scrimmages, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw just one touchdown.
On Saturday, he had solid numbers by completing 21-of-30 passes for 177 yards and an interception, but up until a 45-yard field goal on the last play of the game, the first team was held scoreless.
Conversely, backup quarterback Will Proctor was 18-of-23 for 275 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. At halftime, Proctor had completed his last 13 passes and threw for 224 yards.
Proctor’s main target was Grant, who had eight receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Whitehurst sought out Chansi Stuckey, who had 11 receptions for 124 yards.
Reggie Merriweather led all rushers with 18 carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns, while Kyle Browning added 16 attempts for 57 yards.
“(We ran) some of the same plays but you don’t want to go through and show everything,” Whitehurst said. “We were a little bit limited today. But we’d like to have moved it a little bit better, at least on the first team. It seemed like the second team did a pretty good job. But it wasn’t the whole package (on offense).”
Rising redshirt senior defensive back Tye Hill said he expects what the media saw in closed scrimmages and what the fans saw Saturday to be the norm.
The defense for the Tigers will be strong.
“I wouldn’t say it was the offense being weak,” he said. “They’ve got weapons and can score when they need to. It’s just that I think on defense, we’re jelling right now and we’ve got more experience back. And I think that’s what kind of helps us a lot. There’s really no excuses anymore on defense. There’s a small margin of error. We all know that we’re not rookies around here.”
Regardless of what took place on the field, it seems everybody involved is happy with what the results of the 15 practices were.
“I think we had to lay a foundation offensively and defensively, which we did and more so,” Whitehurst said. “I think everybody knew that we weren’t going to be finely tuned at this point, where we still have a summer and fall camp to do that. But I think the foundation has been set and people believe in what we’re doing on both sides of the ball and we’re building a little bit of unity, too.”
Added Bowden: “To get through the spring game with no injuries, I was real pleased. I was more pleased with the spring than how the game went.”