Five things to watch on the offense during the 2024 Clemson Spring Game

With the Clemson spring football game kicking off this Saturday, there is a lot to be excited about for the Clemson football program. After a 9-4 record to finish out last season, the Tigers are riding high on momentum, winning their last five games including a win in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. With the game kicking off in just a few days, here are five things to look for on the offensive side of the ball.

1. Wide receiver lineup

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches for the Tigers, who return almost everybody from the wide receiver room from last season in order to develop for another offseason. A young room with freshman Tyler Brown leading the team in receiving yards, there are plenty of faces that could get the start on Aug. 31 against Georgia, but, who exactly?

Clemson returns everybody except for veteran Beaux Collins, who transferred to Notre Dame in the winter, and Brannon Spector, who went to Jacksonville State for his final season of eligibility. While the Tigers will split between two different squads on Saturday, where each player will play is interesting as fans will hope to see the best three receivers stack up against the Bulldogs to open the season. 

The list goes on, but receivers Antonio Williams, Adam Randall, Troy Stellato, Brown, Noble Johnson and Ronan Hanafin are all returning this season. Still a younger group coming in to join the team, and potentially changing these depth charts, like incoming freshman Bryant Wesco. After coaches raved about him in practice over the last few weeks, his influence should be watched this weekend. 

While it is difficult to choose the best few to lead Clemson at the end of next season, the talent that each of them has displayed in previous seasons, and in practice, makes it seem like no matter who is playing at the WR1 spot, the talent and the competition of the program will give fans no worries. 

2. Vizzina’s next step

You know that the teams will be matched up to have quarterbacks Cade Klubnik and Christopher Vizzina playing each other. That’s another thing to look for: how closely the two are playing against one another. 

While Klubnik has had the QB1 spot since his performance in the 2022 ACC Championship game and will still hold the spot going into next season, what offensive coordinator Garrett Riley wants to see is the competition Vizzina gives his teammates. They say that competition drives success, and having somebody who could produce at a higher level, as Vizzina has showcased before, Klubnik can make him play better as a quarterback. 

While Klubnik getting benched in the spring game is not something that many people expect (maybe except for when other quarterbacks get playing time this weekend), Vizzina’s performance will allow fans to see how ready the rising sophomore is for game time. 

From what coaches have said throughout the spring practice sessions, expect Vizzina to take another step in gameplay, but as Klubnik enters his junior year next fall, all eyes will be on him to lead the Tigers back to the College Football Playoff. 

3. Who is playing behind RB1 Phil Mafah?

While head coach Dabo Swinney returns a plethora of pieces to his offense, one keystone will be missing: running back Will Shipley. After Shipley departed for the NFL during the offseason, it will be his running back partner, Phil Mafah, who is coming off a career season, to lead the Tigers on the ground in the upcoming season

So, who is playing behind him?

The RB3 last season, Domonique Thomas, entered the transfer portal in his final season of eligibility, making him unavailable for the RB2 spot. However, Thomas’s performance in the spring game last season, where he led all rushers, helped propel him to the spot behind Shipley and Mafah, meaning that the same thing can happen in this game.

The candidates seem to be redshirt sophomore Keith Adams Jr. and redshirt freshmen Jarvis Green and Jay Haynes. 

Adams will likely be the successor, playing as the RB2 in recent scrimmages over the spring section of practices. A bruiser running back who stands 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds, the redshirt sophomore should get many touches this weekend in the scrimmage. 

The RB3 spot is up for grabs, and Green and Haynes are two that are explosive enough to pass Adams in the depth chart, but seniority will put them behind at first. We know the talent the two have, according to Riley and last season’s statistics. 

While Haynes scored two touchdowns in one game last season, Green has been the one whom Riley has been speaking to the media about, crediting him with great runs in scrimmages. Again, it is an embarrassment of riches for this group of backs, who are hungry under coach C.J. Spiller. 

We haven’t even talked about incoming freshman David Eziomume either, who arrived in the winter and will play a few snaps on Saturday. An exciting back that was a four-star recruit in the class of 2024, expect the freshman to make some exciting plays to get the crowd going. 

  1. Who’s the center?

The other offensive player, besides Shipley, to leave the Tigers in the offseason was center Will Putnam, who was the anchor on the offensive line for the last four seasons, spending three seasons as Clemson’s center. With an experienced player on the line in Putnam gone for next season, there has been competition for the Tigers’ next guy on the line. 

According to Riley from his media availability last week, he said the three that were in contention were backup center Ryan Linthicum and experienced linemen Trent Howard and Harris Sewell. 

It would not be surprising if the three would be split into two different teams each, with potentially a rotation in the center spot if wanted by offensive line coach Matt Luke or Riley. However, we should understand where each of these players stands after Saturday, with Riley saying last week that it sounded like “no one has separated themselves at center”.

  1. A talented tight end room

While the room is led by a senior leader in Jake Briningstool, the tight end room has gone under the radar as one of the most young and exciting rooms on the Clemson offense. 

Let’s start with Briningstool, who now has a full season under his belt as the starting tight end for the Tigers. Standing 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, the senior will have the starting spot pretty comfortably, leading a group of underclassmen with hopes to develop standouts for future seasons. 

The first player is redshirt sophomore Josh Sapp. A Greenville native, Sapp caught two touchdowns last season, also catching the game-winning two-point conversion to defeat Kentucky in the Gator Bowl to close out the season. Making catches when it matters, Sapp will likely be the guy behind Briningstool at the start of the season, with his efficiency being one of the key reasons why he is in the TE2 spot and how he can make big plays next season. 

Olson Patt-Henry is another name to know, who will enter his sophomore season after recording 42 yards in his true freshman season. Riley has talked about Markus Dixon a bit as well, saying he “made a splash” in Clemson’s last scrimmage last week. Don’t be surprised if either of these names has a huge game on Saturday afternoon. 

Incoming freshman Christian Bentancur is the exciting freshman from this group, being another mid-year enrollee. A four-star recruit from Woodstock, Illinois, the freshman is another face to know who could make a big play in his first game at Death Valley with fans watching. 

It’s spring football season, and the Tigers are ready to showcase their talent for the 2024-2025 season. Kickoff for the game will be at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. 

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