Saturday around 3 p.m., as the game was already secured and the first-team guys were already ridding themselves of unnecessary pads and tape on the sidelines, the rest of us got a great look into the future of Clemson Football for years to come. The freshmen and red shirt freshmen took to the field in Memorial Stadium.
Replacing names like Beasley, Jarrett and Bryant, were names like Huggins, McCloud and Cain along with a host of other young orange-clad players. A total of 27 freshman got into the game on Saturday. And not just for meaningless snaps to run out the clock at the end of a pretty secure game from the outset. We saw guys in the first series of the game on offense, as coaches inserted the likes of Ray-Ray McCloud and Garrett Williams without hesitancy and in critical situations early in the contest.
Along with the aforementioned, the likes of Kelly Bryant and Christian Wilkins showed why the recruiting services had these Clemson freshmen so highly rated coming out of High School. Wilkins—just as with Ray-Ray—showed early on that the “learning curve” for him is a short one.
If you decided to stick around the Valley in the 4th quarter to see Kelly Bryant and his 11 plays on offense, you truly were treated to a small dose of what he did on Friday nights the pasts few years. He is electric with the ball in his hand and the lights on. You also saw the athleticism and size he brings to the position of quarterback. . If you recall, there was a play in which the snap went sailing over his head into the end zone from the 25 yard line. Kelly ran into the end zone, picked up the ball and ran it out in circus fashion, turning a sure 25-yard loss or safety into a –yard gain.
True freshman Christian Wilkins showed constant penetration into the backfield and recorded his first tackle-for-loss of many. On his receptions in the flats, Ray-Ray McCloud was able to turn upfield and gain yards after the catch. Garrett Williams, in the H Back role, was throwing blocks in the A and B gaps without hesitancy and in critical situations early in the contest. Mitch Hyatt graded at 92% in his first college football game—an impressive mark for a seasoned veteran. True freshman Jake Fruhmorgen more than held his own as well. Deon Cain made a nice catch on a comeback route. He also had a would-be 50-yard touchdown reception go right off his fingertips, but the missed opportunity exhibited his speed and athleticism. He had about 25 yards on the DB.
After Saturday and the never-ending array of talent that kept amassing on the field in orange across the board, it’s obvious that the future at Clemson just keeps getting brighter and brighter. Stay tuned as we follow these “young guns” and their careers here at Clemson over the next few seasons.