Saturday Scrimmage Notebook

CLEMSON – By most accounts, the offensive line controlled the trenches, but the defense controlled the first scrimmage of the 2006 season for the Clemson football team.

Each of the star tailbacks for the Tigers took massive hits, while the passing game was spotty.

To start the scrimmage, cornerback Ray Ray McElrathbey blew up tailback C.J. Spiller on a kickoff, which got the rest of the defense pumped up right away.

"I guess that set the tone for the rest of the day," Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said.

Later in the afternoon, James Davis took on defensive lineman Phillip Merling and lost.

"I went head-on-head with Phil Merling and now I've got a headache," Davis said. "But I'll be ready come Monday."

Even enduring two big hits, Spiller and Davis showed flashes of what defenses can expect to see in the upcoming season. They even lined up together in the backfield, which will make any defensive coordinator sweat.

"You know they just can't key on one guy," Davis said. "With both of us in the backfield, they know both of us are capable of making big plays and breaking a long run."

Wide receiver Aaron Kelly looked as though Clemson had just lost a regular season game following the scrimmage.

"I'd say the defense pretty much dominated today," he said. "There were some good things and bad things. I think our timing was off a little bit today. It was a little disappointing.

"You want to make more big plays than we had today. Coach Bowden said he wanted some big plays out of the receiving corps and that's what we were looking for and we didn't have as many as I'd like to have."

However, head coach Tommy Bowden wouldn't totally agree with Kelly's assessment of the scrimmage.

"He hasn't had a good week, which is something he may be thinking about," Bowden said. "As a player and a coach, you look at it two different ways. … I'm looking at it with a different set of eyes with different objectives. But it's good that he thinks we can perform better. I like his attitude."

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said he believed the scrimmage was more or less a draw, which is the way it's been in most of the practices.

"I don't know about (what Kelly said)," Koenning said. "There were a couple of times they had guys open and didn't get them the ball. They'd win some and we'd win some. Their offensive line is really powerful and we struggled hanging in there."

One player defensive line coach Chris Rumph pointed out was redshirt freshman defensive end Elsmore Gabriel.

"He's a guy right now that I think is probably the most improved from spring to this point," Rumph said.

Ray Ray's day
On Friday McElrathbey said Saturday's scrimmage was a do-or-die situation for him and the rest of the reserves who are seeking to get more playing time. A bad scrimmage meant dropping on the depth chart, which means fewer reps in practice.

So, did he do or die?

"I think I doed," he said with a big grin. "It was a good day for me. I made some minor mistakes, nothing too major. But I had some good things on special teams. I didn't get burned. All my mistakes were minor mistakes. I had a few tackles and missed some. Overall, I think I did pretty good."

As mentioned earlier, McElrathbey lit up Spiller on a kickoff return.

"He didn't see me, that was the whole thing," McElrathbey said. "Since he didn't see me, I got to give him a real big hit."

Koenning said he was pleased with McElrathbey. But then he quickly added that he was pleased with most of the defense. Stay tuned to see where McElrathbey is located on the depth chart come Monday or Tuesday.

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