In the team's first scrimmage in Memorial Stadium this spring, McElrathbey ran the ball six times for 62 yards, including one that went for 36 yards down the left sideline Saturday morning. In goal-line situations, he muscled his way through the line for a few touchdowns and even leaped high into the air to sail over the line to reach the end zone.
Not bad for someone new to the offense. He missed the first four practices of spring due to suspension for missing a class.
His running back partner, James Davis, was happy with what he saw out of his fellow Atlanta native.
"I'd give Ray an eight today," Davis said. "I knew he was a good running back in high school and I'm the one that encouraged him to come over to the offense and play some running back with us because you never know, me or C.J. (Spiller) might get hurt or go down. He'd be a good guy to step in."
However, McElrathbey wasn't so generous in the grading of his own performance.
"I guess a C, because there were a few passing assignments that I missed," he said. "I know all the running plays, but the passing assignments are the ones I need to work on. I just got to get used to reading the defense and know when they're blitzing and know where it's coming from and know who to pick up."
By his own admission, McElrathbey is still having some problems learning all the signals and plays.
"With me being behind because of my suspension, I'm not sure what the signals are," he said. "I have to wait to ask the quarterback what's the play. I know it if he says it, but I can't tell what the signals are just yet. …
"I'm getting comfortable, but not just yet. With some time, I'll be able to stop thinking so much, because that's one of my problems. I'm thinking a lot about what I'm doing before I'm doing it. And this isn't too much of a game with thinking, it's reaction."
Running backs coach Andre Powell said McElrathbey will get better as time goes.
"He's got some running skills," Powell said. "He's got to get a better feel. He knows where he's supposed to go, but he's not exactly sure where everybody else is supposed to go. He's just got to hear it more and do it more and just get a better feel."
QBs look good
The quarterback trio of Cullen Harper, Willy Korn and Tribble Reese looked good Saturday, with each having some nice passes. There were few passes by each that could have been better, especially Korn, who struggled some early, but for the most part, it was a successful scrimmage in the passing game.
One of the more impressive sightings was the way they each put zip on their passes, especially Harper.
"I'm feeling really good right now," he said. "Obviously there were some throws I could a few more of, but for the most part the offense was pretty productive today."
Korn, who ran the first half with the 2s and the second half with the 3s, said he's getting more and more comfortable with the offense with each passing practice.
One of his best throws of the day come in the beginning when he hit receiver Xavier Dye on a post route for a 30-yard gain.
"I think I did a good job of completing most of my passes today," Korn said. "The first completion of the day, I feel like I did a good job of going to my second read and progression and hitting Xavier for a 20 or 30-yard gain across the middle. There are some kinks you've got to work out, but that's everybody because it's early. But the offense looked awesome today."
Since Korn and Reese split time with the second team, head coach Tommy Bowden said there's no clear number two quarterback.
Nonetheless, Bowden likes what he sees out of his true freshman.
"He's treading, but I don't know if he's swimming," Bowden said. "He's treading pretty good. His classroom-to-the-field transition has really been impressive because we haven't slowed down. That's probably been more impressive than anything."
The fourth quarterback, Michael Wade is very limited in what he can do because of severely jammed finger.
Looking for leaders
With generally inexperienced offensive personnel, Bowden said he's still waiting for some of the older players to step forth and become leaders much like several on the offensive line did last year.
Davis said he's trying to become one of them.
"Right now, I'm trying to step up and be a leader better for the offense," he said. "I'm probably one of the guys on the team that has the most experience on offense, so me and Barry are trying to help those guys out a lot."
Powell said the team would be much better off if Davis can do that job.
"I just want him to do it more consistently," Powell said. "He has shown signs of being a good leader. When you've got a back that is a good leader that's running hard and making plays, the team will get behind him and block for him and play hard for him. That's why it's important for all of us that he takes on that role."
Block that kick
The field goal unit had two attempts blocked Saturday, and Bowden actually likes that.
"We've only blocked two in eight years," he said. "So, we did a little research on that and we've got to be a lot better. This is the best we've done since I've been here on field goal blocking this early into the spring. It's been a point of emphasis."
Solid play for Kelly continues
Wide receiver Aaron Kelly continues to catch the eye of Bowden, who says the junior has been real consistent this spring. And that's a good thing considering the Tigers lost their top receiver for the last two years in Chansi Stuckey.
In the scrimmage, Kelly made many difficult catches in the middle of several defenders. He also made a very nice catch in the end zone that was thrown behind him.
"The more opportunities you get, the better chance you have at making plays," Kelly said. "Hopefully I'll get more opportunities to make big plays. You want to be dependable and that comes with consistency. If you make plays on a regular basis, then they'll call you're number more."
O-line rises to challenge
Very unhappy with the way things went earlier in the week in practice, Bowden challenged his offensive linemen to be more dominant. And for the most part, they were.
"I think consistency is now the key," he said. "If they can stay healthy, I'm hopeful we can develop the same type of continuity that we had. We haven't shown it yet, but hopefully we can."
Bowden also said center Barry Humphries has thus far been doing a solid job. It was a major point of concern for the coach heading into spring practice.
"Barry Humphries has been doing a good job," Bowden said. "We haven't had to move (guard) Thomas Austin (to center) yet."
Grant gets gift
After practice, senior offensive lineman Barry Richardson spoke to the team and presented fellow lineman Jamarcus Grant $400 that the team had raised to help buy clothes and necessities after most of his possessions and house was destroyed by fire over spring break.
Grant then addressed the team, too.
"I never thought it'd happen to me," he said. "I didn't even want to come back, but Coach (Brad) Scott told me I have a family at Clemson, too. I love ya'll guys."
According to Scott, Grant, who lived with his younger brother and grandparents in Mullins, was frying something on the stove and thought that when he was done that he had turned it off because the cooking light was off.
However, while Grant was in his bedroom eating his prepared meal, he smelled something burning. He went into the kitchen and saw a grease fire, upon which he immediately grabbed the pan to throw it outside.
When he did, the grease splashed out of the pan and onto his leg, causing some major burns. And while taking the pan outside in such a rush, Grant spilled some grease in the living room, which caused the wooden house to catch on fire.
There was nothing he could do, but watch in horror as his grandparents' house burned to the ground.
However, fire investigators recently ruled that what caused the fire was an electrical short in the stove, which is the reason the cooking light wasn't on.
Scott said Grant was immediately relieved because he thought the fire was his fault.
Scott also said that the NCAA and ACC have an emergency fund that can go to players when something drastic like this happens. Grant has already received some of that money to buy clothes.
Grant still has pretty bad burns on his legs, but hopefully he can practice in shorts by Wednesday.
"To us as coaches, that was a big team victory there to see a team come together and stand behind a guy and support him and raise some money on their own," Scott said. "As a coach, that's very satisfying. We drive them and we push them … these are situations to me that says this program is winning."
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