Offensive line struggles, Lateek Townsend shines in Clemsons first fall scrimmage
CLEMSON – Tajh Boyd walked off the Memorial Stadium field following the first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday with a torn shoelace, the product of defensive traffic in the Clemson backfield.
Boyd’s tattered footwear was telling of the distance the inexperienced Clemson offensive must travel to become a cohesive, solid unit in time for the opener against Auburn and its veteran defensive line Sept. 1 in Atlanta. The Clemson line struggled to handle the blitz Saturday -- linebacker Lateek Townsend recorded three sacks -- and Clemson once again struggled in short-yardage situations, going 0 for 4 in goal-line situations, issues that have plagued the program over the last several seasons.
“It wasn’t a good day for short yardage,” Boyd said. “It’s one of the things that’s hindered us. If we want to be a championship team we have to have a nose for the end zone. … There’s some (physical) aspect to it but it’s not to the point where we are getting blown off the ball. There is some misinterpretation.”
Speaking to the short yardage issues, starting center Dalton Freeman said he has more confidence in the line facing a “third and seven” down-and-distance than a “third and two.”
“It’s schematically not understanding what is going on,” Freeman said.
Interestingly, coach Dabo Swinney said Freeman was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage but Freeman said he played and Boyd also said Freeman played.
Swinney did praise backup Ryan Norton’s play, who took extensive snaps at center as the coaches look at combination options along the front, but categorized guard Kalon Davis’ play as “fine” and said he didn’t notice right tackle Joe Gore, filling in for the injured Gifford Timothy.
“But (not noticing Gore) is probably a good thing,” Swinney said.
Other than the offensive line the team’s other big question mark is whether it has enough pass rush and the pass rush was productive Saturday, but evaluation of its performance must be placed in the context of it coming against inexperienced front.
Tavaris Barnes and Josh Watson each had a couple tackles for loss and Townsend continues to appear to be a potential impact pass rusher, recording three sacks working with the second and third team. Teammate Josh Watson raved about Townsend’s “motor.” Boyd said Townsend can “fly.”
“He’s a guy that has a knack for rushing the quarterback,” Swinney said. “Not just that but running plays down, he plays relentlessly.
There were several positive developments on the offensive end.
Boyd demonstarted better game management skills and
sophomore receiver Charone Peake continued his upward trajectory, catching two touchdown passes, a 6-yarder from Cole Stoudt, and 36-yarder from Morgan Roberts. Peake lead all receivers with 64 yards on three catches.
Boyd rushed for a 32-yard touchdown and completed 5 of 10 passes for 105 yards including an interception and a 56-yard touchdown to Jaron Brown. Chad Kelly completed 4 of 7 passes for 28 yards and an interception. …. Cole Stoudt (knee/leg) has had no setbacks, Swinney said, and completed 3 of 6 passes for 40 yards and an INT. … Running back Zak Brooks was also held out with a neck strain.