CLEMSON — Jeff Scott didn’t even try to act like he isn’t enjoying life as a senior officer aboard one of the shiniest yachts ever moored in the college football harbor.
The 38-year-old offensive co-coordinator stood Friday evening on the edge of Clemson’s indoor practice facility. National championship game star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, reigning ACC player of the year Travis Etienne and All-America receiver candidates Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins just finished their second day of spring practice.
So did running back Lynn-J Dixon, who averaged 8.8 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns as a freshman.
Junior wide receiver Amari Rodgers, who caught 55 passes in 2018, would be the star on other college teams.
Early enrollee Frank Ladson is a 6-3 receiver Scott happily compares to former Clemson star Sammy Watkins.
“It’s the character to go with the talent and we have that,” Scott said. “That’s what I’m most excited about; we have some talented guys that are eager, hungry and want to work.”
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook this week listed Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa as the 2019 Heisman Trophy favorite at 5-2.
The Crimson Tide quarterback is followed by Lawrence at 3-1. Then transfer quarterbacks Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma and Justin Fields of Ohio State, along with Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez at 6-1, followed by Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor at 15-1.
That’s about right.
If Lawrence doesn’t throw enough touchdown passes to win the Heisman, it’s probably because Etienne’s rushing totals are more impressive or that voters give too much credit to one or several of those NFL-bound receivers.
It’s an unselfish group, Scott said.
But collectively just selfish enough.
“That’s a goal; we’re trying to bring the first Heisman to Clemson,” Rodgers said. “If it’s Trevor, Travis, anybody.”
On the way to a fifth straight College Football Playoff appearance, of course.
Heisman teammate voting
Etienne finished seventh in the Heisman voting last year.
Lawrence, unlike last spring when he divided reps with incumbent starter Kelly Bryant, should be better prepared going into this fall.
Ross put on a show against Alabama.
Higgins was Clemson’s leading receiver last year.
There is precedent in the 2000s for a pair of teammates among the top five Heisman finalists:
• 2016. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook finished third and fourth in the Heisman voting as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson beat Clemson’s Deshaun Watson for the award.
• 2008. Quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech finished fourth and fifth.
• 2005. Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart finished third, the year teammate Reggie Bush won the Heisman (later vacated).
• 2004. Bush was fifth when Leinart won the award.
• 2002. Miami’s Willis McGahee and Ken Dorsey finished fourth and fifth.
But — and I checked with the NCAA to verify records on this — there is no precedent for a team with this kind of skill-position talent returning after beating an undefeated, No. 1-ranked, Nick Saban-coached Alabama team by four touchdowns.
But you can’t just rely on what happened in 2018 when projecting what might happen in 2019. Rodgers knows that.
“We just keep getting better,” he said. “I feel like we’ll be amazing by the time fall comes.”
‘Better and better’
Tributes to the building blocks are all over the indoor practice facility walls, posters commemorating bowl victories and championships and the responsible players.
“It just feels like it gets better and better every year,” Scott said. “We went back and watched (film) of that group of Sammy (Watkins) and Nuk (Hopkins) and Andre Ellington and Dwayne Allen and Tajh Boyd — pretty special group. And the next group that came behind them of Deshaun (Watson) and Mike (Williams) and Wayne (Gallman) and Jordan Leggett.
“When that group left, it was like, ‘Is it going to be a little while before we have another group like this?’”
Yeah, a few months.
Scott pointed to another just-arrived talent, 6-2 wide receiver Joe Ngata of Folsom, Calif.
“He’s here,” Scott said, “because he watched Mike Williams play.”
Multiple Heisman Trophy candidates might sell well on the recruiting trail, too.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.