Cotton Bowl Football (copy)

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons kisses the Cotton Bowl trophy in celebration of the Tigers' College Football Playoff semifinal win on Dec. 29, 2018. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables believes Simmons has the potential to reach another level this season. File/Jeffrey McWhorter/AP

On Saturday, less than three weeks before Clemson's season opener Aug. 29 against Georgia Tech, the Tigers took the field at Memorial Stadium. 

It was Clemson's first intrasquad scrimmage of fall camp, and coach Dabo Swinney learned a lot about his team, which aims to repeat as national champion.

As fall camp marches on this week, here are four questions Clemson will want answered before the season begins.

1. Can kicker B.T. Potter's practice success translate to game settings?

Clemson's primary placekicker last season was Greg Huegel, a former walk-on who went 11-for-16 on field goal attempts. Huegel's departure has created an opening. 

Swinney said the competition between Potter, a sophomore, and Steven Sawicki, a senior, is not close, noting that Potter is "way out in front."

"He's been awesome," Swinney said. "He looks like a different guy."

Potter was 19-for-20 from field goal range in camp entering Friday's practice, before missing a kick that Swinney said was at least 50 yards. He then missed his first two field goals in Saturday's scrimmage.

"I was disappointed in him today," Swinney said. "The mental toughness of being able to really stay focused and bring it from the practice field to the game environment is kind of the next step for him. But he's had an awesome camp."

Swinney also offered high praise for freshman Jonathan Weitz, noting that the Charleston native is accurate but lacks the leg strength of that of Potter. 

2. Can QB Chase Brice continue to be counted on as Trevor Lawrence's backup?

For as talented and regarded as Lawrence is, it's important to have a suitable backup quarterback in college football, considering the omnipresent risk for injury. 

Brice played an important role last season, entering in relief to power the team to a 27-23 victory at home against Syracuse. And this fall camp, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said, Brice has taken another step forward.

"He's one of the more talented quarterbacks in the ACC. He just happens to play on the same team as Trevor," Scott said. "He hasn't let that slow him down one bit. He's had an outstanding fall camp. Can make all the throws."

Brice, a redshirt sophomore, was a 3-star recruit per His playing time will likely be limited this season, but in the event Lawrence goes down with an injury, all eyes will be on Brice.

"The separation last between Trevor and Chase might have been a little bit bigger gap," Scott said. "I think Chase has really come up a lot closer to where Trevor is. You don't see a very big drop off at all."

3. Can LB Isaiah Simmons reach his potential?

The secret is out on Isaiah Simmons by now. The college football world knows the type of athlete Simmons is, and how dangerous he can be when fully engaged.

On Saturday, Simmons had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown off a tipped pass.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables, though, thinks Simmons has yet to reach his ceiling.

"I want more," Venables said, raising his left hand high above his head. "Isaiah knows that. I want more. I want him to be a dominant player. And so everything that goes along with that, you've got to bring it every day. Every day. Not most of the time, every day."

Simmons last season recorded a team-high 97 tackles (nine and a half for loss), seven pass breakups, three forced fumbles, one and a half sacks and one interception. Venables believes Simmons has the ability to take things to another level in what will be his third season of eligibility, but it'll take an increased commitment on a daily basis.

"When he does that, he can decide on how great he wants to be," Venables said.

4. Can safeties K'Von Wallace and Tanner Muse be effective leaders on defense?

On a defense full of younger faces, Wallace and Muse are a pair of veterans with national championship experience.

Last year, the Tigers' linemen were the leaders of the defense, the veterans who looked out for and inspired the rest of the group. With a less experienced line this season, much of that onus will likely fall on Wallace and Muse.

Wallace said Saturday he and Muse are up for their challenge, but their leadership will be tested as fall camp rumbles on and the season approaches.

"(Got to) hold yourself accountable to watch film, to get sleep at night, and not party and take advantage of every opportunity, because there's nothing that's guaranteed when it comes to opportunity," Wallace said. 

Follow Joshua Needelman on Twitter at @joshneedelman.

Joshua Needelman covers Clemson for The Post and Courier. He's a Long Island, N.Y., native and a University of Maryland graduate.

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