CLEMSON — Ben Boulware started to cry and put his face in his hands while Jadar Johnson comforted him.
Deshaun Watson whipped out his phone to snap a few photos.
Death Valley went bonkers.
At halftime of Clemson's spring game Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, all of the juniors and seniors who have left Clemson's program since the national championship were given a trio of championship rings — one for the national title, one for another ACC championship and one the College Football Playoff gave to the team itself. While the rest of the Tigers received their jewels in a private ceremony Wednesday evening, Swinney wanted Deshaun Watson, Ben Boulware, Mike Williams, Jadar Johnson, Wayne Gallman, Cordrea Tankersley, Jay Guillermo, Carlos Watkins and a handful of others to be honored one last time in front of the Clemson crowd.
"They may not play football in the Valley anymore, but they're forever Tigers. Forever Tigers," Swinney said. "And most importantly, they're forever family. We love each one of you, I'm proud of you, I can't thank you enough for your heart and your leadership, your dedication and your toughness. You will to win. That's special ... for the rest of your lives, you guys will be coming back here knowing what you did."
Clemson sets record crowd
Dabo Swinney made his request publicly known to Clemson fans ahead of Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, which the Orange team won 19-14: "I'm hopeful that we get a huge crowd. It's going to be beautiful weather."
The Tigers' football coach got both, with a record crowd on a 70-degree day in Clemson. Some 60,000 fans filled the lower bowl and sprinkled part of the upper deck in the stadium, according to the university.
Wide receivers step up
Gone are the days of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, a new season bringing with it a demand for new wide receivers to step up. Clemson coaches seemed impressed with the unit's output Saturday afternoon, with co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott dropping Diondre Overton's name, specifically. Overton played in eight games last season, but only had two receptions for 48 yards. Saturday, he had a touchdown reception for 24 yards from Hunter Johnson.
"He’s been a guy that is a young player, learning what he’s doing, started off a little slow in the spring so for him to come out there and have a nice touchdown catch in a venue like today I think was a positive step for him."
Ray-Ray McCloud led the Orange team with four receptions and 34 yards, while Cornell Powell led everyone with four receptions and 45 yards. Deon Cain, one of the receivers expected to take on a bigger load, didn't have a strong performance statistically Saturday with just five receiving yards, but he still earned Swinney's praises.
"(Ray-Ray and Deon), they’ve had great springs. Really both of them I’m really pleased with what they’ve done, how they’ve worked all spring. Deon had a couple of opportunities today that didn’t really work out, but man he’s been awesome all spring," Swinney said. "The last scrimmage we had on Wednesday he probably had the best day of anybody all spring. Ray-Ray you saw some plays from him the in the run game, return game, passing game, and that’s what we need from him. We need him to be a playmaker for us, and he’s done that all spring."
Quarterback Kelly Bryant tore a tendon in his pinky Saturday during the first play of the game and will need a splint for six weeks. He did, however, continue to play the rest of the afternoon. Right tackle Sean Pollard sprained his ankle and two Clemson players have decided to end their playing careers for health reasons.
"Noah (Green) has taken a medical (leave). He decided that back in December. It's a decision that he made. Those of you close to the program, y'all know he's had some health issues and some intestinal things and stuff that he was born with and he's had a couple surgeries. That was a big loss for us because Noah's a good football player," said Swinney of the offensive lineman turned student coach. "He's still in the program. And Logan Tisch, as well. Logan Tisch is another one, a walk-on for us, very important part of our program. Both of those guys aren't going to be able to play anymore but they'll still be a part of what we're doing on a day to day basis."