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Quarterbacks struggle, offense shaky at Clemson spring game

CLEMSON, S.C. — A couple of things seem nearly certain about Clemson's offense next season: Kelly Bryant will be the No. 1 quarterback starting fall practice and that 504 yards a game average from last season will likely be tough to match.
Bryant started for one of the two squads at Saturday's spring game. He went just 4 for 13 for 43 yards and ran 11 times for 66 yards, but coach Dabo Swinney said the junior is still in front of the sophomore and two freshmen behind him.
"Kelly, if we played today, he'd go be the guy. But we don't play today. We play in September," said Swinney, whose team begins defending its national championship Sept. 2 against Kent State.
Bryant overthrew several passes and made some bad decisions that led to near interceptions. Swinney said he hurt a tendon in his pinky bobbling the ball on the first snap.
"It got away from me. It's something I need to keep working at. It's not going to come to you in 15 practices," Bryant said.
There were a few highlights for Clemson's other quarterbacks— such as true freshman Hunter Johnson's soft touch on a 24-yard TD pass to Diondre Overton — but mostly it was completed short passes, designed runs and missed shots downfield.
Swinney decided his quarterbacks could be hit in the game for the first time to help him evaluate how his QBs run.
Sophomore Tucker Israel had the best numbers of the other QBs, going 13 of 19 for 94 yards. He also was the only one not to throw an interception, but did not have a carry on the ground.
Outside of the quarterbacks, Ray-Ray McCloud may have had the best day on offense. The junior had a 48-yard kickoff return and a 32-yard reception where he did most of the work after a short flick from Bryant.
The Tigers are trying to replace two-time Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson.
But Swinney wasn't worried at all after the game. He pointed out this year's team will only have seven scholarship seniors, so there were a lot of guys getting significant playing time for the first time.
"We definitely have the ingredients to be a team that has a chance. That's really where we want to be every year. You'll never hear me come out and say we're going to win it all," Swinney said.
Clemson split the roster in two for the game and had coaches draft who they wanted. That also likely affected the offensive and defensive consistency, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
"Any time you split of the team like we did — you have a first-team tackle and a third-team guard in there," Scott said.
Swinney handed out title rings to the 2016 seniors and other players not returning at halftime.
"That one looked lonely," Swinney said, pointing at the Tigers' 1981 national championship banner. "For the rest of your lives, you can come back here knowing what you did."
The players were introduced individually, and they didn't hesitate to take the title ring out of the box and slip it on a finger, including Watson, who recorded himself opening his box on his cellphone.
The championship ring includes the national championship trophy and a tiger paw made with 89 gemstones to represent Swinney's 89 wins with Clemson so far.
Swinney asked for 70,000 fans for the spring game. He didn't quite get it, ending up with announced record of 60,000 fans ... Clemson treated fans to more than 10 minutes of highlights from the national championship season before the game. Death Valley roared when Watson completed the 2-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with a second to go against Alabama to win the title game ... Swinney spent the first half standing about 10 yards behind the quarterback watching every play, even walking up to the backfield to give advice before some snaps. He moved the broadcast booth for the third quarter.