Spring Preview: 5 Questions for Clemson’s Offense

The Clemson Football team will begin spring practices this afternoon behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.

This will be the most intriguing spring in the Dabo Swinney era in quite some time thanks to his move back in January to bring in former TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley to run his offense.

Here are five questions to ponder on the offensive side as the Tigers go through their 15 practices over the next six weeks.

What will the new offense look like?

Riley said at his introductory press conference that the Clemson offense will be fast and violent under his watch. It will be interesting to see how fast the players, especially the offensive line and quarterback Cade Klubnik, will take to the new scheme.

Though Riley comes from the Mike Leach coaching tree, the 33-year old offensive coordinator does not have the same style as others who learned under Leach. Riley wants to run the football and he wants to do it with violence. So how much will Phil Mafah and Will Shipley get out of the offense and will Riley lean heavily on the run game?

Will an Alpha Male step up at wide receiver?

Clemson needs someone to become the big dog at wide receiver this year. The Tigers have not had an Alpha Male at the wide receiver position since 2019 when Tee Higgins became one of the nation’s best playmakers. Since then, Clemson has produced some decent wideouts, but nothing like a Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Williams or Higgins. Sophomore Adam Randall has the physical tools to do so, but last spring’s ACL injury set him back, as he never became the player the coaches were hoping he could be last season. After a few months to heal even more, Randall should be ready to step up and become the big-time receiver Clemson fans have been spoiled by.

Who will replace Jordan McFadden at left tackle?

This might be the most important question? Other than quarterback, no position is more important than who is the guy protecting the quarterback’s blindside. Jordan McFadden, who won the Jacob’s Trophy as the ACC’s best offensive lineman in 2022, was one of the best to ever do it at Clemson. Blake Miller will likely get the first crack at it. The rising sophomore started all season at right tackle for the Tigers a year ago, so it seems like a natural transition, right? Not exactly. Playing left tackle is a whole lot tougher and different, primarily because the defense will usually line up its best defensive end on that side of the line of scrimmage. It also might depend on how Tristan Leigh does with his reps he gets this spring.

Will Chris Vizzina grasp enough of the offense in the Spring?

Riley has said he does not force the offense on his personnel, but instead adjusts his offense around his players. With that said, how much will be thrown at Chris Vizzina in the spring and how much will the freshman retain. Though things will be simplified, learning a new offense will not be easy for the freshman, especially at first. The coaches are hopeful Vizzina will be ready to compete and take over as the No. 2 quarterback by the time the season begins.

How much will Cade Klubnik develop?

In his one year at TCU, Riley developed Max Duggan from just an average Big 12 quarterback to a Heisman Finalist. How did he do it? Well, he simplified things, and he leaned on what Duggan did best. The end result was the best season the Horn Frogs had since the 1950s and their first national championship game appearance.

Look for Riley to do the same for Klubnik, though the Clemson quarterback is a more accurate passer than Duggan and can also run the football. The tutelage he gets from Riley should go a long way and should put Klubnik in the conversation for conference and national awards.

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