CLEMSON—Saturday's scrimmage will be the first time for many of the Tigers to step foot on the field of Death Valley in a game-like situation.
But regardless of whether it is a players first time stepping onto the hallowed grounds or their 50th time, one thing is certain: Saturday's first scrimmage is always exciting.
“We will not know (a lot about the young players) until we cut them loose (in the scrimmage). Everything is being controlled right now. Tomorrow is going to be a flat-out scrimmage,” Elliott said. “We are going to get off the field. We are going to work the mechanics of our communications process and we are going to let those guys play. I will not feel comfortable until I see those guys in a live situation in the stadium with the coaches off the field.”
One player that Elliott is anxious to see take the field is true freshman tight end Jaelyn Lay.
Even though Saturday's scrimmage will not be Lays first time in Death Valley for a game, as he went through spring practice with the Tigers and participated in the spring game, Elliott is anxious to see how much Lay has improved.
“Coming out of the spring, we were expecting one thing and did not quite see what we thought,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.“You realize he is playing the tight end position,” Elliott said. “He is the formation adjuster. He is the run game fitter. He has to run all the pass routes. Here is a guy who played wideout, and now he happens to be in every aspect of the offense.
“So maybe the expectations were a little unrealistic for a guy coming in the door.”
The expectations for the Tigers at tight end have no where to go but up this season, after seeing their production plummet following the departure of former Tiger Jordan Leggett to the NFL following the 2016 season.
But if the Tigers are going to see that production get back to where they are used to, Lay will need to show the coaches that he heeded what they asked him to do this summer.
“So I need to see him continue to grow, continue to learn, football-wise,” tight ends coach Danny Pearman said. “And then all of a sudden, once he has some success, build on his confidence, build on that and build on, not only a successful block, but successful in being able to run routes and catch for us.”
Apparently, through the first seven practices, Lay has put in the work—and it is showing up on the practice fields. Now, it is time for him to take it from the practice fields to the game field.
“He is catching the ball well. He is moving well. He is fighting. He is tough,” Elliott said. “You are starting to see those things because the game is a little bit slower because he has worked with Garrett (Williams) over the summer and he has had J.C. Chalk in his ear. So, he is a lot more confident. You are seeing that.
“He is a guy that hopefully we can get back on the field and get back to working. I am encouraged where he is.”