Clemson piled up some big numbers in its season-opening 49-7 romp against Furman last week, but none more impressive than 59.3 percent — the percentage of the Tigers’ total offensive yardage produced by freshmen.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Lyn-J Dixon, tight end Braden Galloway and wide receivers Justyn Ross and Derion Kendrick combined to account for 315 of Clemson’s 531 yards.
“It was good to see a lot of the new people show up,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “The freshmen all flashed. It’s a strong freshman group that we brought in this year.”
Whether the rookies will continue to be key players in No. 2 Clemson’s offense remains to be seen, beginning Saturday with what could turn out to be the Tigers’ toughest challenge of the regular season — a nationally televised date at Texas A&M.
Both teams are 1-0 following resounding season-opening victories against FCS opponents last week.
Clemson’s youthful talent drew rave reviews during fall camp, then promptly lived up their billing in the first game of their careers.
Galloway, a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, and Ross, a rangy 6-foot-4 receiver out of Alabama, combined for five receptions with both snagging their first career touchdowns. Kendrick had only one catch, but it was an acrobatic, 38-yard reception.
Lawrence, the nation’s top-ranked high school quarterback last year, completed 9-of-15 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns while Dixon led all rushers with 89 yards on just six carries, including a 61-yard burst.
“There were a lot of true freshmen who got opportunities, and they took advantage of it today,” Swinney said. “It was good to see Dixon get in there. I thought he was going to hyperventilate.
“It’s just so funny. Some of these guys, even Justyn Ross — his leg was shaking. It doesn’t matter how talented they are, how much success they’ve had, it’s just a different deal. You cannot simulate game day.”
Nor can you simulate the environment the they’ll see Saturday at Kyle Field, with 100,000-plus fans in attendance. In the meantime, Swinney is providing plenty of advice for youthful talent.
“The fans don’t play,” Swinney said. “They can yell and be loud and that’s great, but that doesn’t have anything to do with you doing your job. If that stuff enters your psyche, you’re never going to be a good player.”
–QB Trevor Lawrence did his best to upstage starter Kelly Bryant in Clemson’s win last week, passing for three touchdowns and joining former star Deshaun Watson as the lone quarterbacks in school history to throw three touchdown passes in his first career game. Coach Dabo Swinney says the two will split snaps against Texas A&M on Saturday, but don’t be surprised if Lawrence gets the bulk of the work, particularly if Bryant struggles early.
–WR Amari Rodgers caught three passes for a team-leading 44 yards and a touchdown last week, but his biggest contributions came on special teams. Rodgers, a sophomore, returned two punts for 87 yards, including a 62-yard effort to set up a field goal. Rodgers finished with a team-best 141 all-purpose yards.
–RB Lyn-J Dixon had an auspicious debut in Clemson’s season-opening game, rushing for 89 yards on only six carries and showing that he could remain a threat throughout the season despite entering the game fourth on the Tigers’ depth chart. “He runs relentlessly,” Swinney said.
–RT Tremayne Anchrum may be coming into his own. The junior tackle made the eighth start of his career his best last Saturday, grading out at 94 percent with two knockdown blocks. On Tuesday he was named ACC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week for the first time in his career.