For the first time since the embarrassing loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, the Clemson Tigers will take the field this weekend.
It's the annual Orange and White Game in Clemson and with the Tigers looking to replace most of their skill position players from last season, Saturday will give fans their first glimpse at some of the players vying for spots at those positions on the two-deep.
Here are five things worth watching on the offensive side of the ball when the Tigers take the field on Saturday afternoon.
1. Offensive Line: The offensive line was a weak link at times for Clemson last season. This weekend will be the first chance fans get at seeing what they could potentially expect next season. Jordan McFadden is the only starting offensive linemen on the Orange Team. The rest of the presumed starters are slated to play on the White Team. How that group fares against the defensive front of the Orange Team consisting of Xavier Thomas, Justin Mascoll, Bryan Bresee and Tre Williams might be worth the trip in and of itself.
2. Taisun Phommachanh's Progression: Both he and Hunter Helms are on the White Team, but expect Phommachanh to get a lot of work on Saturday. The Tigers need the redshirt sophomore to take a major step forward and after missing time this spring, Phommachanh will need all the reps he can get. His struggles thus far have been well documented, but on Saturday he will have the luxury of being able to throw the ball to E.J. Williams, Dacari Collins and Ajou Ajou. With very little experience behind D.J. Uiagalelei on the roster, Clemson needs Phommachanh to be ready to play at a high level next season. Getting him to that point begins on Saturday.
3. Running Game: Clemson has to be better running the ball in 2021 and the Tigers are fortunate to have a deep stable of talented running backs. It is widely assumed that Lyn-J Dixon will be the starter, but how the two-deep shakes after that is anyone's guess at this point. Kobe Pace and Chez Mellusi are both players looking for more carries. Will Shipley and Phil Mafah are two very talented freshman that could push for playing time. Dabo Swinney was very pleased with how the running backs ran in the teams final scrimmage before spring break, and it will be interesting to see if they can carry that over into Saturday.
4. D.J. Uiagalelei Behind Backup Offensive Line: As noted above, Jordan McFadden is the only starting offensive linemen on Orange Team, meaning Uiagalelei, in his first action as the teams full-time starter, will be playing behind a line consisting almost entirely of backups. Whether or not that affects his production will be something to watch. Does he have time to read the field and throw the ball or will he be forced to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs?
5. Wide Receiver U: Even without Justyn Ross and Frank Ladson Jr. on the field, the Tigers will have elite-level talent spread out across both the Orange and White teams. A stark contrast to what the team had last season as the receiver room was ravaged by injury. Is Joseph Ngata fully healthy and can he showcase that talent Swinney has raved about at times over his first two seasons? How has E.J. Williams progressed? How far along are the two true freshman Dacari and Beaux Collins?
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