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Foes Woes: Breaking Down What Clemson's Opponents Did in Shortened Spring Football

Clemson got nine spring practices before the ACC halted spring activities due to the spread of COVID-19, but 2020 opponents like Boston College, Florida State and others didn't get as much work. Here's a breakdown of what they accomplished and its impact.

Consider Clemson one of the lucky ones.

Dabo Swinney and the Tigers got nine spring practices completed before the ACC shut down all spring activities for the rest of the school year on March 17 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Clemson could certainly have used the rest of the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA to build chemistry on the offense line, break in a talented group of early enrollees and watch a battle for backup quarterback play out.

But it could be worse. Here’s a look at what Clemson’s ACC opponents for 2020 did, or didn’t, do with their shortened spring football seasons:

Boston College Eagles

What they accomplished: BC had five formal practices under first-year head coach Jeff Hafley before the ACC halted all spring activities. The Eagles coaching staff was still in the initial process of getting to know the personnel and what best to do with them. They had not begun to implement much instillation of the schemes, so they’ll be behind on that when football resumes.

Spring impact: The Eagles’ most critical question mark is at the most critical position: quarterback. While they’re waiting to see if Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec earns immediate eligibility via a waiver from the NCAA, Dennis Grosel, who started after Anthony Brown was injured, is battling with three other returning QBs and one incoming freshman. Brown is currently in the transfer portal.

Florida State Seminoles

What they accomplished: New coach Mike Norvell saw his team workout just three times this spring, with only one practice coming in full pads. The Seminoles barely got their feet wet learning from a new staff, which wasn’t even fully assembled until days before the first practice. But Norvell did get to harp on fundamentals and doing the little things right. He established what practices are going to be like, which is probably more important than a scheme right now.

Spring impact: There will be a ton to install before the season on both sides of the ball, so a shortened spring will set the Seminoles back. So will the culture development under Norvell, as well as leadership. One position that needed this spring was quarterback, where James Blackman is looking to hold off redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis and true freshman Tate Rodemaker. Chubba Purdy, another freshman, joins the team this summer.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

What they accomplished: Year 2 of the Geoff Collins era started with six complete practices. The Jackets, who host Clemson to open the 2020 season, were in a completely different place this spring compared to last year. Collins and his staff were able to evaluate instead of teaching so much, so from that standpoint, Georgia Tech benefitted from the shortened spring.

Spring impact: The reality is, any time Collins can be with his team is a chance to improve a squad that won three games in his first season. There were signs of improvement as last year went on, but the Yellow Jackets finished 124th nationally in scoring offense and dead last in the ACC against the run. There are too many holes to fill and now no more spring to improve.

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Louisville Cardinals

What they accomplished: Second-year coach Scott Satterfield got on the practice field seven times this spring. Getting close to the halfway point was crucial for a team that redshirted half of its freshmen class last year and brought in 16 newcomers this spring. They got at least some glimpse of what those young players can do.

Spring impact: Creating functional depth was one of Satterfield’s most important goals. The Cardinals lacked in that area when players went down during his first season, but with a coaching staff nearly intact from a year ago and continuity at quarterback and some skill positions, Louisville was looking to build off its 8-5 bounce-back 2019 season this spring.

N.C. State Wolfpack

What they accomplished: N.C. State got about a week of spring work before the stoppage. With five new staff members, including new offensive coordinator Tim Beck, the Wolfpack broke in some new ideas, but head coach Dave Doeren was really emphasizing a higher level of competition within his own team, hoping it will lead to competing harder after a 4-8 season.

Spring impact: There’s a lot to rebuild after last season’s injury-ravaged setback. Some of those injuries from last year kept players out of spring ball as well. Doeren is replacing his entire defensive line and is still looking for consistent quarterback play. He named Devin Leary the starter, with Bailey Hockman, Ty Evans and freshman Ben Finley nipping at his heels. This could be a make-or-break season for Doeren, who needed a full spring to improve his team.

Syracuse Orange

What they accomplished: Switching to a 3-3-5 defense under new DC Tony White from San Diego State was the biggest storyline coming out of Syracuse football this spring, but the Orange only had three practices to work on it. The team ranked 88th nationally in scoring defense a year ago. They were also breaking in new offensive coordinator Stephen Gilbert.

Spring impact: If you ranked ACC teams that really needed a full spring practice the most, Syracuse would rank pretty high with changes on both sides of the ball. Dino Babers even started later this year to give his late-hired coaching staff a chance to put all the plans in place. With 23 roster additions, no more spring football will greatly affect development.

Virginia Cavaliers

What they accomplished: Virginia was one of the few ACC teams that had not started spring football yet, so the Cavs have nothing to build off of when preparations resume for the 2020 season. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the ACC’s announcement that “no question it will set us back.”

Spring impact: The Cavs were planning to use this practice time to create a new offensive identity. QB Bryce Perkins is gone. So are key receivers. The team that won the ACC Coastal in 2019 was looking forward to seeing how far new QB Brennan Armstrong could develop with 15 practices. The pressure will be on when activities resume. 

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

What they accomplished: A youthful Dave Clawson squad had five practices to get players up to speed before they went on spring break. The Demon Deacons were unable to reconvene before the ACC shut down, but Clawson was glad to get something done on a team that has a lot of question marks.

Spring impact: Wake Forest lost quarterback Jamie Newman to Georgia, but Sam Hartman, who started before Newman took over, does return. That’ll help because there is little experience back on that side of the ball. Wake needed to develop some depth at receiver, especially with star playmaker Sage Surratt still out with an injury suffered last season. The defense needed to find some cornerbacks, but overall, Wake can at least heal up from a bevy of impactful injuries in 2019.

Check back Wednesday for a look at what Clemson's four non-conference opponents accomplished this spring.