It’s unusual for the football programs at Clemson and NC State to fly under the radar.

But because of the success achieved by their basketball programs during the recently completed NCAA Tournament, that’s exactly what has happened.

In case you missed it, the Tigers and Wolfpack held their spring football games last Saturday. So did SMU, which is preparing for its debut ACC season this fall.

Each team entered the spring with its own specific set of goals. Saturday’s scrimmages gave them an opportunity to showcase how much they were able to accomplish during their 15 offseason workouts and how much work is still left to be done once preseason camp begins.

Now that the last basket has been made and the nets have all been cut down, let’s shift our focus back to football and take a look back at what we missed — before we get to this Saturday‘s slate of spring games.


Jobs 1 and 2 for Dabo Swinney and his staff this spring was finding some downfield playmakers to help make quarterback Cade Klubnik’s job just a little easier and then filling several key voids all across the defense.

In both cases, Saturday’s Orange-White Game turned into a showcase for members of the Tigers’ star-studded 2024 recruiting class. Two early enrolling freshmen, 1 on each side of the ball, were standouts of the Orange’s 27-12 victory, before a crowd estimated at 47,000 – the 6th–largest in school spring game history.

Five-star receiver Bryant Wesco Jr. wasted little time introducing himself to fans by making a tough over-the-shoulder catch over coverage in the corner of the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. The speedy Texas native finished the day with 3 watches for 26 yards and looks ready to step in and contribute right away.

On defense, linebacker Sammy Brown made an even bigger immediate splash. Clemson’s top-rated recruit recorded a sack on his first play and ended up leading both teams with 8 tackles, including 6 solo stops. His athleticism and nose for the ball make him a leading candidate to fill the opening created by Jeremiah Trotter Jr.’s departure for the NFL Draft.

Not all the performances were as uplifting, however.

While Klubnik’s performance wasn’t bad – he was 13-of-26 for 158 and an interception – it was far from impressive. In fact, walk-on Trent Pearman, who played for both teams, had significantly better numbers 13-for-18, 141 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a 56-yard touchdown run just before halftime.

NC State

While freshmen took center stage at Clemson, Dave Doeren’s transfers stood out most in the Wolfpack’s Red-White Game.

The game, which was held only hours before the Wolfpack basketball team’s Final Four loss to Purdue in Phoenix, was sponsored by the One Pack NIL Collective. And from the results, it appears as though the collective’s money has been well spent.

Quarterback Grayson McCall was sharp in his first performance in a State uniform. The 3-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year at Coastal Carolina showed off a strong, accurate arm, to go along with poise in the pocket while leading the Red team to a 51-7 win. He completed 16-of-20 passes for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns before shutting it down at halftime.

The Wolfpack’s ground attack also got a boost from a veteran newcomer. Duke transfer Jordan Waters led the team with 69 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries. The receiving corps also showed off an explosive new addition in Noah Rogers.

The Raleigh-area native, who returned home after starting his career at Ohio State, provided a big, reliable complement to star KC Concepcion by hauling in 6 passes for 120 yards. Wesley Grimes from Wake Forest also played well, catching a 23-yard touchdown pass from McCall.

Because most of the emphasis in the game was on improving an offense that was the Wolfpack’s Achilles heel in 2023, the defense didn’t exactly stand out. But keep in mind that the way the teams were divided, the starting offense faced essentially a 2nd- and 3rd-string defense. Not only that, but starters Davin Vann, Aydan White and Sean Brown didn’t play.


With a large percentage of his team’s production from an American Athletic Conference championship team in 2023, coach Rhett Lashlee emphasized having fun in its spring tuneup for the Mustangs’ ACC debut.

There were, however, several substantive goals as well.

Chief among them was rebuilding an interior defensive line that lost key contributors Elijah Chatman, Nelson Paul and Jordan Miller. That appears to have been accomplished, thanks to the addition of Georgia transfer Jonathan Jefferson.

Official stats weren’t kept for the game, which ended in a 20-3 victory for the Blue team over the Black. But according to, Jefferson recorded at least 2 sacks. Arkansas transfer Tank Booker and West Virginia’s Mike Lockhart also had encouraging performances.

In contrast to the rebuilt defensive line, the Mustangs’ offensive line is much more of a question mark heading into the fall. Even taking into account that guard Logan Parr and tackle Ben Sparks are rehabbing injuries and didn’t play, depth is a concern. Starting guard Justin Osborne also has work to do in his move to center after delivering a couple of bad snaps in the game.

As for the quarterback position, projected starter Preston Stone is still rehabbing a late-season injury that kept him out of SMU’s Fenway Bowl and was held out of the game – which was held at a nearby high school because of renovations to Gerald R. Ford Stadium. That allowed Kevin Jennings to build on his strong performance in the season-ending loss to Boston College.