Leading up to the 2015 season, Clemson’s assistant coaches met with members of the local media July 15 at The Reserve at Lake Keowee as part of the program’s annual golf outing. The coaches discussed their position groups, personnel and depth charts, and various other items.
Co-Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott
On running back depth:
It’s a good situation to be in, because it’s good competitive depth. We’ve got six guys with (Adam) Choice coming back off of injury. We’ll assess him when we start fall camp. All indications are that he’s ready to go, he’s been working out with the guys and then we’ll assess where he is once we get our hands on him. We have six guys that can compete and all bring something that’s a little bit different. But they all understand what it takes to be the guy. I’ve got to brag on those guys, just the way that they conduct themselves off the field, the way they’re performing in the classroom, the way they’re carrying themselves in the community. It’s just a fun group to coach because they’re about the right things, they’re all competitive, they all want to be the guy, but they understand the responsibility associated with that. They’re working hard every day to put themselves in position to be that guy.
On Wayne Gallman’s status as starter:
I thought coming out of spring that Zac (Brooks) made some strides. He had some really good practices, and he really pushed Wayne. So I wouldn’t say that the leash is very long, but I would say it’s going to be up to Wayne. He still has a lot of ceiling left, a lot of potential considering that he’s the one guy that didn’t play running back his entire life. So he’s still learning every day, and really, the leash is going to be determined by how far he wants to extend it. But right now going into camp, all of those guys are competing and coming out of spring and Zac was nipping at his heels, C.J. (Davidson) had a great spring game, (C.J.) Fuller was a pleasant surprise, obviously we all knew where Choice was prior to his injury. I’m excited for Tyshon (Dye), having an offseason to get himself in shape and be able to compete.
On Tyshon Dye’s offseason:
If you just look at him physically — because we don’t get to spend as much time with them in the summer —you see his body starting to look like it did in high school. He’s carrying good weight, his body fat is down, he looks like he’s in shape, he’s walking around with a lot more confidence. You can even see it from what the guys are telling us when he’s out there running, that you’re starting to see some of those flashes come back. I’m excited for him, because he’s the kind of young man that came in with a lot of high expectations. Now he’s finally got an opportunity to compete and live up to those expectations.
On C.J. Davidson responding to last season’s ups and downs:
He’s been solid. Matter of fact, I was talking to Coach (Joey) Batson about him yesterday and he said he’s been impressed with the way C.J. has been carrying himself. He’s graduated, so he’s got that off of his chest and now he just wants to come in and he wants to be the guy. But he understands that character is defined in adversity and not when you’re at the top of the hill. So I’ve been proud of the way he’s responded, and he’s really pushed those guys this summer to work.
On freshmen Ray Ray McCloud and Deon Cain:
They’re like toys you can’t play with. It’s like you know you’ve got Christmas presents, but you know you can’t touch them yet. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews on those guys. They’re both competitive and they’re the kind of guys that will put extra work in on their own — just the two of them in the indoor facility at night by themselves, working. Those guys love to compete and they’re different, but they’re both going to bring something explosive to our offense. Now they’ve got to learn, they’ve got to get in and learn the system. For them, everything has been fast because they’re thrown in with the varsity guys that have been in the system. None of the coaches are out there to slow it down. So they’re still learning, but I’m excited to see what those guys can do once we get in fall camp and we turn them loose after they get a good understanding of what they’re trying to do. But everybody is high on them.
On how he expects to use McCloud and Cain:
We’ll probably start Deon at the position Mike (Williams) plays, because he’s got that body type to play into that boundary and move as fast as he can learn it. Ray Ray is very dynamic, and can do a lot of things. We’ll start him where Artavis (Scott) is at the receiver position, and as he continues to become comfortable with that, then you can expand his role because he does have a running back skill set. That was his primary position in high school, so you’re going to have some options with him. But the big thing is, you don’t want to throw too much on their plate too fast that you paralyze them. You allow them to grow and develop, and then as they can absorb the responsibility you continue to add.
On Adam Choice’s recovery:
I tell you what, he looks great. Physically he looks great. Everything that they’re telling me, he’s doing everything with the guys, he’s moving around well. Obviously the biggest thing with Adam is making sure mentally he’s where he needs to be. He’s a very conscientious young man and he wants to do everything right. The biggest thing with him is to make sure that he’s confident. Structurally, everything is going to be fixed and he’s such a strong guy that his rehab is going to accelerate from a strength standpoint. I’m anxious to see where he’s at mentally once the pads come on, because they’re all going to look good when they’re running around in shorts. When he has to take that contact, I’m anxious to see that. But every indication from the training staff and weight staff is that he looks good.
Co-Offensive Coordinator Jeff Scott
On how he’s prepared for a new role in the offseason:
It starts before this offseason. And I think as a coach, being around the game, you know how it works. If you have success, you’re going to get an opportunity. So, obviously, the last four years, when Coach (Chad) Morris got here, I knew early on I would get an opportunity to be an offensive coordinator. This is the offense I want to run. That preparation starts over the last three or four years. Then, obviously, going into spring ball there was a lot of work, but I think Tony (Elliott) and I have probably spent more time in the film room this summer studying ourselves and also studying some other teams that we have respect for. We were watching the flow of the game, the play calls, those types of things. It’s definitely been more film study than in the past, but I think a lot of the preparation has been done on both of our parts the last three or four years.
On feeling different coming into this season:
There is a little bit of difference, because obviously you’ve got more control over how the offense works and what goes in. You have to look at it as a bigger picture, as opposed to just having your position. I think there’s a little more excitement because you are able to do some more things than you were able to do in the past. I’m just ready to get out there, and we’re very fortunate that we’ve got a good group of guys going out there. Having more of a leadership role is definitely exciting.
On his relationship with Tony Elliott:
I’ve said this before, but I don’t think there’s anybody else out there that I would rather co-coordinate with than Tony. He and I hit it off when we were players here. We kept up when we were apart over the years, and then the last four years working together. I think we really balance each other with our knowledge. Neither of us are ego guys. We’re about Clemson, and the success of Clemson. We definitely communicate a lot. I think the bowl game was obviously great to be able to experience. We talked about the good and the bad afterwards and going through spring practice. With me on the field and being able to see that perspective, and Tony being able to be in the box, I really think that will be an advantage for us. Whenever you have one guy in charge of the whole thing, he’s either up top or down below. So, we’re going to get two different perspectives. We’re excited, we’ve got a great working relationship and we communicate every day.
On working with the wide receivers and the offense as a whole:
I think that was one thing that was beneficial from a co-coordinator position. We are able to split that up a little bit so that we’re not taking away from our position. Maybe you have a little bit more decision making power when you’re in those staff meetings than you did before. I think it was important to Coach (Dabo) Swinney and to us that you can’t do it half way — coaching wideouts and coaching running backs — you have to be fully invested in those positions without letting any of the details go by. We were able to do that in the spring, and I expect that we’ll be able to do the same thing in the fall.
Offensive Line Coach Robbie Caldwell
On his intimidating presence:
You know some of them are (intimidated). It’s hard for them to adjust to; they think I’m mad at them when I get loud. When you’ve been in as many stadiums as I’ve been in, your hearing starts slipping and I talk loud in everything that we do. It’s even tough at home. I tell it to them from day one that everything is going to happen, and sometimes they don’t get it. This group gets it. They understand nothing is personal, and nothing leaves the field. We have a hard game, and it needs to be fun as much as it can. It’s a hard, hard game. Everybody else gets to kick it, shoot it, throw it, do something. We don’t do anything but hit stuff, so it’s a little different. I’ve had guys over the years see receivers catching balls from the machine, and they want to know why we don’t have any toys that are fun to play with, but it’s just the nature of the spot. It’s a team within a team, and you’re the ultimate team man when you play on the offensive line. We know our name is not going to be in the paper. But it’s hard to run an off-tackle play without a tackle. They understand that.
On players who will cross-train at multiple positions:
We’ve got a little flexibility. Joe Gore played both sides. Jake Fruhmorgen is one that can mentally handle both sides. Maverick Morris has done it, while Taylor Hearn came here starting out at the tackle position. I have complete faith in them that we’ll find the right combination. We’re going to mix and match them, and put them everywhere we can and shake out the best five … and that’s who will start the game. That’s kind of the way we approach it here.
On Mitch Hyatt’s biggest focus the rest of summer:
Bulk; just getting a little bigger and stronger. He has all the tools, strength and bulk. He’s done that, he’s getting bigger. Obviously, you don’t automatically become a 400-pound bench presser in a year, and that’s an aspect of the game. You use your hands so much that upper body strength is important. It’s not the most important factor, but it is important and he’s come a long way with that. He, Jake (Fruhmorgen) and Noah (Green) have all gotten bigger and stronger. I’m speaking of them only because they’ve all played tackle. They have the athleticism to get it done. I’m excited about where we are; I love where they are mentally, they know what’s going on, they understand. We work on some techniques, they’ll tell me afterwards, ‘I didn’t know about that, but it works.’ But that’s the way they are. They do what you ask them to do. That’s the whole key; we have to be in sync up front.
On if he ever gets the depth he desires on the line:
Well, you know, that’s the fun part. That’s the part you love about coaching. Now you don’t want to lose anybody and you certainly hope nobody gets hurt or anything like that. But that’s the challenge of it. I like for the guys to all learn at least two positions. Now, it’s a little more difficult for guys coming in as freshmen to do that. Mitch primarily played at left and Jake primarily played at right (in the spring), and Noah, he did both, he played some guard and tackle, but most of it was at guard because of our needs there. Now, he’ll be able to work both positions. I like for them to get their feet on the ground in one spot, and then you can begin expanding and once they’re able to learn one position they start to realize it’s all like a puzzle that fits together. That’s the beauty of it.
On chemistry after Isaiah Battle’s departure:
The chemistry has had to step up since the change, and I think it has. These guys spend a lot of time together, and the thing we’ve tried to encourage everywhere that I’ve been is camaraderie off the field.
Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables
On how long it takes to grasp his unit’s capability:
It’s development. I haven’t said anything about chemistry. You’ve got all these different parts coming in, and you’ve got to them squared away, and then it’s got to all come together. We had an incredible chemistry the past couple of years, and that comes from a good culture and good leadership and a lot of guys that are selfless in their attitude. When you have dysfunction, the byproduct is a lack of chemistry. That’s the unknown to me. The talent is there, not the depth necessarily, but we’re definitely getting there. Playmaking ability is talent, and we’ve got to get better at some things no doubt, but if we get the other things taken care of, we’ll be just fine.
We’ll see if there’s a drop off or not. But if we’re not right in mindset, leadership, toughness, competitiveness, dependability, accountability — all of those things — then we’re going to have a problem. That’s where the focus needs to be. When you’ve got it competitive, you can move the depth chart around based on performance. But I really believe that’s a byproduct of everything else. When you’re going to recognize performance, you’ll tweak your in-house depth chart as often as you feel like it needs to be when there’s a drastic difference between one, two or three. As far as coming up with that final depth chart, that usually takes a while.
But it all comes back to those things that I’m talking about? Find out who can sustain that fight for success, sustain leadership. They have their P’s and Q’s in order, everybody will be on their best behavior the first couple of days of camp. But by that second or third week and you’ve got to run sprints after practice, who’s going to start complaining? Who’s going to start running their mouth? Conversely, who’s going to stand up and stand tall and lead big? You can tell when they’re faced with adversity. Our job as coaches is to create as much adversity as we can to challenge them, and find out who responds the right way and see who reveals himself as well.
On if his unit’s biggest losses are talent or leadership:
It’s hard to say. Some guys just have special qualities in terms of talent. You can speak all day, but really the focus is on these guys here now. The mental things that that group (2014 senior class) of mature men left, that’s what you hope some of these guys latched on to. You hope they take on that selfless kind of attitude. I’m not acting like they were all just a bunch of choirboys, but they met a standard day in and day out. The byproduct of that was us having 42 wins in four years, but also being the nation’s No. 1 defense. You don’t just anoint yourself, you’ve got to earn it and fight for it and then you’ve got to protect it … and those guys did it. They took it on their shoulders, that was a personal vendetta to those group of guys. You love standing back and watching that happen, that’s cool to see. Midseason, it wasn’t cool to see, but it was really cool to see when we were done beating Oklahoma. Then you could say, ‘Great job fellas, that was nice. Nice work.’
We don’t have a bunch of ham and eggers, and Jimmy green beans that we’re plugging in. We’ve got some good quality players and people. They’re talented guys and good enough to play good defense. But you can’t have one without the other, and the intangibles are every bit as important. You can get more out of less with less talented guys if you can get them to play at a real high level. And I’m not knocking Ben (Boulware), and he might take it the wrong way, but he doesn’t have as much “physical talent” as Stephone Anthony. He’s not as long, maybe not quite as athletic, maybe top-end speed or long speed is not quite as good. But he’s good enough to be every bit as good of a player. Ben, to me, has shown he has all the intangibles that you’re looking for. He knows what being a great leader is, and he knows what it means to be selfless and what it means to be dependable. He knows what it means that I am holding him to a higher level of accountability than I am the freshman who just showed up. You’ve got to take it the right way. You’ve got to respond the right way. Some guys, they can’t handle that and our guys the last few years have been able to handle that. That’ll be the big question mark.
At the end of a tough practice and you line up and you’re going to do conditioning and you say, ‘We’re going to do gassers’, or ‘We’re getting ready to do 100s boys. Hand on the line.’ Inevitably, you’ve got some guys asking, ‘How many?’ When you’ve got the right team and you’ve got the right leadership, leaders aren’t asking that question. It’s someone at the back of the line asking. When you’ve got leaders or guys at the front of the line asking how many, you’ve got problems. They’re thinking the wrong way and they’re doing it right in front of your face. What do you think they’re doing when you’re not there? Do you think they’re doing above and beyond? No is the answer. So that’s the big challenge, and I love that because I love psychological warfare. I think that’s a huge part of the game. When you’ve got the right culture and you’ve got guys buying in, inevitably there are going to be guys that fight that culture and that’s the challenge for us as coaches, to bring them along. Hopefully the good will outweigh and suffocate the bad.
Defensive Tackles Coach Dan Brooks
On the addition of freshman Albert Huggins:
I think Albert is a very talented guy. Our head coach tells every one of our guys we sign, ‘We’re going to start you out where you want to be.’ That was a big deal in his recruiting; he wanted to be a defensive end and he did work there for the first two and a half weeks of spring ball. Obviously, Coach (Marion) Hobby had been very involved in his recruiting. I had been down there (to Orangeburg), but never from the standpoint of telling him we’re going to put you at tackle. So, even after we practiced for a while he came to us and said he wanted to look at that because he was 280 pounds when he showed up. He’s going to help us. Where our depth is at defensive end, he still can help us there. But we believe Albert is a guy that can help us early, wherever it is. Coach Hobby and I work together with them good — they’re not my guys or his guys — and Albert is one of those. There’s no question that he will be a very good player here … wherever he ends up that is best suited for him.
On Huggins’ fit as it relates to tackle vs. end:
The things we do with our ends, we’re going to drop them (into coverage) some, we’re going to stand them up some, we’re going to do some of those kinds of things. I think you’re going to see him be a guy that will progress and be a next-level guy. He’s probably a three-technique type of guy. If he can do some of both, it just helps him, but I think that’s where his ceiling probably is.
On Huggins’ weight:
He’s good. I told him with where he came in, just getting bigger is not better. It needs to be good weight. Albert looks great; he actually thinned down and stayed about the same weight or gained a little bit — 285. He looks even more cut than when he came in. I think what Coach (Joey) Batson, Coach (Paul) Hogan and Coach Smo (Adam Smotherman) — who has been a great addition to our staff because he’s a young guy who works with our defensive linemen individually and has been there and done that — have done with him has been great. I think Albert looks really good, but he’s actually a little bit heavier and you look at him and you think his waist is thinned down. That’s our thing: we want it to be good weight, not just getting bigger.
On freshman Christian Wilkins:
Because of our depth, we’re going to put the best guys out there. We can’t be around our kids during the summertime. You can’t be out there if there’s a ball. I haven’t seen him play, other than what I saw in high school. Athletically, he could be one who could play up front. I had a guy named Shaun Ellis (at Tennessee) and everybody said he’s going to grow into a three technique; he played end the whole time and ended up playing six technique in the pros and he played three technique in pass rush and tackle. Christian Wilkins, athletically, can be that guy from what I see right now without any football pads on. Again, we have to rely on Coach Batson and Coach Smo and those guys in the summertime and what they’re seeing. But what I see in a change of direction with him and that kind of thing, he’s athletic enough to help Coach Hobby at end. If he’s that guy, that’s fine too, but I think his ultimate position is in the three technique.
Defensive Ends Coach Marion Hobby
On position battles between young players:
I’m not worried about it; I know it’s going to work out. We do a great job in the fall of putting our players in game-like situations throughout our scrimmages, so I get the chance to see these young guys in a goal line situation, I get a chance to see these guys on third down and the hectic situation. So when it comes to the game, our practices are easier for them. Sometimes you’re going to have those jitters, but I think our veteran players are going into a game with butterflies and after the first few plays and breaking a good sweat, it kind of wears down. But I’m excited to see what the battles are. We’re doing a great job of rotating and making sure guys per practice get different reps and get in different situations. It’s a job we have to manage as coaches. I’m excited about it; we’ll see how these guys are going to compete. They’re a little wide-eyed right now and I’m loving it.
On scheme as it relates to rushing the passer:
It’s going to be a game plan situation, regarding who we’re playing. If that opposing quarterback is a runner, you have to rush him a little bit different. If he’s a drop back guy, you rush him a little bit different. I’ve got confidence in D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins on the inside, those guys have played a lot of football around here and I’ve never questioned their talent level. But Grady (Jarrett) was a great leader, DeShawn (Williams) had a great senior year, Josh Watson started. But even D.J. has started, Carlos has started, and I’m excited to see how they’re going to progress. Seeing Carlos the other day in the weight room, he’s lean and looks like he did a couple of years ago before he had the automobile accident. D.J. has all the tools. I think we’re going to give a bunch of push. But I only know one way to teach them: you’ve got to get after the quarterback.
Impressions of Albert Huggins and Richard Yeargin:
Albert, he’s a guy that has a great motor to him, and his work habits are unbelievable for a young man. He never really gets tired, because he’s always in pretty good condition. Coming out of that program in Orangeburg, his high school coach does a great job with his team by putting them in stressful situations. But his work habits have been really good, and he’s going to be really good at the point of attack. He’s got to catch up to the pass rush in the ACC. At this level, you’re not just going to turn and run over these offensive linemen, you’re going to have to get a couple of moves to help you. I thought Richard was fighting a bit of tonsillitis in the spring, and he wasn’t able to eat as much as he needs to eat. He showed me a lot of toughness, because he didn’t shy away in one practice. He came out there and sometimes he wasn’t looking very good. I thought he did a good job of coming on and listening and learning. His effort is unbelievable. We always say if you give us effort, we’re going to do a good job of getting you in the right situation. But I am excited about both players.
On maintaining the nation’s top defense:
I’m excited about getting it going. But I think the No. 1 spot is going to come at the end of the year — we can’t get it the first game no matter how well we play. It can be a great start, but it’s going to come at the end of the year. There are going to be some tough times, and we had some tough times against tough opponents last year but were able to bounce back and hold opponents to minimal points. I think it’s going to come at the end of the year, I’d like to be a part of that again, but my focus is to get the defensive ends some depth, getting them playing early and getting them to produce at a high velocity for the defense at Clemson — that’s the most important to me.
On crowd effect as a pass rusher:
A lot of times it does. On the road, it doesn’t (get you going) because it’s going to be really quiet. But when we get people in our stadium and our defense is on the field, you can tell the quarterbacks are having a hard time communicating with centers, especially when they’re in the shotgun so much.
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