Aug. 10, 2011
CLEMSON, SC – Clemson held its fifth practice of the preseason, but its first in full gear on Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers worked for two-and-a-half hours under a hot sun, but with comfortable humidity. The Tigers are preparing for the season opener against Troy on September 3.
“It was a good first day in pads,” said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney who is in his third year directing the Clemson program. “The team responded and they were focused.
“We spent a lot of time working in the red-zone and that will be an area of emphasis the entire preseason. That is an area we must improve this year. We lost five games by six points or less last year and had we been more efficient in the red-zone we would have had a better record.
“We also worked a lot on short yardage situations, third-and-one, third-and-two situations. You have to keep the chains moving in this offense and obviously getting off the field defensively when you have short yardage is just as important.”
Swinney was impressed with the performance of his young players in their first practice in full pads. “The freshmen reacted with maturity, that was good to see. They did not back down. We have some young players who are ready to play physically, they obviously need more experience in the other phases of the game, but they will pick that up.
“One player who stood out today was Tavaris Barnes (DT). He was very active and made some big plays (including an interception on a tipped pass). He is a young player who can help us this year, he just needs to be more consistent.”
One area the young players will make a big contribution this year is special teams. “Mike Bellamy and Sammy Watkins were the two fastest players in Florida last year and they will obviously help us in the return game. We have some other freshmen who will contribute in that area as well.”
Swinney also commented on the offensive line’s progress on Wednesday. “Joey Batson (strength coach) has done an outstanding job with our offensive line this summer. The tempo of our offense is very important and the line’s conditioning is so key to that execution. They all look in outstanding shape to run this fast tempo attack.”
The only Tiger who was in a yellow jersey on Wednesday was starting senior defensive tackle Rennie Moore, who “tweaked a knee” in Tuesday’s practice. He ran on the side on Wednesday and is expected back at practice by the end of the week.
Clemson will practice once on Thursday and twice on Friday before holding its first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday morning. All practices are closed to the public.
Tigers Get a Little PhysicalBy Will Vandervort, IPTAY Media
CLEMSON, SC – As he was walking off the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center Wednesday night, Clemson running back Andre Ellington came to a revelation.
“This is the hardest camp we have had since I have been here,” the preseason All-ACC running back said. “I really don’t know why that is, but it is. We are getting real physical out there, and that is a good thing.”
How physical have the Tigers been? Well, in their first practice in full pads since camp opened last Friday even starting quarterback Tajh Boyd got a taste of the physicality. Quarterbacks are off limits to defensive players in practice, but during a red zone play midway through Wednesday’s practice, Boyd was tattooed be defensive end Andre Branch.
“It was a read (play),” said Boyd, who was wearing the traditional do-not-touch purple jersey. “I was waiting for my blocks and I saw it pop open. But, if I would have seen (Branch) I would have broken him down.”
But, Boyd didn’t see him and Branch came over the top and stuck it to him instead.
“Well, you know what? He jumped right up,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “That is what he has to do. The defense is competitive and they are trying to get to the ball. He held on to the football and we picked up some positive yards, and that is part of it.”
Most offensive coaches might have had a heart attack had they just seen their starting quarterback get hit, much less hit hard, in a practice, but Morris said he wasn’t really worried about it. He was just glad to see Boyd get right back up.
“Once I saw him get up, I felt pretty good,” he said.
Boyd said he felt pretty good, too. He said he needed that hit to prove he is ready to take a few blows here and there, especially considering he will be asked to carry the football some in Morris’ offensive system. The good news is, he carried the ball for a six yard gain and did not fumble.
“You get that false sense of security back there (in the pocket), especially with this purple jersey on,” Boyd said. “Sometimes I wish we did get hit a little more, maybe making it a live practice for us a little bit here and there, but that’s something Coach (Dabo Swinney) does for safety and security reasons.
“But playing back there, you can get tagged and not even feel it. You just hear the whistle blow so you definitely get a false sense of security back there, but when everything is live and the bullets are live, it makes you move up. It speeds the game up a little bit faster and that is a more realistic game situation right there.”
As far as taking a realistic hit in practice, Ellington was glad to get the few he took as well. It was the first time he had been tackled in a practice since returning from foot surgery at the end of last season. He has not taken a hit since the Boston College game last Halloween when he injured his foot.
“I needed today,” he said. “This is the first real day with me getting hit. A couple of safeties and corners came down and hit me up pretty good. I needed that.” Clemson’s offense also needed to show signs of production, which Morris said it definitely did. The Tigers showed improvement in throwing and catching the ball in certain situations, and also showed good ball movement inside the red zone.
“I thought we got better as a football team today,” he said. “We executed some things, and there were still some mishaps and missed assignments and some short yardage situations we have to get cleaned up, but I thought overall for the first day of full contact that we definitely got better.
“You would think on this day we might regress a little bit, but we kept on pushing forward.”
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