CLEMSON, S.C. — Defending National Finalist Clemson returned to the practice fields on Tuesday afternoon. Dabo Swinney’s Tigers worked for two-and-a-half hours on the practice fields behind the Clemson Indoor Facility. It was the first practice of the preseason for the Tigers, who finished the 2015 season with a 14-1 record and No. 2 national ranking.
Clemson worked in shorts and helmets in what turned out to be a hot and humid day after an early afternoon rain in the Clemson area. A media contingent of over 40 people watched the first half of the practice from ground level, then from the upper level of the indoor practice facility.
“This must be a record for media on the first day,” said Swinney with a smile. “The offseason has been very good and our guys have just been awesome. We had great attendance in our offseason program, even at those 5:30 a.m. workouts. Our strength coaches are the best in the business and they have this team in great condition. I was very pleased with what I saw at the weigh-in yesterday.
“This team has an experience to draw from that no team has before. I have seen a different kind of edge to them because of it. They have an understanding of the big picture after going through last season.
“I love all aspects of my job, but this is my favorite time of the year. This is my 35th year in football dating back to when I played in the fifth grade. (Swinney was out of football for two years working in real estate). I don’t take any of it for granted. I love teaching the game.”
Certainly one of the highlights of the first practice was seeing wide receiver Mike Williams back on the field. Williams did go through spring practice, but did not scrimmage. He was full go on Tuesday and made some outstanding catches during the drills on throws from quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“To have him back is big,” said Swinney. “He is such a dynamic player who can change a game. Defenses have to account for him. He is such a strong receiver. He has a presence on the field in every way.”
When asked if he has an area of his team that concerns him, Swinney said, “I don’t have any area that keeps me up at night. But, I am anxious to see how our young defensive ends perform. We have been very deep at that position the last few years. (Clemson has eight defensive ends and outside linebackers on NFL rosters.)
“Last year we had Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd (two high draft picks who ranked one-two in the nation in tackles for loss) who played a lot of the snaps. Richard Yeargin and Austin Bryant got some time. But we are young at that position and I am interested to see how they perform. But we are talented at that position.”
Notes: Among the former players attending practice on Tuesday were Rodney Williams and Tajh Boyd who each led the Tigers to a record 32 wins as starting quarterbacks during their respective careers … only two players missed practice due to injury … returning lettermen defensive back Adrian Baker is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the spring, and freshman defensive back Brian Dawkins, Jr. will probably redshirt as he recovers from off-season knee surgery … Watson and Artavis Scott were the last two players off the field on Tuesday as they put in extra work in terms of footwork and route running … Clemson will practice in helmets and shorts for the second consecutive day on Wednesday afternoon.
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