CLEMSON — Head coach Dabo Swinney addressed the media Tuesday at his weekly press conference, and he was followed on the fourth floor of the WestZone facility by defensive coordinator Brent Venables, along with players Travis Blanks, Kelly Bryant, Greg Huegel, Mitch Hyatt, Eric Mac Lain and Charone Peake.
With the opening objective — win the opener — out of the way, Swinney charged his team to move on to the next game and treat it like a one-week season. The Tigers face Appalachian State on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The game is sold out, one of five already at maximum capacity on the 2015 slate.
First Impressions. Hyatt created a buzz amongst Clemson fans Sunday after Swinney told members of the media on his teleconference that the freshman left tackle graded 92 percent in his first collegiate appearance.
Hyatt confirmed he played well, especially given the high expectations and the fact he was Clemson’s first true freshman to start on the offensive line in an opener since 1980 (James Farr). But he also cautioned that there are many things he needs to correct from his initial performance.
“I had some issues with some technical stuff I need to work on,” he said.
On Monday, center Jay Guillermo said Hyatt pancaked a defender on the second play from scrimmage, prompting a big reaction inside the offensive line film room.
If you don’t remember the play, just take a look at the clip of Hyatt’s second collegiate snap in the video below. What you won’t see is that after Hyatt (#75) drives the defender out of the screen and into the ground, the impact forces the Wofford player’s helmet to pop off.
Swinney had nothing but glowing things to say about Hyatt’s opening performance.
“He had some knockdowns and good finishes,” he said. “It’d be hard for someone to play better in his first college game, at that position. The game was slower for him than it has been at practice, and that’s because every day he faces the challenge of going against Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd.”
Hyatt has been revered by teammates and coaches alike for the “nasty” edge he plays with on the football field, and if that second collegiate snap is any indication, his first impression as a Tiger lineman may have been one of the best this program has seen in quite some time.
Kickin’ it with Huegel. The starting placekicker’s road to college football has taken a most interesting path. Huegel’s older brother, Steve, was a kicker at South Carolina and backed up one of the Gamecocks’ most successful specialists, Ryan Succop.
Huegel, a native of Columbia, grew up a Gamecocks fan for obvious reasons, but swapped allegiances when he decided to follow his sister, Marie, to Tigertown. Initially an architecture major, he is in the process of switching his major to construction science due to the time demands related to football.
Huegel attended Clemson’s kicking camp in the summer of 2014, but was not invited to try out for the team. So he watched games from the Memorial Stadium stands as a student last fall, before earning an invitation to walk on to the team in August camp.
During camp, he caught the eyes of the coaches when he consistently began converting long field goals under simulated pressure situations.
“I definitely felt like the underdog in camp, going against great kickers like Alex (Spence) and Christian (Groomes),” he said. “When I started making some longer ones, I guess I started to grab people’s attention.”
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