Dabo Swinney’s favorite time of the season began on Thursday as Clemson, the defending national champions, opened fall camp behind the new Allen Reeves Football Complex.
“I’m really excited to get back on the field with these guys,” he said. “It is fun to be a complete team, again. We have not been a complete team, whether it has been guys injured or all the signing class not here, but now everybody is here.”
Swinney said 105 players are participating in this year’s camp. Thursday was the start of Swinney’s 10th season as the Tigers’ head coach and his 15th overall in Tigertown, the longest stint anywhere in his career.
“This is the best time of the year for me,” Clemson’s head coach said. “I’m excited to be able to get in our routine in this building and really just have a day-to-day structure of being with the guys and coaching football.”
Clemson began practice later on the calendar than many FBS schools. NCAA rules now prohibit two-a-day practices so the governing body allowed schools to start preseason camp earlier. But Swinney kept his preseason schedule similar to what he has done the last few years.
The Clemson program basically has not had a “true” two-a-day practice in several years has it has been more of a walk through and more meetings than anything else. As for starting practice later than everyone else, Swinney said he wanted to give his players a little more time off at the end of the summer after working so hard all summer.
Swinney said everyone either met or exceeded their expectations during the summer workout program.
Quarterback rotation: Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson are all in an intense quarterback battle to see who will replace Deshaun Watson. Swinney said he will work the quarterbacks in the same rotation he did in the spring as all three groups will get reps these first couple of weeks.
However, he said they have not decided if the quarterbacks will be “live” or not in practice or scrimmages as they were in the spring. Right now, none of the quarterbacks are allowed to be tackled.
Injury update. Three players missed the first practice due to injury and will be out for a period of time.
Defensive end Richard Yeargin will miss the entire season as he recovers from a neck injury suffered in a summer auto accident. Tight end/fullback Garrett Williams is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the spring, while quarterback Tucker Israel is recovering from a stomach illness and is striving to regain some weight.
Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud was limited as he recovers from a wrist injury. Swinney said McCloud can participate in individual drills, but he will not be allowed to catch the football or be tackled. They hope to get him back completely in a week or two.
Swinney stands alone. The Tigers were ranked fifth in the nation in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll released on Thursday. Clemson has finished with a higher ranking in the final coaches poll than the preseason poll in each of the last six years.
Swinney is the only coach in FBS history to accomplish that feat six years in a row. He broke the record last year when Clemson was second in the preseason USA Today poll and finished first. John Cooper of Ohio State and Bill Snyder of Kansas State previously had five-year streaks of finishing higher in the final poll than the preseason.
Tough schedule. Clemson will face four schools in the USA Today preseason top 25. The Tigers will play third-ranked Florida State, 13th ranked Auburn, 17th ranked Louisville and No. 22 Virginia Tech this season.
The Tigers will play Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech in the first month of the season. Louisville and Virginia Tech are road games.
No ice cream for Lawrence. Thanks to a surgery to have a screw placed in his toe after spring practice, Dexter Lawrence had to cut down on his favorite food so he could come into camp ready to go.
Lawrence admitted to the media he loves to eat ice cream and when asked what his favorite flavor is, he said all of them.
“There was a lot of anticipation for my weigh-in,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t weigh in the last couple of days just to be surprised.”
When asked what his diet has been like the past couple of days.
“I couldn’t have what I wanted, let’s just put it that way,” he said.
Lawrence weighed in at 337 pounds, which was under his goal of 340 pounds. He said he weighed 355 pounds after his surgery.
Etienne gets high praise from Elliott after day one. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was pleased with what he saw out of freshman running back Travis Etienne on the first day.
“Some of the young guys flashed a little bit,” he said. “I know Travis, he broke some runs today and he really moved around. At the same time he had some opportunities to get better.”
“By the looks of it there is going to be a little bit of pressure put on (the running backs) by the freshman,” Elliott continued. “He is just very natural back there.”
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