By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- One area of concern for the Tigers last season that led to their disappointing 6-7 finish was the fact that they failed to score in the red zone on several occasions. Head Coach Dabo Swinney told reporters after practice Tuesday that the team worked mainly on red zone offense and third down situations.
“We were a poor red zone team last season,” Swinney said. “Offensively, defensively and especially in the kicking game, today was the first day we got a heavy dose of that and we have a lot of work to do in that area until we can be the type of team we’d like to be, but today was a good start and we’ll continue to work on it.”
Overall, Swinney was pleased with the practice however he believes there are several players now that are getting things mixed up in their heads after four days of installation.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that need to go home and study the playbook,” Swinney said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have really taken ownership and we’ve got to have more guys take that ownership and that accountability that we got to have to be a good football team. We have a chance to be a good team, we’ve got good players and they prepare hard but you don’t win games in the weight room or at a combine you win them in between the lines and you’ve got to execute and that comes from knowing what you’re doing.”
Although Swinney thinks the team’s got a long way to go until they’ll be ready for Troy on September 3rd, he also knows that the team isn’t playing tonight or next Saturday, and that they have a few more weeks to prepare. And now with school over for the summer, Swinney hopes that the distractions will be out of the way and it will be all ball all the time.
According to Swinney, defensive end Malliciah Goodman has become much more focused over the summer and reminds him of Da’Quan Bowers coming into his junior season.
“He’s been outstanding,” Swinney said. “It’s not that he flipped a switch it’s not that easy but he’s very focused now. He’s a lot like Da’Quan, going into last year he wasn’t a great freshman or sophomore player, he was a good one but wasn’t what he could be. The challenge to him was that he needed to be dominant and that’s what I told Malliciah and he’s responded. He’s a junior now and he has his opportunity for the big stage and if we’re going to be a great football player he’s going to have to be a good player for us.”
As for the freshmen linebackers, Swinney couldn’t choose just one when asked who has stood out for him.
“All of them have stood out, all five” Swinney said. “They’re exactly what we thought in the recruiting process and exactly what we evaluated. They’re learning a lot and we’re pushing them and they’re getting a lot of opportunities. I’ll tell you this it’s a lot more fun watching Kevin (Steele’s) individual period. Last year we’d have coaches and managers having to work drills and now he’s got a lot of bodies over there and they’re good looking guys. I’m very pleased with the young guys.”
Swinney has also seen a lot from his defensive veterans like Quandon Christian, Corico Hawkins and Tig Willard.
“Our veteran, Quandon is just having a great camp” Swinney said. “Tig Willard has definitely done well so far too and Corico is kind of that rock in there and that’s a blessing for us. We’ve got a lot of these sharp guys that have had to develop to get to where they are and then we’ve got some really talented young guys that once they learn everything will definitely be able to help us.”
On the offensive front, Swinney continues to be impressed with his starting quarterback Tajh Boyd and how he’s improved so far this fall. Has Swinney had any concern with Tajh and his ability to run the ball and be effective?
“No, it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to do it.” Swinney said. “I know he can do it and I know what kind of a weapon he’ll be as far as running the football and being good a decision maker. He’s done a heck of a job for us and people are going to have to defend him. I want our quarterback to be a factor. When your quarterback is a weapon it’s like playing with 12 and we haven’t done a good job of that over the past couple of years, we’ve done it here and there but not like we will this year.”
According to Swinney, another thing that people don’t know about Tajh is that he has the ability to make plays when they’re not there.
“It’s not a perfect game, and sometimes we’re going to have a bust,” Swinney said. “But he’s the type of guy that’s going to turn a bust into 20 yards. He’s 222 pounds and he can really run. Out here in practice you tag him and he’s done, but in the game you’ve got to tackle that big joker. I think he’s really going to be a great weapon for us.”