By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After the first session of Monday’s practice, it was hard not to notice that the players were dragging a little bit after a hard morning’s work. However, although they were tired, Head Coach Dabo Swinney left the practice field pleased with the progress made by the players so far during fall camp.
“They’re tired, they should be” Swinney said. “I’d be disappointed if they were fresh right now. That’s what camp is supposed to be. Everyone gets mentally and physically fatigued during this time of year but we’re winding with school starting Wednesday.”
Even though the team has been tired and working hard over the past two weeks, Swinney believes that their hard work and the work that the players did on their own throughout the summer is paying off.
One of the many players that took it upon himself to improve his game during the summer was starting kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who spent part of his summer working with former NFL kicker Morton Anderson.
“All of those kickers, snappers and punters have their own tribe,” Swinney said. “They go all over the place during the summer time working with people but that’s just the way it is, even when we’re recruiting them out of high schools they all have their separate kicking coaches. But I was happy that Chandler had the opportunity to get with a guy like Morton Anderson, I think he kicked when he was 60, but not just from a kicking technique stand point but the mental side of it and preparation, he got a lot out of it.”
According to Swinney, starting running back Andre Ellington, who after sprinting out of the gate last season, injured his foot and had to sit out the remainder of the season, has not lost his burst after having surgery.
“He’s anxious to get back to playing,” Swinney said. “He’s had a very good camp and is healthy, I think Tony (Elliot) has done a really good job with him and getting the work that he needed to get in camp, we beat him up a little bit. But the last few days we’ve dialed back on him and I think we’re all very comfortable with what we’ve seen. It’s now all about the mental side of it and getting him game plan ready and get him to game day.”
In the receiving corps, Swinney continues to be impressed with Nuke Hopkins and not only his performance on the field but off the field as a role model and leader to the younger receivers.
“He’s one of those guys that have stepped up definitely,” Swinney said. “He’s kind of the veteran guy. He and Jaron have both stepped up. But Nuke in particular seems like he’s taken the younger guys under his wing this summer.”
On the field, Swinney has been impressed with Hopkins and the way he has matured as a player over the off season.
“That’s just what happens, freshmen become sophomores and then juniors,” Swinney said. “They just get more mature as they get experience and confidence. When you haven’t done something it’s different then when you have. I said that this spring about Nuke, he’s on another level, and I think he still has more to go because he’s going to get more physically stronger. His technique and understanding of not just what we’re doing but why we’re doing it has come a long way and that’s really helping him to become a better player. I’ll tell you one thing, I’m really glad that he’s on our team, he’s a really special player.”
Swinney has also been impressed with the leadership abilities of receiver Marquan Jones, one of the veteran receivers on the Tigers squad who is competing hard for playing time.
“Marquan has been an outstanding guy. He’s an unselfish player, has taken pride in his performance, and he’s also taken pride in teaching the young guys even though they’re competing with him and some of them have passed by him he’s been a great leader for that group, I’m proud of him.”