By Gray Gardner.
In Thursday’s jam-packed practice notebook get the latest on Troy, red-shirt decisions and much more as the Tigers held their first practiced focused on the season opener.
Focus Turns to Troy
August camp has officially come to a close for the Clemson football team with the start of fall classes on Wednesday. The focus has now turned entirely on the Tigers’ first opponent, the Troy Trojans.
“Today was 100% Troy,” Head Coach Dabo Swinney said. “Scout teams, the whole deal.”
Swinney said the next week will work on the team’s mental preparation.
“Today was a lot of teaching. We had a few mistakes here and there because now you’re attacking your opponent. You’re taking your schemes and applying them to your opponent. Now it’s about the mental side of it.”
Troy is not a team to be taken lightly, as Swinney and several players noted Thursday afternoon.
“They’ll be coming here to win, I can promise you that,” Swinney said.
The Trojans finished 8-5 in 2010 and took a 11-win Oklahoma State team to the wire, losing in the final minutes of the game.
“Troy’s going to show up ready to beat us in our own stadium just like they did with OSU last year and that’s something we can’t take for granted,” senior tackle Landon Walker said. “Obviously we’re going to be as prepared for them as we’ll be for every team down the road, and hopefully that’s the mentality this team can take every week.”
Walker noted that Troy’s defensive front has been a force to be reckoned with the past several years and is sure to be again in 2011.
“They’ve been a very physical team up front in the last five years. They’re not light up front, that’s definite,” Walker said. “The left defensive end – I don’t know his name yet, but I’ll definitely learn it – he’s a very good pass rusher.”
The player Walker was referring to is #94 Jonathan Massaquoi – a talented player that even the Tigers’ head coach already has tabs on.
“(Massaquoi) is probably as good a rush end we’ll see all year,” Swinney said. “I mean, he’s a really good player coming off the edge. So that will be a challenge for our tackles there.”
Swinney hopes the speed of Clemson’s defensive ends has prepared his offensive front for what they’ll see from the Trojans, but that a lot of unknowns still exist match-up wise.
“It’d be different if we were playing them the seventh game and had some good video evidence, but we just don’t have that,” he said. “You have to project a little bit. You go back through all their tape and you have to prepare for that.”
Of course, with a new offense and several true freshmen slated to play, Troy will have quite a few unknowns to deal with as well.
“We’ll have a tough matchup first of all with some of the unknowns, but so will they, so will they.”
WATKINS TO BE “BIG FACTOR”
“I think he’s definitely going to be a big factor for us this year. He’s a rare dude,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney of true freshman wide out Sammy Watkins.
Watkins has been turning heads all summer. Swinney said it’s like nothing he’s ever seen before.
“You can’t compare other freshman to him – I’ve never had another freshman like him. I really haven’t,” Swinney said.
“I’ve had a lot of good players and been around a lot of really, really talented freshman – at Alabama and here – but never really one quite like him as far as having the whole package the day he walked on this campus. I’m talking about size, ball skills, speed, toughness, work ethic, attention to detail, the way he studies the game – I mean he’s just got the whole package.”
Watkins’ mental focus is probably the most impressive thing to Swinney, despite the glaring physical attributes.
“You pick his notebook up and he’s got 10 pages of notes from one meeting. That’s just the way he is. And then he studies it. He’s very, very focused young player, and that is uncommon,” Swinney said. “It’s just really been something to see.”
Swinney said we should obviously expect to see Watkins on offense, as well as punts and kick returns. The head coach said his biggest concern is over-coaching Watkins this fall.
“With Sammy, we just kind of open the box up and say go. Don’t screw him up. I mean, it’s unbelievable. That’s not the norm.”
“You get a guy like that, you just enjoy it while you’ve got it and make sure you get him plenty of opportunities.”
BEANIE BOWL 2011
The team will hold its annual Beanie Bowl scrimmage tomorrow evening in Memorial Stadium, an event that is open to all Clemson students.
“It’s an all-Troy practice but with game situations, substitutions, etc.,” Swinney said. “We’ve just got a lot to teach these guys.”
Swinney said the young players on the team “just really don’t know a lot about game day.”
“I had one young player – I won’t name who it is – ask one of our veteran players, ‘Now, what time do I have to show up for the game on Saturday?’” Swinney laughed. “That’s what we’re dealing with. They really just don’t know.”
The Head Coach said the purpose of the Beanie Bowl is to better prepare the freshmen for the game day routine, down to the post-game tradition of gathering at the paw at the middle of Frank Howard field and singing the alma mater.
In fact, Swinney said the only thing they won’t learn to do tomorrow is how to run down the hill.
“The veteran players will be on that first bus and will go first. Everyone else will just follow them – you just go down the hill,” Swinney laughed.
TIGERS READY TO HIT, NOT READY TO PLAY
Landon Walker said the team “couldn’t be more ready to hit somebody else.”
The Tiger football team is getting restless from hitting one another the last few weeks. And while they’re ready for the game to get here, Walker said they’re not yet ready for the mental aspect of the game.
“There’s still more preparation we have to do between now and next Saturday,” he said. “I think the guys are ready to hit somebody else, but we need the four days in-between to prepare the guys and put this new game plan in and stuff like that.”
The extra preparation time is needed, but Walker said knowing that doesn’t make him any less restless.
“Obviously the time is valuable – we’ve got to have the time, but we couldn’t be more ready as a team to hit somebody else.”
-Four freshmen wide receivers will play in 2011 – Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant, and Adam Humphries.
The news of Humphries avoiding a red-shirt may come as a surprise to many, but Swinney said he’s as good as any player they signed in this last recruiting class.
“That’s a guy that we really wanted to redshirt. He’s just made it to where we can’t. He’s just that good. He’s as good as anybody we signed in this class.”
Apparently everyone else in the Clemson program feels the same.
“We really wanted to hold him but it’s unanimous – everybody feels like this guy’s going to help us win the conference this year. So we’re going to get him ready to play.”
-Freshman linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward will play in the Tigers’ opener next Saturday. Swinney said B.J. Goodson is currently on the bubble.
The coaching staff plans to red-shirt Lateek Townsend and Colton Walls.
-Joe Craig was back in practice today. Swinney said he will be suspended the first 3 games.