By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The practice after a weeklong spring break wasn’t as intense as Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney would have liked, but he told members of the media after practice that he’s seen much worse and overall he has remained pleased with the effort his players have put into each and every practice.
A lot of Monday’s conversation surrounded the biggest question mark of Clemson’s off season, the offensive line.
“We’ve got a group of guys that are really solid guys, when it comes time to play I think we’ll be able to count on them,” Swinney said. “Then we’ve got a group of guys that aren’t quite winners yet but they’re improving. “
One player in particular who is leading by example as a second year starter is quarterback Tajh Boyd who spent his spring break in California learning from one of the best quarterbacks coaches in the business, George Whitfield .
“He hasn’t spoken to me yet about what his experience was like with meetings last night and today, there wasn’t a lot of time to chit chat,” Swinney said. “But we’ll sit down and talk about it soon. That’s just Tajh though, trying to get better. I think he’s established himself as a leader on this team, I don’t think anyone is surprised in the way Tajh works and prepares. He wants to be a great player; I’m much more interested in what he’s doing here and how he’s improving here though. The fact that Tajh is continuing to work and improve his craft is a compliment to him and his outstanding work ethic.”He’s not the only guy that was working over spring break though, some of them don’t get written about but I promise we had a bunch of guys working out, studying their notes. We’ve got a lot of serious guys on this team that want to be good, they may not be at that level yet but they’re trying to get better.
Swinney spent a good amount of time last night during the team meeting bragging on his players after a spring break in which Swinney didn’t receive one phone call about a player getting into trouble.
“I’m just proud of those guys,” he said. “When you’re in my seat, you know that when your phone rings during spring break that it’s probably not a good thing. When you get nothing from 100 something guys, that’s a good thing. I’m proud of them for handling themselves well; they all made it back, no issues at all. I appreciate them and how they handle themselves, we’re certainly not perfect but fortunately they had a good, safe, spring break.”
Swinney has noticed a big change on the offensive side of the ball when comparing this spring to last season’s which was the first under offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
“We really had to go at a snail’s pace last spring when installing which is fine but we were just trying to get good at something,” Swinney said. “This spring they know the base packages so it’s a good time to challenge those guys. And it’s our job as coaches to really evaluate the video of our guys to have a gage. We’re trying to tweak what we did last year because of the things we’ve learned but then we’ve got some completely new things that we want to try out and see how our guys take to it.”
As for today’s practice, Swinney thinks it could have gone better.
“It wasn’t a great practice,” he said. “I’ve seen a whole lot worse with a nine day layoff though, with guys watching soap operas all day and eating twinkies. It wasn’t great energy today, getting back going. Lot of teaching today, it was a heavy installation day, we’ll be better on Wednesday.”
When speaking to DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins after practice he raved about fellow receiver Martavis Bryant and how he’s improved, something that has caught Swinney’s eye as well.
“He’s much improved from where he was at the start of camp last fall,” he said. “Just more confident and sure of himself, his body has changed a lot since even August. Because of that his confidence has grown, he’s playing faster and we just need him to stay on that path and be the great finisher that we know he can be. He’s really a weapon, he can fly. We lined them up and ran 40’s during our mat drills and he was right in there with Bellamy and Watkins. He can be a weapon for us.”
As for the rest of spring, Swinney hopes that the Tigers can create an identity, something they were unable to do last spring with a large amount of their team not participating. This season with 95% of the 2012 team going through spring practice, Swinney and the coaching staff will be able to gage what kind of team they’ll have when the 2012 season begins.
“Well our first scrimmage is Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be install days and then we’ll get back into some heavy contact, some competitive stuff,” Swinney said. “The next two Monday’s will be our full scrimmages and then we’ll have the spring game. We’re limited to only have three with spring practice rules. I just want to see us continue to get better; I think we have to develop a identity, that’s one of the things I told the team last night. Last season we couldn’t develop an identity because we were missing too many people. This season I’d like to see us come out of spring with a little bit of swagger, a little bit of identity on both sides because we have 95% of the team here. We also have to bring those young guys along, at the end of spring ball we’ve got to go in there and look at our board and see that some of these guys that needed to step up became better football players because of these 15 practices. All of these guys that we’re counting on to step up and help us; they’ve got to get better. I just want to see guys continue to improve, take ownership and pride in their performance, get better fundamentally and technically, that’s the big picture of what we’re trying to do on both sides.