By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After his team’s second full scrimmage on Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke about the improvement that he’d noticed in several areas throughout the past week.
“I think we had some improvement in a lot of areas today which was something I was looking for,” Swinney said. “Still not consistent enough overall to be a championship team which is the standard and our objective.”
One player Swinney felt had improved after Monday’s scrimmage was quarterback Tajh Boyd who after a record breaking 2011 season was challenged by the coaching staff to become a leader both on the field and off.
“I thought Tajh got a little better today,” he said. “He’s still not as consistent as I’d like him to be this spring, not quite as dialed in but today he responded in a positive way. I thought his leadership was much better today; he made a couple of mistakes but came back from those and responded. It wasn’t a perfect game for him, but he’s not a perfect player. It’s all about how you respond to things good and bad, and today I thought he had one of his better days even though he had a few mistakes I’m sure he’d like to have back.”
As for the player of the day? That was a simple question for Swinney to answer, Nuk Hopkins who ended the day with 6 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s one guy that when you talk about consistency, he’s the definition of consistency which is what we’ve got to have if we’re going to take the next step as a program and be a consistent competitive, top 10-15 type program you have to consistently perform to win,” he said. “That’s a place where there’s still room for improvement. The defense today got off to a fast start and didn’t finish very well. Offensively we got off to a slow start and finished really well so it’ll be a good film to watch. I’m anxious to see some of the guys that made some mistakes during our half scrimmage on Friday and see if they got some of those things corrected today.”
Quarterback Tony McNeal also had one of his best days as a Tiger during Monday’s scrimmage according to Swinney.
“Nobody ever talks about a guy like Tony McNeal but he had one of his best days today, made some real nice throws,” he said.
Swinney also spoke of Matt Porter, a new name to Clemson’s program but a player who he is very excited about.
“A guy named Matt Porter, a name you haven’t heard yet but you will because he has four more years left. Nobody knows who he is right now but you will, this guy comes to compete every single day and I’m really proud of the type of spring he has. You wouldn’t know he’s not on scholarship; he just comes out and makes plays with no fear every single day. You have to acknowledge guys that come and practice that way.”
On the offensive line, Swinney continues to be impressed with the smooth transition Tyler Shatley has made.
“Shatley continues to be a difference maker for us,” he said. “Kalon Davis continues to make progress as well. I think we’re going to be okay by the time we get this thing going. I think we have a lot of competition right now, we have to improve our knowledge up front, which is to be expected with so many young guys that we have.
Swinney also commented on the short yardage game after the scrimmage and was pleased with the offense and how they responded after a poor showing last week.
On the defensive side of the ball, Swinney continues to be impressed with what he’s seen out of the defensive front and other players that have risen to the challenge.
“Grady Jarrett is becoming one of those consistent guys that we need in the trenches, DeShawn Williams is the same way. Justin Parker is really coming on and it’s been fun to watch him this spring, he’s comfortable, playing very fast and instinctive. Brent will probably tell you the same thing, he’s very pleased with Justin.”
Out of the defensive backs, Swinney pointed out Darius Robinson and Bashaud Breeland as players to watch this fall.
“Two guys I’m very excited about are Darius Robinson and Breeland,” he said. “Darius is a guy that gets better every single day, I thought he out competed #2 (Sammy Watkins) today and we all know what kind of competitor #2 is but Darius is tired of getting beat. And that’s what competitors do, they respond. I think Sammy has made Darius a better football player because Darius has made up his mind that he’s going to get better. I’m very pleased with what’s happening in our secondary, Brewer, Meeks, both guys that have had great springs.”
Although Swinney notes that several individuals have had impressive spring practices, the consistency that he needs for them to be a championship caliber football team isn’t there yet.
“Overall, a lot of good individual things but right now we’re not consistent enough as a team, nowhere near where I want us to be as a as a program. We’ve got a lot of competition and a lot of individuals who are doing very well but this isn’t an individual sport, it’s a team sport and we’re not far enough along with some guys right now in understanding the commitment that it takes. I’m concerned right now with some guys and their overall commitment, day in and day out, the type of commitment that you have to have to win. We’ve got a lot of guys that are doing things the right way and are committed, but some are only 85% all in and that’s not going to get it done. That’s the challenge for our leaders and us as we finish spring and this team starts to really emerge throughout the summer because that’s where your team really comes together from a leadership standpoint, and you really find out who’s committed. Some of these guys don’t understand that right now, but that’s just youth, they’re young and we have to coach them because there’s too many of them that aren’t fully committed.”