By Heath Bradley.
The Tigers practiced early Monday morning on the practice fields at Clemson University. This was practice No. 1 of the day for the team, who will practice later again tonight as part of this fall camps two-a-days. Following the morning practice, Coach Dabo Swinney met with the media for a few minutes before heading to prepare for the afternoon.
Swinney seemed pleased with the progress the team has made to this point in camp, as well as the overall effort from the team in scrimmage No. 1 of the fall. The mindset and work ethic of this team is something Swinney has continually mentioned and it was no different today, as the team has seemed to really grasp what it will take to be the best in the ACC again in 2012.
“I think we are right on schedule. Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done, but the guys have worked hard and the coaches are doing a good job. We have the first scrimmage behind us. After watching the film, I was really encouraged. Way more encouraged than discouraged. We had a lot of good things, a lot of very correctible things, things we can teach off of. That is always the good thing when you get that first scrimmage, you can teach from that. Some of these guys are getting their first opportunity. I thought it was a good day yesterday. We got a lot done from a meeting standpoint. Everybody is practicing right now. Everybody in the country, high school, colleges, pros. You are either practicing to get better or you are just going through the motions. I think this bunch is really working, trying to get better everyday, and that is all you can ask,” said Swinney.
As far as injuries, the Tigers seem to be in good shape almost two full weeks into camp.
“Injury wise, we are in pretty good shape. Tony McNeal is still out, as is Ammon Lakip. Justin parker is probably going to leave tomorrow; he is going to have surgery on Wednesday in Charleston. They are going to go in and do a release in his abductor area in his groin. Hopefully try and help him heal a little bit better. Other than that, I think we are in pretty good shape. Corey Crawford banged his ankle up the other day, but he came back. Martin Jenkins is still out; hopefully we will get him back in another day or so. He is still bothered by a hip flexor. Overall, we are in pretty good shape now,” said Swinney.
Gifford Timothy ‘s knee injury required minor surgery to repair a meniscus issue. However, Swinney seems optimistic that he may be able to play for the Tigers in the season opener in the Georgia Dome in just three short weeks. “He looks good. It was the best-case scenario for us from that standpoint. Him being an offensive lineman gives him an even better opportunity to get back quicker, as opposed to being a receiver or running back. So far, so good, but it is still just a few days past the surgery here. It will just be a daily deal. I am hopeful that by the time we get ready for our mock game, a week from Friday, that he might be ready to take some reps by then. At least have a chance to get a game week of preparation under his belt, but we will just have to wait and see. It is going to be a pain tolerance and how he responds to the rehab. “
The battle for punter is one that has not been discussed much during this fall camp. Spencer Benton and true freshman Bradley Pinion are battling for the starting punting duties. At this point in the battle there seems to be no true leader. The good thing for Tiger fans is that at this point, Coach Dabo Swinney feels the Tigers could win playing either player.
“They are competing hard. I think right now neither one of them are as consistent as we need them to be, but both of them have really done some good things. I think right now we could win with either one of them. Right now we are just challenging them and hoping that one of them is going to separate from a consistency standpoint. Something we will continue to do is put a little stress on those guys, but right now it is too close to call,” said Swinney.
Position battles are always a good thing; the competition often brings improvement for both players. This seems to be the case at one defensive end position, where Vic Beasley is putting heat on starter Corey Crawford. From what we hear, Beasley is having a great camp; his improvement is putting pressure on Crawford to raise his game as well.
“We have quite a battle going right there. Of course Crawford rolled his ankle the other day and missed a good bit of the time, but he was back at practice today. He has got a lot of competition on his hands with Beasley. It is good, that’s a great thing. That’s the thing I like about our team right now, we have a lot of guys on edge, and there is a lot of competition. We have a lot of competition on the defensive line, at linebacker, in the secondary, on the offensive line, and at quarterback. We have a lot of guys competing for jobs, anytime you have the ability to promote and demote, it is a good thing on your team,” said Swinney.
While the offensive line may be a position group of concern for many Tiger fans, Coach Swinney has been very impressed with how the group has looked early into camp. Building quality depth will be a key for this groupings success in 2012, and this is exactly what Coach Swinney is seeing take place on the practice field so far.
“I am very encouraged. We have, I really think 8, 9, 10 guys that we can count on in some form or fashion. I think Brandon Thomas has shown he can win for us. We are challenging him to be that dominant everyday player. Kalon Davis has a ton of ability, a ton of potential. He is one of those guys we have to keep a fire lit under him daily. I am very, very encouraged with Ryan Norton. Obviously, Dalton Freeman is a guy who has played a ton of ball for us and played at a high level for us. Tyler Shatley, same thing. Although he did not have the best day that he has had, he was pretty good. I am very encouraged with Joe Gore. I think he is on his way. He obviously has not played and has a lot to learn, but he has a good sense of urgency to him. He tries to be physical and is very athletic. I am excited about that whole group right. Shaq Anthony and Isaiah Battle, they are two guys that are really coming on for us, they are improving. It is what it is; we have a lot teaching to do every single day coaching these guys. They just have so much to learn. I am seeing the competitiveness in those guys. They are playing very physical. I like having Anthony over there on the right side; it has been really good. Isaiah, it is scary the amount of ability he has. Everyday is a learning day for him, but hey are brining it. Reid Webster is a guy who can help us. He has been a little inconsistent, he is a guy who needs to step it up this week and come on for us. Those young freshmen are all talented guys that we are excited about….Overall I am excited about the group. Hopefully by the time we get ready to play we will have 8, 9, 10 guys to put our name on,” said Swinney.