By Will Vandervort
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney might not officially say what his offensive line will look like come Aug. 31 when his No. 8 Tigers host fifth-ranked Georgia in Death Valley, but he has a pretty good idea.
Swinney discussed the offensive line after Wednesday’s situational scrimmage at Memorial Stadium and he told the media that Brandon Thomas would more than likely start at left tackle unless some miracle happens between now and the Georgia game.
Other than that he would not say anything else was definite.
“We have 12 or 13 guys that are competing pretty well,” he said. “We will settle out here in the next several days with what we are looking at for this first game. I think that the competition is going to continue. At least I hope it does. I hope guys don’t get complacent and say, ‘Okay, I’m happy to be the backup.’ I hope guys will continue to compete all year long because that’s just going to make us better.
“We do have some options and we do have some flexibility, but we just have to continue to grow.”
Swinney later went on to say that left guard David Beasley has had the best camp of the group with the exception of Tyler Shatley at right guard. He has also been pleased with the way Kalon Davis has competed at left guard.
The center position is still on going. There are some issues with the snap still. But quarterback Tajh Boyd has said Ryan Norton has taken most of the snaps with him in camp so it appears he has a leg up on sophomore Jay Guillermo.
Tyler Shatley owns the right guard position and is considered the leader of the group. Swinney says right tackle Gifford Timothy has had a good camp and he is a guy they are not “displeased with.” They trust him, but he is a guy that needs a fire underneath him.
They hope that fire can be Isaiah Battle, who has been playing some at right tackle with the second team to push Timothy. Joe Gore seems to be slipping in the pecking order and he is dealing with some tendinitis.
Got a long way to go. Swinney says he has been impressed with his young cornerbacks thus far, but because of injuries, they still have a long way to go before they get to the Georgia game.
“We definitely have to improve consistently wise in the secondary,” he said. “That’s the area we all know we need to improve on the most. We have made improvements, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.”
The Clemson coach says having a set of wide receivers like the Tigers have is both good and bad for his young secondary.
“It is a double whammy,” he said. “We have young guys that are talented but they are going against an offense that plays extremely fast and we have some very good skill. We have more experience with that skill than what we have in the secondary. That’s just going to make them better.”
Alexander is working out. The good news for Clemson is that freshmen cornerback Mackensie Alexander has been practicing all week thus far. Swinney said he practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in a green jersey. He is still not involved in tackling or anything like that, but he has done team passing skills and individual drills.
“He moved around pretty good,” Swinney said. “He did a little bit today. He will continue to get a little bit better each day.”
Swinney said he likes what he has seen from defensive back Korrin Wiggins and he thinks the 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman could help the team this year.
Tight end is a concern. Little is known about tight end Jordan Leggett’s knee. Swinney said Leggett injured the knee in the situational scrimmage, but he was not sure what the extent of the injury was. Though he seemed concerned, he was not as concerned as he was when freshman receiver T.J. Green injured his knee last week.
As you know, Green turned out to be okay. Swinney is hopeful Leggett will be fine, too. But until they run some test, they will not know the severity of the injury.
With Leggett hurt, the Tigers now find themselves in a crunch at tight end. Sam Cooper is out with a torn ACL he suffered in the spring game. With Leggett now down, that means Darrell Smith, who is used more as a fullback, will have to step in and become one of the Tigers’ three options at tight end.
J.J. McCullough will now have the opportunity to become the guy along with Stanton Seckinger.
Swinney did report today that backup quarterback Chad Kelly and Cooper are expected to be back on Oct. 1. Both tore their ACL’s in the spring game.