By Will Vandervort
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney thinks he will have all hands on deck when the 12th-ranked Tigers head to Miami, Fla., a week from Saturday to continue preparation for the Jan.3 Discover Orange Bowl matchup with No. 7 Ohio State.
Swinney, who met with the media on Thursday for the final time before the Christmas Holiday, says it appears there will not be any casualties due to academic restrictions. Clemson finished up final exams last week.
“They certify everybody tomorrow and I will know for sure,” he said. “But it looks like we are not going to have any casualties, but again, I’m hesitant to say one hundred percent, but it looks good.”
The reason Swinney is confident he will not lose anyone to academics is because of the checks and balances he has in place within the program. Thanks to associate athletic director Woody McCorvey and assistant athletic director Jeff Davis, the football program generally knows what is coming down the pipe.
“There are not many surprises because of our structure,” Swinney said. “We have a lot of hands on these guys and a lot of eyes. Vickery Hall does a tremendous job and there is a lot of communication. We have to support what they are doing over there and vice versa.
“We have great communication and great relationships, but great accountability is the main thing. Our guys have to work. If you don’t go to class, you don’t play. There is a structure in place academically that we believe in from a university standpoint and what we believe in from a football standpoint. It has worked very well for us.”
With so many academic check points in place in college football, they have really helped players either leave college with their degree in their hands or they are very close to getting one.
“For football players, it’s not like they can just have a bad semester and reload,” Swinney said. “Eligibility becomes a factor for them. But that’s one of the great changes in our game because if guys are here either three, four or five years, they either have their degree or are very close because of those eligibility bench marks that are in place that used not to be in place. I think that is a real positive.”
In all, seven current or former football players earned their degrees from Clemson on Thursday, including quarterback Tajh Boyd. His roommate, and good friend, linebacker Quandon Christian also earned his degree as did defensive tackle Josh Watson, who has one more year of eligibility remaining,.
Watson said a few weeks ago he was coming back to Clemson for one more season. Former defensive tackle Jamie Cumbie, who has volunteered on the Clemson staff this year, also earned his degree. Reserve cornerback C.J. Jones graduated as well.
Making progress. Every day, during bowl prep, Clemson closes practice with a 30-minute session in what Swinney calls the junior varsity practice. This is a practice where Swinney and the position coaches coach and evaluate guys who have been redshirted and have been working with the scout team for much of the season.
After Thursday’s practice, this is what Swinney said about some of those from the JV practice.
“Man! Wayne Gallman. Wow! Dorian O’Daniel, those are two guys today. Scott Pagano, Tyrone Crowder, I’m excited about those guys. It is fun!”
“Adrien Dunn (wide receiver), a little kid who walked on here from Daniel, he made a heck of a play out there. It is fun to see those guys get out there and compete. We did a lot out there today.”