Dexter Lawrence walked off the practice field on Friday wearing Mark Fields No. 2 white jersey. All of sudden, the 6-foot-5, 350-pound defensive tackle did not look 350 pounds.
“He almost looked skinny,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterward. “Isn’t it amazing how a number can enhance you or decrease you, one of the two?”
Friday marked the top-ranked Tigers’ last day of practice before Christmas break, which the players always commemorate by switching jerseys. It’s a tradition that began way before Swinney was the wide receivers coach at Clemson.
“There are certain things around here that I don’t know where they started. I have no idea,” Swinney said. “That’s one of them. Forever in a day that I have been here, the last (pre-Christmas) practice, they all swap jerseys.”
Swinney says he always forgets about this particular tradition until he walks out to practice on that last day and sees Kelly Bryant wearing Clelin Ferrell’s jersey.
“Oh, it’s that day again,” Swinney said smiling.
As for practice, it was the Tigers’ last one before they reconvene in Clemson on Dec. 26 before heading to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, where they will play No. 4 Alabama as one of the College Football Playoff Semifinal games, on Dec. 27.
“It was a good practice. I’m really pleased with what we got accomplished here at Clemson,” Swinney said. “The guys have been super focused, especially since last Friday when we finished finals. These guys have put in good work and I feel good about what we’ve got done.
“We got the (game) plan in so we are excited for everybody to get a few days here, a little break and come back here on the 26. I just want to give everyone a good traveling day, which is nice because we have been traveling back on Christmas Day the past several years so now we can really enjoy that day and come back on the 26 and then we will kind of have a normal game week.”
Swinney said he has enjoyed coaching this year’s team and he hopes they get another chance to practice here at Clemson.
No academic causalities. Swinney reported there were no academic causalities for the Sugar Bowl, and those that can play will play on New Year’s Day.
Clemson had 15 football players graduate on Thursday.
“The early returns have been really good,” Swinney said. “I don’t have all the grades, but they compete amongst each other, position groups. ‘Hey, our group was a 2.94’ or ‘our group was a 3.1’ or whatever. But they all take great pride in it. I think that is really good that they all take pride in it.
“We had some guys that really, really excelled. I’m excited to get all the final grades and that is something we talk about as a team. These guys take a lot of pride in it.”
Team is healthy. Defensive end Austin Bryant was wearing a green jersey on Friday after wearing a yellow one on Wednesday. The green jersey means he can participate in individual drills and some others. However, he could not compete in contact drills.
Swinney said Bryant is fine and he will be ready to go for the Sugar Bowl. He also reported the rest of the team is healthy too with the exception of linebacker Judah Davis, who will miss the Alabama game with an MCL injury.
Swinney also reported defensive end Richard Yeargin (neck) and kicker Greg Huegel (knee) are both doing well.
The Clemson coach reported Huegel has gotten over the hump in his rehabilitation and is working on getting back, while he says Yeargin does not look like he was even injured.
Yeargin, who was in a car accident this past summer that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season, could be back by spring practice, according to Swinney.