When Clemson began preparation for its Cotton Bowl matchup with Notre Dome this past Wednesday, Dabo Swinney could tell his team had the previous 10 days off.
“We looked like we had not practiced in a week and a half or played,” Swinney said.
However, he said the Tigers bounced back on Thursday and had the right mindset. On Friday they took another step and had a lot more intensity.
Of course, it helped that Clemson was in full pads on for the first-time during bowl practices as the team did some live work.
“It will be two weeks tomorrow since we played, and there is only a certain amount of time you can go in this game without putting your pads on somebody,” Swinney said after the Tigers wrapped up practice at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility in Clemson. “There is a certain mindset you have to have, and you just can’t show up and get that. It has to be prepared for and created in practice.”
Swinney said this is where the Tigers (13-0) are in their phase of preparation. Friday and Saturday are two days where the team will kind of get after it with intense practices. Of course, two weeks from Saturday, Clemson will be playing the Irish in the 83rd Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium as part of the College Football Playoff Semifinals in Arlington, Texas.
“I thought they had the right focus today,” Swinney said. “They knew exactly the type of practice we were going to have to have and the type of work we needed to get, so it was good. We had good energy, good intensity really all the way through.
“We have been getting our conditioning and making sure we are back where we need to be there. Tomorrow will be another physical day and we will add a couple of more drills and then we will do some two-minute live at the end to just get full-speed decision making there on both sides.”
Junior varsity practice. Swinney mentioned the Tigers began their junior varsity practices on Friday. Each year, the Clemson coach blocks out a part of bowl practice where he has his freshman players that redshirted and others who worked on the scout team participate in individual drills with their position coaches, something they don’t get to do during the regular season.
Swinney began this process 10 years ago during his first bowl practice as the Tigers’ head coach. The junior varsity practices are almost like another spring practice or fall camp for the younger players.
Clemson used the first two days of bowl practice to teach and get them ready because a lot of them have been on the scout team all year.
“We have a lot of guys that are good players that are going to have bigger roles next year. This is a great opportunity to get them some really good one-on-one work with everyone else out of the way,” Swinney said.
Injury notes: Offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt was out of a yellow jersey and was back at practice on Friday. On Wednesday, the consensus All-American was wearing a yellow jersey and did not practice.
There is still no official word on what Hyatt’s injury was. After practice on Wednesday, Swinney said Hyatt was okay and he just gave him “a day off.”
Wide receiver Trevion Thompson and cornerback Mario Goodrich were in yellow jerseys on Friday and did not practice. Everyone else participated in practice.