Dabo Swinney wanted to make sure Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams get a lot of credit following Monday’s spring practice.
Because the defensive tackles have stepped forward so far this spring and are leading a group that lost three of its star players and biggest leaders in Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Albert Huggins.
“Those two guys are doing a great job,” the Clemson head coach said.
Pinckney and Williams are doing the job from the sideline this spring. Pinckney is sitting out the spring after tearing his pectoral muscle, while Williams is out with a knee injury he suffered during an intramural basketball in January.
“Sometimes there are blessings in disguise,” Swinney said. “(The injuries are) a blessing in disguise probably for two reasons. One, it has forced Jordan and Nyles to have to be leaders. And they have done a really nice job of trying to lead and coach because they recognize, ‘Oh boy! We have a lot of work to do,’ because of what is in their mind. They recognize that their roles are very different, but yet they can’t practice.
“So, it is allowing a lot of guys to get exposed, to be coached, to have to grow quicker and to get way more reps than they would have been getting.”
The second blessing in disguise is all the new guys getting the reps.
The players getting all the reps at defensive tackle this spring are redshirt junior Xavier Kelly, redshirt freshman Darnell Jefferies, redshirt freshman Tyler Davis, freshman Etinosa Reuben, freshman Ruke Orhorhoro and freshman Logan Cash.
Swinney says Kelly has benefited a lot so far this spring. Though he was a junior, the coaches lumped him in with the five freshmen because he just moved over to defensive tackle last fall and because of Wilkins, Lawrence, Huggins, Pinckney and Williams, he did not get a lot of reps.
“I think he has done a nice job,” Swinney said. “He looks great. So, this is a big, big spring for him.”
Clemson will continue spring practice Wednesday at the practice fields behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
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