Let’s face it, getting injured stinks for an athlete. It stinks for the coach as well.
It was definitely disappointing this past winter when Clemson defensive tackles coach Todd Bates learned his two projected starters in the interior of the line were not going to be available for spring practice. Nyles Pinckney had to have minor surgery to repair a pectoral muscle which he hurt and played through during the 2018 season, while Jordan Williams injured the lower part of his leg playing in an intramural basketball game in January.
With the Tigers already faced with replacing All-Americans Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, plus reserve defensive tackle Albert Huggins, it was not the ideal situation for Bates nor the Clemson defense to be in.
But there was nothing no one could do. They had to make the best of the situation, which meant throwing early enrollees like Tyler Davis, Ruke Orhorhoro and Etinosa Reuben into the fire a little earlier than they wanted.
But as Bates recently said, it was all a blessing in disguise for Pinckney and Williams, as well as the three true freshmen.
“The blessing in disguise for (Pinckney and Williams) not being able to physically do the reps in the spring was that they had to take a step back and only be vocal because neither one of them were vocal naturally,” Bates said. “So, they got a chance to sit back and really focus on the things that I’m teaching.”
Bates felt that extra time he got with Pinckney and Williams paid off this summer when the coaches were not around, and someone had to lead what is a very young and inexperienced group overall.
“You have to depend on your leadership to make sure the drills are being ran right out there on the field,” Clemson’s defensive tackles’ coach said. “They’ve done a great job with that and really stepped up in the spring. I never saw Jordan or Nyles’ without one or two of those guys under a wing, just showing them the way.
“They know what it takes. Nyles’ been in there and played significant reps and Jordan played a little bit last year before he got hurt early on and played late. It was great to have them in that room to help teach and lead those guys.”