The Clemson football team held its fourth practice of the spring on Monday afternoon at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility. It was the Tigers’ second day of full pads following Saturday’s practice, but their first day of live work.
Head coach Dabo Swinney likes what he has seen from his team to this point in spring practice.
“It was good to see them really put it all together,” Swinney said after Monday’s practice. “We’ve got a lot going on. We’ve got a lot of installation, we’ve got a lot of corrections that we’re making. But pleased with them. This has been good work, great work ethic, the guys have great energy coming out here. As I said the other day, we’re a good-looking team.”
Here are five topics that Swinney touched on during his post-practice availability Monday night:
Injury updates. Swinney gave an update on a few of Clemson’s cornerbacks that have been dealing with different injuries, specifically Andrew Booth (knee), Derion Kendrick (hamstring) and Mario Goodrich (ankle).
“We’ve got a few guys, especially at corner right now, that are banged up,” Swinney said. “Booth’s getting better, waiting on him. DK kind of strained his ham, so he was out today. Mario’s kind of nursing his ankle. We’ll take it slow with him the first half, and hopefully he’ll be ready to go for everything for the second half or sooner. So, a little banged up there.”
Newcomers impressing. Swinney loves what he has seen from the 15 early enrollees that arrived on campus in January and are going through their first practices as Tigers.
“They’ve all flashed to me,” Swinney said.
Swinney has been particularly impressed by how the trio of true freshmen offensive linemen – Mitchell Mayes, Paul Tchio and Bryn Tucker – have performed considering the difficulty of learning the O-line position. According to Swinney, they have a lot more to learn but have done a nice job in competitive drills.
“They’re exactly what we hoped they’d be,” Swinney said.
Defensive linemen Bryan Bresee, Demonte Capehart and Myles Murphy, cornerback Fred Davis, safeties R.J. Mickens and Tyler Venables, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, wide receiver E.J. Williams and tight end Sage Ennis are just some of the newcomers that have caught Swinney’s eye through the first several days of practice.
“We knocked it out of the park with that whole group,” he said.
XT off to a strong start. Xavier Thomas had a disappointing season in 2019, recording only two sacks in 12 games while missing time with a concussion. However, the rising junior defensive end has gotten off on the right foot so far in spring practice as he tries to rebound with a big season in 2020.
“He’s off to a really good start,” Swinney said. “I love the look in his eye. I like his focus, his demeanor. He’s just a little more mature. … I’m super proud of him. He’s taken ownership of what he needs to do to get better. He’s practicing hard and he’s doing well.”
Skalski shining. Swinney singled out fifth-year senior linebacker James Skalski as one player who has started spring practice with a bang.
Skalski started all 15 games in 2019, finishing second on the team with 105 tackles (7.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 699 snaps.
“Wow, is he off to a good start,” Swinney said. “Man, he’s a really good football player.”
Swinney on NFL Combine Tigers. Seven former Clemson players represented the Tigers at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this past week: offensive linemen Tremayne Anchrum and John Simpson, wide receiver Tee Higgins, linebacker Isaiah Simmons, safeties Tanner Muse and K’Von Wallace and cornerback A.J. Terrell.
Higgins did not work out as he is nursing a hamstring injury but is supposed to work out at next week’s Pro Day in Clemson.
“I’m really proud of them,” Swinney said of the former Tigers at the combine. “They all did what I thought they’d do. For some reason, I think some people didn’t think A.J. could run or something like that. Well, he can run. So, he really helped himself. Obviously Tee’s ham wasn’t quite where it needed to be. He’ll be ready to go here soon. He’s going to do great. I think they all did well in their interviews. Anchrum and Simpson did a nice job, and certainly K’Von – K’Von’s K’Von. I think he crushed it. Muse ran … I think they upgraded him to a 4.41. I think that’s what they were telling me in the staff room. Not surprised with that. And then Isaiah is what we all know – he’s just a freak. He’s one of the most unique talents you’ll ever see. Him coming back and having that fourth year to really develop… He probably would’ve been a second-round pick last year, and him coming back and just really becoming a more complete player, it’s amazing what he’s been able to do.
“So, I’m excited for all of them and look forward to seeing them next week. They’ll be rolling back into town for our pro day.”
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