Though Clemson is already a 33-point favorite to win Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. The money line might be on the Tigers when they visit Winston-Salem, N.C., for a 7:30 p.m., kickoff.
There are two reasons. The Demon Deacons will have no fans in the stands due to a state of North Carolina rule. Also, because Clemson might be more physically ready.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson told the media this week that he held a lot of his team’s physical contact back in practice, including limiting scrimmages and live contact drills, due to COVID-19. On the other side of the field, Dabo Swinney pretty much conducted practice like he always has in terms of scrimmages and live tackling.
“We usually have two or three scrimmages through camp, and we had one and a half,” Clawson said. “So, we have tackled. I think anytime you go in a Game 1, tackling is a concern. Football practices are not like they were twenty or thirty years ago that you are tackling every day. Typically, during camp or spring football, we may do one live period a week or have three scrimmages over a five-week period in spring football and one or two during camp.
“So, we did scrimmage. We have tackled, but not nearly as much as we usually do.”
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo admitted his conservative approach to tackling in fall camp played a role in the Midshipmen being pummeled by BYU, 55-3, this past Monday in their season opener.
Swinney hopes keeping camp as normal as he could, will benefit the Tigers, not just for Saturday’s game, but for the entire season.
“We just did what we have always done,” the Clemson coach said. “I really did not change anything from a practice standpoint. The only thing that really changed was the pace of how we did things at practice, simply because we had more time.
“So, what I used to get done in two weeks, I was able to do in three and a half weeks for example. But as far as how we practiced and how we prepared, nothing changed in that regard.”
As Swinney mentioned he did change the pace of practice. Because the season was pushed back a week, he stretched preparation time out and gave his players a few more days of rest than he typically would in a normal situation of camp.
“Early on in camp I had a little bit more type conditioning type stuff to do to get the team [ready]. When you (coach) for a long time, you have certain instincts and you kind of have a feel for where your team is and when to push and when to pull back,” Swinney said. “So, I think every year it is different, but this year, again, with so much time, I did not want it to get to where it was a grind.
“I tried to keep in fun and exciting for them and I tried to and, I literally, changed the pace of installation. The pace of what we do to get ready. But as far as how we practiced, we have not done anything different.”
Though he did things a little different than Swinney, Clawson said he has no regrets on how he handled the situation, no matter what the score might be Saturday night.
“To me, it was the responsible thing to do. I did not want to put our players at unnecessary risk until I really felt like we were playing,” he said. “So, about two and a half or three weeks ago, I started to feel much more optimistic. I don’t think anybody is ever positive, but I felt there was probably a greater than 90 percent chance we were going to play. At that point we had a scrimmage and we tackled and fortunately, no one got hurt in that scrimmage.
“I think a lot of us have done less of that because of the uncertainty.”
Clawson just hopes it works out better for his team than it did for Navy.
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