Clemson starts Spring Practice
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney always talks about the journey of a football season. A college football season does not begin in September at a football stadium packed with 80,000 people.
Instead, it starts in January at 5:30 each morning when players get out of bed, while the rest of us are sleeping, and begin training for a new season.
The Clemson football team, now in its 13th full season under Swinney, takes its next step today in its 2021 journey. The Tigers open Spring practice this afternoon behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
Today will mark the first of 15 practices for Clemson over the next five weeks before it concludes the Spring with its annual Orange & White Spring Game on April 3.
Like every year, this year’s Clemson Tigers will have a lot of new faces and dynamics, especially on offense where it must replace six starters from last year’s team that finished the season ranked third in the final Associated Press Football rankings.
Of course, all eyes will be on rising sophomore D.J. Uiagalelei, who officially takes over as the starting quarterback now that Trevor Lawrence has left for the NFL. Last season, Uiagalelei proved he is more than capable of handling the pressure that comes with being the starting quarterback at Clemson.
With Lawrence out two games due to COVID-19, the California native led the Tigers to a come-from-behind victory over Boston College, after trailing by 18 points. It is the largest comeback by a Clemson team in Death Valley history.
A week later, he threw for 439 yards, the most ever against a Notre Dame football team, as he nearly led Clemson to another dramatic come-from-behind victory.
However, Uiagalelei is not the only person that will be watched this Spring. Clemson will have an open competition at running back, while getting adjusted to a new position coach.
Clemson great C.J. Spiller begins his first official day as the Tigers’ running backs coach, a task that will not be as easy because he has to find a replacement for Travis Etienne, who ended his Clemson career as the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing yards, scoring, total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.
At wide receiver, Clemson has to replace Amari Rodgers, who led the ACC in receiving yards last year, and Cornell Powell. Both were extremely productive, and both earned All-ACC recognition for their productivity.
The progression of Justyn Ross’ return will be one of the big storylines of the Spring. The Clemson receiver missed all of last year while recovering from spinal surgery in June. Swinney has already said Ross will be limited from contact drills in the Spring. But, obviously, they will try to get him as much work as they can over the next 15 practices.
On the offensive line, the Tigers must find a new starter at left tackle and a new center. This marks the third straight season Clemson will have a new person snapping the football.
On defense, the faces are mostly the same as all 11 positions return a player who started at least three games in 2020. The biggest question on defense is feeling Mike Jones’ leadership now that he has transferred to LSU.
Of course, the Tigers have plenty of leaders in six-year players James Skalski at linebacker and Nolan Turner at safety. They also return two-year starter Tyler Davis at defensive tackle, along with Justin Foster at defensive end.
Foster, of course, missed all of last season for unspecified reasons. Xavier Thomas is also back after he missed five games last year, including the ACC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl. He sat out the first three games due to complications from COVID-19, but the last two are for unknown reasons.
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