Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says he wasn’t surprised by what he saw from any one position group during fall camp, which the third-ranked Tigers recently wrapped up as they shifted their focus to game installation for the season-opening matchup against the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs in Charlotte on Sept. 4.
However, there were a few individual players that caught Swinney by surprise in camp, he said Wednesday during a guest appearance on the Packer and Durham show on the ACC Network.
“We had a full spring, watched how they worked this summer. I think I had a good feel, pulse of this team coming into camp,” Swinney said to Mark Packer and Wes Durham. “I can’t really say that [any position group] surprised me. There’s maybe an individual or two that maybe surprised you a little bit on where they are. But as far as a group, I think everybody’s kind of about where I thought they would be and what I thought they were coming in.”
One of the players who caught Swinney’s attention during camp is Dietrick Pennington, a 6-foot-5, 338-pound freshman offensive lineman from Evangelical Christian School in Memphis, Tenn.
Pennington (pictured above, No. 59) enrolled at Clemson this summer after signing with the Tigers last December.
“You think, ‘Ah, he’s probably going to be behind and has a lot to learn,’ but man this guy, oh wow!” Swinney said.
A former four-star prospect, Pennington was ranked as the nation’s No. 9 interior offensive lineman and a top-150 national prospect (No. 138 overall) by 247Sports coming out of Evangelical Christian.
Pennington was named Mr. Football for D2-AA in Tennessee in 2020 after being the runner-up for the honor in 2019. He was an all-state honoree in 2018 and 2019 and a two-way starter on Evangelical Christian’s 2019 D2-AA state title team.
Clemson beat out schools such as LSU, Auburn, Florida State and Georgia to land Pennington, who also played basketball and threw shot put and discus in high school.
Swinney compared Pennington to former Clemson and current New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
“He’s like Dexter Lawrence at offensive line,” Swinney said. “He is a special young talent, and he’s shocked me just as far as where he is, how quickly he grasped the concepts of what we’re doing, physically where he is at 338 pounds. Just incredible.”