Dabo Swinney painted a more positive picture of his team’s overall health coming off an open date.
“We’re still not where you’d love to be, but we’re dang sure better than we were this time last week,” Clemson’s coach said. “If we had played last Saturday, it would’ve been real interesting. Some of y’all (in the media) would’ve been like, ‘Who’s that?’”
The Tigers have dealt with a mounting list of injuries throughout the early part of the season. Some are season-ending while others aren’t, but the extra time off was just what the doctor ordered for the latter. Running back Will Shipley and cornerback Fred Davis will be held out again Friday when No. 25 Clemson (3-2, 2-1 ACC) makes the trip to Syracuse (3-3, 1-2), but Swinney is expecting many if not all of the rest who will return at some point this season to do so then.
That includes receiver Justyn Ross and offensive lineman Will Putnam. Ross, who has a team-high 23 receptions, was held out of most of the Tigers’ last game against Boston College after taking a hit to the head area while Putnam, Clemson’s starting right guard, missed the game entirely after sustaining a toe injury the previous week against North Carolina State.
Ross and tight end Braden Galloway were both placed in concussion protocol at the beginning of last week, but Swinney said then Galloway should also be good to go against Syracuse. As for the Tigers’ other injured receivers, Swinney said the team is still in wait-and-see mode. Frank Ladson continues to deal with a groin injury that kept him out against Boston College while E.J. Williams has added a knee injury to the torn thumb ligament he suffered early in the season.
“E.J. really hadn’t been healthy in a while,” Swinney said. “Then Frank has kind of a been a day-to-day guy battling a groin. Hopefully he’ll be in a better spot by Friday night, but he’s battling each day.”
At cornerback, Mario Goodrich, who started the first four games opposite Andrew Booth, is “good” after missing the Boston College game with a groin injury, Swinney said. Malcolm Greene (shoulder) could also make his return Friday after the week off. Swinney said last week Greene could’ve played against the Eagles if Clemson really needed him.
Davis, meanwhile, will likely take another week to recover from a sprained ankle that’s cost him the last two games.
“The week off was good for him,” Swinney said of Davis. “I don’t think he’ll be ready this week, but he could be ready to go next week hopefully.”
A positive development along a defensive line that will have to play most of the remaining season without Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee is the return of redshirt freshman defensive tackle DeMonte Capehart, who has yet to play after having his knee scoped before the season. Capehart is back practicing for the first time this week, Swinney said, and could work his way into the rotation on the interior as the season progresses.
“He’s going to be a great player. Does some natural things,” Swinney said. “It’s exciting to get him going, and hopefully he can be a guy that can have some opportunities the second half of the season.”
Another player who hasn’t been able to give it a go yet this season is slot receiver Brannon Spector, whose recovery from a shoulder injury hasn’t been the only thing slowing him down. Spector also started the season going through COVID-19 protocols and publicly revealed he had been dealing with “respiratory challenges” after coming down with novel coronavirus this spring.
But Swinney said Spector has progressed to the point that he’s going through individual drills during practice. The next step is to get him in full pads and re-evaluate him then in hopes of having Spector back at some point this season, even if it’s on a limited basis, Swinney said.
“Man, he’s got fresh legs. I’ll tell you that,” Swinney said. “He looks fast. And I think he’s excited because he’s just in a lot better spot than he was two months ago. We’re encouraged.”
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