Clemson will begin spring football practice Monday afternoon and Friday head coach Dabo Swinney expressed a lot of optimism about the 2015 season despite the loss of 8 defensive starters from a unit that led the nation in total defense in 2014.
“I’m fired up about it. We’re ready to roll. I like our football team,” Swinney said. “We’re going to be better offensively this year.”
There are 7 returning starters on the offensive unit including quarterback Deshaun Watson. He is making a rapid recovery from his torn ACL and will be 100% ready by mid summer according to Swinney.
The Tigers will be without the projected starter at right guard in Jay Guillermo for the spring. Swinney said Guillermo is not with the team right now while dealing with what he termed personal health issues. Also, tight end JJ McCullough remains suspended but Swinney said he is making progress towards reinstatement.
Some other key comments from Swinney:
- Need to improve in the red zone last season, 78%. Working on finding out why that was the case.
- Expects 15 players from last year’s team to be in NFL camps this season.
- Likes how they have recruited to replace the defensive line but knows they don’t have the experienced depth they had.
- Getting RB Zac Brooks and TE Jordan Leggett back from injuries, but DL DJ Reader will be limited after dropping a weight on his big toe.
- Guys like Kevin Dodd, Ben Boulware, BJ Goodson will get their chance to be major performers this spring.
- Going to push Nick Schussler this spring to see if he can take that next step at QB. The freshmen duo are starting from scratch.
- Expectation is for Watson to be able to lead team in summer drills. At first marker where he was supposed to be 50%, he was 75%.
- Kendall Joseph and Korie Rogers get first crack at Mike linebacker.
- “All four starters on our defensive line one day are going to be drafted.” Swinney cited Lawson, Reader, Watkins and Dodd for those spots.