March 1, 2015

Swinney previews Tigers’ upcoming spring practice (AUDIO)

Dabo Swinney (File Photo)

Dabo Swinney (File Photo)

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.

AUDIO: Dabo Swinney previews spring practice [48:40]

USC women clinch tie for second straight SEC championship

Mitchell led USC with 16 points (File Photo)

Mitchell led USC with 16 points (File Photo)

No. 2/2 South Carolina secured at least a share of the SEC Regular Season Championship for the second-straight season with a 69-50 win over No. 11/13 Mississippi State on Senior Night at Colonial Life Arena. Tiffany Mitchell scored a game-high 16 points as the Gamecocks (28-1, 15-0 SEC) captured their program-record 15th SEC win and capped their second-straight undefeated season at home.

Feeding off the Senior Day energy, the Gamecocks hit their first four shots and forced turnovers on Mississippi State’s first two possessions. All three seniors got in on the act with Elem Ibiam scoring the night’s first points with a pair of free throws. Mitchell set Olivia Gaines up for a long two on the right wing, and Aleighsa Welch followed a Mitchell jumper with a jump shot just outside the left block to pull out to an early 11-4 lead.

South Carolina maintained a small lead for the next 10 minutes, but the Bulldogs drew within three with 6:26 to play at 19-16.Asia Dozier kicked off a 12-2 run with back-to-back drives to the hoop. Then, Khadijah Sessions and Mitchell saw their defensive pressure pay off. Mitchell perfectly picked off a telegraphed pass and took it all the way to the other hoop. After helping to force the Bulldogs into a tough 3-pointer that missed the mark, Mitchell drained a jumper on the other end. She stepped in front of a Bulldog in-bound pass for another steal and pushed it ahead to Sessions. Sessions kicked it back to the trailing Mitchell for a basket and a foul. Mitchell converted the three-point play to cap the run that made the score 31-18 with three minutes remaining in the half.

Freshman Vivian Vivians found the basket again for Mississippi State, scoring five points on a jumper and a long 3, but the Gamecocks answered as A’ja Wilson netted a jumper and they forced consecutive Bulldog turnovers. Back on offense, Sessions lobbed the ball into the paint looking for Alaina Coates. The center skied to control the pass, hit the jumper and drew the foul. She missed the ensuing free throw, but Wilson cleaned it up for another basket. Vivians swished a 3 from the deep left corner just before the buzzer to make the score 39-26 at the half.

After Mississippi State’s Martha Alwal scored on a layup to open the period, and the Gamecocks turned the ball over twice for a shaky start. Mitchell got things back on track, though, as the reigning SEC Player of the Year single-handedly broke the full court press to net a layup. Gaines ripped down the rebound on the other end, and Sessions drove to the hoop through traffic to grow the lead to 15 at 43-28 just less than 2:30 into the second half. The Bulldogs answered by scoring on back-to-back trips down the court on free throws from Vivian and a deep 3 from Jerica James.

Sessions held them off, fueling the Gamecocks for six quick points. First, the guard drove along the baseline and kicked up to Welch for jumper. Sessions kept it for herself next, scooping in a layup. After a missed Mitchell shot, Gaines tracked down the long offensive rebound and gave it back to Sessions who found an open Ibiam to cap the 90-second run and make the score 49-33 with 13:32 to play.

Both teams fell out of sync on offense for a large part of the second half, going a combined 3-of-22 over a nearly seven-minute stretch. During the lull South Carolina pushed the lead to 20 with a pair of Coates jumpers in the paint and two free throws with 6:18 to play. Mississippi State began relying on 3s to close the gap, attempting eight in the final six minutes. LaKaris Salter was 4-of-5 from behind the line in the stretch, but it was not enough as the Gamecocks held off the Bulldogs for the 69-50 win.

Mitchell rounded out her line with three steals, two assists and four rebounds. Wilson and Coates joined Mitchell in double figures with 13 and 10, respectively. Coates and Wilson pulled down seven rebounds each. Gaines was 4-of-5 from the floor to score a career-high nine points while adding three rebounds and a steal. In addition to her lock-down defense, Sessions dished our four assists and swiped two steals to go with five points. South Carolina was 26-of-51 from the field to shoot 51.0 percent while holding the Bulldogs to 34.5 percent from the floor after allowing just seven made field goals in the second half.

Final Stats

Dawn Staley post game presser

Olivia Gaines & Tiffany Mitchell post game



Clemson police have photo image of Howard’s Rock vandal

This is the man police hope the public can help identify.

This is the man police hope the public can help identify.

From Clemson Media Relations:

Clemson University police released surveillance images of the man who vandalized the case protecting Howard’s Rock Wednesday. They are asking for the public’s help identifying the man.

The black-and-white images show someone pulling up in a pickup truck, then using a rod to strike the sides of the case. He is described as a light-complexioned black male, weighing 230-250 pounds, six-feet-two to six-feet-four inches tall and 35-40 years old. He was wearing a navy blue jacket, blue jeans, work boots and gloves with reflective material on the knuckles and back of the hand. The small pickup truck is similar to a Ford Ranger.

Police ask that anyone who recognizes the man or has information about the incident call the department at 864-656-2222.

The man who damaged the case pulled up in this truck.

The man who damaged the case pulled up in this truck.

The case was damaged at approximately 6 a.m. Wednesday. It was reported by construction workers who arrived later to work on renovations to the suite and club levels of the stadium. Police were immediately notified, and the investigation continues.

Damage was limited to the glass case protecting the storied rock, one of several security measures put in place following vandalism which occurred in June 2013. The pedestal upon which Howard’s Rock is attached was not damaged.

Clemson has removed the Rock and its pedestal from its permanent location atop the hill in the east end zone to secure it until a replacement covering is available.

“Howard’s Rock is a very important and visible part of our campus and our stadium, and we know many students, alumni and fans come to see it throughout the year,” director of athletics Dan Radakovich said. “We’ll work to quickly have it back in its home and available for all to see as quickly as possible.”

Tigers warm up for USC by whipping Wofford 11-5 (AUDIO)

Steve Duggar and the Tigers had 13 hits Wednesday

Steve Duggar and the Tigers had 13 hits Wednesday

Clemson scored three runs in the fifth inning, including two with two outs, to take the lead for good in its 11-5 win over Wofford at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers, who won their 15th game in a row against the Terriers, improved to 5-2 on the season. Wofford dropped to 7-1 in 2015.

Reed Rohlman led the Tigers by going 4-for-4 with a double, his first career homer in the third inning, four runs and a walk. Tyler Krieger added two hits and three RBIs. Clemson jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and 3-1 lead in the third inning, then Wofford scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to take a 5-3 lead. After the Tigers regained the lead in the fifth inning, Weston Wilson belted a two-run homer in the seventh inning before the Tigers added three insurance runs in the eighth inning.

Freshman lefthander Charlie Barnes (1-0) earned his first career win by pitching 3.1 perfect innings in relief with two strikeouts. Wofford reliever Connell Anderson (1-1) suffered the loss.

“Charlie Barnes was outstanding for us today,” said Head Coach Jack Leggett. “We got some big hits, including the home run by Reed (Rohlman) and then the two-run home run by Weston Wilson.

“I thought we pitched really well and then we played pretty good defense behind them. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the middle, but we were able to get our way out of it. Wofford is a good team and does a good job at executing. I’m pleased with how we played.”

Clemson plays a three-game series against No. 10 South Carolina at three different locations this weekend. The first game is Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on ESPN3.

Box Score

AUDIO: Jack Leggett [4:00]

Clemson police investigating vandalism at Howard’s Rock

Howard's Rock (File Photo)

Howard’s Rock (File Photo)

For the second time in three years, someone has made a target of Clemson’s Howard’s Rock.  The iconic piece of Clemson football history that sits atop the hill at Death Valley was vandalized sometime early Wednesday morning according to Clemson police.

[Read more…]