Clemson held its first practice in full pads on Saturday afternoon on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center. It was the fifth straight day of practice for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who are preparing for the season opener against North Texas on September 4.
The Tigers worked for over two-and-a-half hours in high 80s temperatures, but the weather was not as humid as it had been earlier in the week. The team will have Sunday off, then have its first day of two-a-day practices on Monday with the first scrimmage slated for Tuesday morning.
Three players were missing from the practice on Saturday. Chris Hairston, Daniel Barnes and Byron Maxwell all missed the day due to their graduation from Clemson. “The graduation was in the morning, but I always give graduates the complete day off,” said Swinney, who will have six graduates on his roster this fall. “They deserve to have that entire day with their families. I am proud of them.”
With Hairston and Maxwell out, it gave an opportunity to some other players. David Smith and Philip Price got more time at left tackle in Hairston’s absence, while Xavier Brewer got more playing time at cornerback in place of Maxwell. “I was really encouraged by what I saw from Price,” said Swinney after practice. “ He worked with the ones at times and I was encouraged.”
Swinney was please with the team’s overall performance on Saturday and for the first week. “We are where we need to be, we are on schedule. We still have a lot of work to do, but I have been pleased with what I have seen so far. I have seen energy on both sides of the ball.
“We got a little sloppy at the end today, but they pushed through for the majority of the day. We do need to finish plays on offense. Defensively, we gave up a couple of 50 yard plays where the back was untouched. We have to learn to make the stop and live for another play in the redzone.”
One of the players who made a 50-yard run was Roderick McDowell, a red-shirt freshman from Sumter. “Rod kind of tip-toed during the spring at times, but he ran like a running back today. He has made progress this first week.”
Swinney was also pleased with the performance of the tight ends. “We knew what we had in Dwayne Allen and Chad Diehl, but I have been impressed with Darrell Smith, Drew Traylor and Kasey Nobles so far. They are making progress.”
At the conclusion of practice, Swinney introduced the father of wide receiver Brandon Clear, who was in town to see his son Byron graduate. Byron, Brandon’s twin, was a member of the Clemson football team the last three years and graduated magna cum laude in just three years on Saturday. Colonel Clear is in the United States Army and made the long trip back from Afghanistan for Byron’s graduation.
“Colonel Clear spoke to the team and had a great message. He spoke about what true heat is and the importance of hard work. He gave the team a different perspective. It was great to have him here.”
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