Tuesday, February 26, 2013 12:06 PM
Swinney says Tigers have the pieces in place for a great season
by David Hood
Senior Writer

The Clemson football team begins spring practice on March 6th, the first step in 2013 for what many Clemson fans hope will be a special season.

Head coach Dabo Swinney was asked Tuesday if there were any impediments to having a great season, if there were any pieces lacking or any personnel issues that might preclude the Tigers putting together that special year, the translation being: Are there any excuses?

His answer was a resounding no.

"We're not hoping for a great season, we are expecting it," Swinney said. "It is a journey and as long as we are staying focused, we have a chance to be a special team. But the ball we play with isn't round, and sometimes you have to have a little luck along the way. We have outstanding players and good depth and we've recruited well. If we stay committed and stay humble and confident and don't let distractions enter into our program we certainly have a chance to be one of those teams that can be in the mix."

Swinney said the goal is a national championship.

“Our goal is to compete for national championships,” he said. “We want to be in that mix for a BCS Bowl every year. We want to finish in the Top 10 multiple times. That’s what we’re trying to do, and I think the guys understand the margin is very small when you’re trying to be one of those elite teams. But I think we’ve learned how to prepare. “Everything counts. When you’re trying to be great, everything counts.”

Swinney said the players and coaches were excited to get spring practice underway.

“It’s always exciting to start spring ball, and we start a week from tomorrow,” he said. “It has been a busy, busy offseason, as it is every year. We did our self-study and set our goals and a practice plan for the spring ball. We got our schedule yesterday, and it’s always exciting when that happens.”

Notes from the call

On Sammy Watkins

“He's fine, injury-wise. He's good. His focus is outstanding. He's really grown. Sammy is just one of those guys who's really grown into a solid leader for this team. I don't have any doubt he'll do everything he can to have a great season. Last year, I think, is going to be a great experience for him, just looking back on his career."

On the lack of bodies at defensive back for the spring

"We don't have a lot of bodies here for spring ball. We signed eight defensive backs. Half our number isn't here for spring ball, with the exception of Jadar [Johnson]. But we get Darius [Robinson] and Bashaud [Breeland] and Martin [Jenkins] back. Getting those guys back healthy is going to be key. Garry Peters is a guy we're really excited about as a player. He made huge strides this past year as a football player. He's a guy that's got to fully commit, have his attitude right and team commitment."

On Garry Peters’ suspension

“He will miss a few practices because the attitude needs to be better. He’s a guy that’s still got to fully commit and have his attitude right, understand team commitment. That’s where it really starts with him.”

Swinney said that Peters will participate in team meetings, then head to Vickery Hall when the rest of the team heads to practice.

On the battle at backup QB

"Cole [Stoudt] right now is our No. 2 guy. He has performed for us and helped us win games. He is a quiet guy, but has been a critical part of our success. Chad Kelly is a guy that turned some heads I don't think there is any question that will be a fun competition. I am excited about it. Chad is going to be a redshirt freshman and Cole a junior and I think they will battle their tails off this spring and win that job. And I hope they push Tajh. As far as somebody separating this spring I don't know if that will happen."

On the center position

Swinney said that Ryan Norton is No. 1 on the depth chart, but Jay Guillermo, Reid Webster and even Tra Thomas could see time there.

"Jay Guillermo is a guy that we're really excited about. Reid Webster is working as a backup guard, backup center. Reid has really come on.”

On the LB’s

Dabo said that some combination of Spencer Shuey, Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony will plays the MIKE and WILL linebacker positions, with Quandon Christian at the SAM. He also said the transfer Kellen Jones “was a pain in the rear end of our offensive coaches” during the fall and will push for playing time.

Tony McNeal and Ammon Lakip

Swinney said that backup QB Tony McNeal is done with football after suffering a knee injury, but will be a student assistant. Kicker Ammon Lakip is not in school right now as he deals with a family issue, but he hopes Lakip will be back in the fall.

“We’re working on getting him a medical withdraw so this semester won’t count against him,” Swinney said. “He’s got some personal and family issues that he’s working through. This is a great young man that has an excellent future in front of him.”

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com