Wednesday, March 5, 2014 6:36 PM
Spring practice day one observations
by David Hood
Senior Writer

CLEMSON – Spring practice got underway Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers taking the fields behind Jervey, and the Clemson media contingent was allowed to watch the first hour or so of the proceedings.

Joining the media were a lot of former players who are on hand to participate in Clemson’s Pro Day on Thursday. On hand were Tajh Boyd, Chandler Catanzaro, Darius Robinson, Phillip Fajgenbaum, Martavis Bryant, C.J. Spiller, Roderick McDowell and Rashard Hall. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is also in town – he was sporting a Clemson hat and Clemson sweatshirt – watching his son Seth Ryan work out with Clemson’s wide receivers.

Another former player spotted was Rendrick Taylor, who is working on the strength and conditioning staff with Joey Batson. I asked Taylor how much he weighs right now, and he checks in at 255 and looks like he could play today. He also told me he would love to play in Chad Morris’ offense.

But I am sure everybody wants to hear about the freshmen, so let’s get started.

Deshaun Watson was sporting his familiar No. 4 jersey, and I watched a good bit of the quarterback session while talking with Rex Ryan. His take on Watson? He said that Watson didn’t look like a freshman, and then as soon as he said that Watson overthrew a receiver by 20 yards. Ryan laughed, and said that is typical of freshmen and rookies – as soon as you start trusting them they do something to remind you of how young they are.

However, Watson’s talents are undeniable, and I was impressed with his accuracy and arm strength during the session.

*I spoke with Tajh Boyd about his draft chances, and he said he is hearing a lot from the Arizona Cardinals, which might be a great fit. The Cardinals already have Jaron Brown and Andre Ellington.

*Offensive lineman Kalon Davis walked by me, and I had to do a double take, And then I did a triple take. And then he laughed and walked on. His eyes were freaky looking – he is wearing colored contacts (I never found out the reason) that give him a rather scary look. The iris is completely white, and there is small dot where the pupil should be. One of the coaches told me he can’t look at Davis while he is wearing the contacts because of how scary he looks. I can’t imagine what some defensive lineman will think.

*Here are the numbers of the new players and T.J. Green, who switched from wide receiver to safety.

Kyrin Priester-17
Deshaun Watson-4
Demarre Kitt-8
Artavis Scott-3
T.J. Green -15

*The groups broke out for the tempo period, and here is the first team offensive line from left to right – Isaiah Battle, Eric Mac Lain, Ryan Norton, Kalon Davis and Shaq. Anthony.

*Freshman linebacker Chris Register was in a green jersey, and so was Kevin Dodd (limited contact). In jerseys but not working out were Travis Blanks, Martin Jenkins, Marcus Bullard, Charone Peake and Kellen Jones.

*Freshman defensive back MacKensie Alexander didn’t hold back during the session. The big news – he also looked happy and ready to go. He played defensive back, he fielded punts, he was joking and laughing with everybody and generally looked like the player we expected to see last fall. And oh, by the way, he looks really fast. He just outran people out there.

*I loved what I saw out of the quarterbacks – the ball comes out of Watson’s hand so easy, even if his windup looked a little long. I am sure Chad Morris will tighten it up a little bit, but even Ryan admitted that you don’t mess too much with a talent like Watson.

Chad Kelly was also impressive during the drills I watched – there is no denying he has a little extra zip on the ball right now, and he was very accurate during the drills. He also looks good running the ball, something we couldn’t say last fall after his surgery. I fully expect the quarterback battle to last well into the fall.

Nikki Steele observations

*Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt made it known from the very beginning of practice that he was ready to be a leader. He led the offensive players onto the field and rallied them before the stretching period. He also raced out to the center of the indoor practice facility field to lead the entire team in stretching drills. I was able to watch an entire period of quarterback drills that was focused entirely on throwing – no foot movement at all except walking.

Sophomore Chad Kelly appeared to have the strongest arm as far as putting zip on the ball and was the most accurate with his throws. Keep in mind though that the throws were to stationary trainers and were never over 20 yards. Stoudt was very fluid in his motions and seemed very loose during drills. Freshman Deshuan Watson seemed to be a little timid as would be expected with this being his first day of practice on the college level.

*Jordan Leggett appears to have added a little bulk. He has added some size to what was once a tall, lanky frame.

*Kurt Fleming – the former Atlanta Braves prospect – could very well be the big back that Clemson has been missing, but has a long ways to go in perfecting his footwork and technique.

*I watched a good bit of defensive line drills where the linemen were supposed to navigate through a series of tackling dummies without using their hands. The first thing that I noticed is that there is no lack of confidence coming from Vic Beasley as he put his on spin on the drill – using his signature dip and rip several times. Shaq Lawson picked up right where he left off in his freshman season. Redshirt freshman Ebenezer Ogundeko definitely looks the part. He benefitted from a redshirt season, adding weight and working on his technique.

*One of my favorite parts of practice was watching the defensive players go through a drill where the trainers would put two to four footballs on top of cones five yards apart down each sideline. Coach Marion Hobby would get a group of five up to the line and make them do three up-downs and tell them the direction to go and the people who didn’t get a ball had to go do 10 up-downs before they could get back in line. And, it didn’t matter if another player got there first, they could knock each other down to get the ball.

And, that’s just what Ben Boulware did. Stephone Anthony got to the football first, but Boulware barreled in and knocked Anthony to the ground jarring the ball loose. Boulware picked it up, leaving Anthony to perform the up-downs. Anthony tried to plead his case to defensive backs coach Mike Reed, but he was having none of it and simply praised Boulware for not giving up.

*Marcus Edmond was another that wasn’t scared of a little contact, making sure that he didn’t have to pay the price for being last.

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com