|by David Hood|
Hopper caught 23 passes last season, but still averaged 18.6 yards a catch. Just before the team departed for spring break, Swinney raved about Hopper, saying he was “electric.”
“We have a focus issue with G-Hop,” Swinney said after Monday’s practice. “He won’t be with us the rest of the spring. Good young man. Talented. But not very focused or committed to doing what he needs to do academically. So I have given him some time to go focus at Vickery Hall. That is what he is going to be focus on the couple of weeks.”
Swinney was asked if it was the same type of “sabbatical” that Swinney gave defensive back Garry Peters last spring, and he laughed and said yes.
“I had forgotten about that,” he said. “We will call it “The Garry Peters get with the program message.’ That is the perfect title. That is what it is, and this will hopefully help him grow up a little bit. That’s all it takes sometimes. Sometimes these guys need a little help getting focused. Hopefully he will come back – if he does what we ask him to do – he will come back with a little better appreciation for his opportunity and a little different attitude. He certainly can be a great player, but he has to buy in and that is up to him. If he wants to be a part of the program, then he will do it. Otherwise he won’t be here.”
Swinney said that freshman Deshaun Watson has already made an impression.
“He is, boy, after six practices, to know that he’s a true freshman, he’s going to be special,” Swinney said. “No doubt about it, clearly, he’s got all the qualities you could ever want in a young quarterback in particular.”
Swinney credited Watson’s coaches at Gainesville High School for preparing him for college.
“He’s had great training in high school, has a really good foundation for the little things at the position, like ball handling,” Swinney said. “He is a smooth operator. It’s natural for him. He’s been doing it a long time. Very impressed with him, but he’s got a long way to go, but he has improved every single day. You can just see his command, he studies. I mean, he is a bookworm when it comes to studying his responsibility in this offense.”
Swinney said that Watson has even received first-team reps this spring, but most of the first-team work has gone to veterans Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly.
“We’ve done a little bit of everything, but they’ve all responded well. They’re all competing,” Swinney said. “It’s a fun - I got their grade report today - I look at their grade report and guess what? It’s amazing what competition will do. They’re competing academically too, and that’s what you love about it.”
Ryan Norton’s shoulder
“We did an MRI on it just to make sure he was ok. He just tweaked it, and there was some inflammation in there. We will shut him down for a couple of days and just make sure he is ok.”
Running back rotation
“D.J. Howard has been outstanding, and we need him. We need some leadership at that position. He and Zac (Brooks) and C.J. (Davidson) and (Wayne) Gallman have kind of split the work at the ones and twos. Zac and D.J. have gotten the majority of the work, and we’ve gotten Gallman in there, too. We go fast and play a lot of snaps and they are all getting their fair share of touches.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org