Wednesday, March 26, 2014 5:46 PM
One-on-one battles highlight early portion of Wednesday's practice
by David Hood
Senior Writer

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said after Monday’s practice that many of his players seemed to think they were still on spring break. The guess here is that most of them won’t feel that way after an intense, physical early portion of Wednesday’s practice.

The media was allowed to watch the first 45 minutes or so of the practice, which was highlighted by the “W” drill and one-on-one matchups that were called out by the coaches.

To begin the one-on-one matchups, Swinney screamed out, ‘Kyrin Priester, come get you some!’ Swinney then looked over at the defense and screamed, ‘Jayron Kearse, get out here!’ Those two locked up in a battle that lasted 20 seconds or more before Kearse took Priester to the ground.

Other fun matchups were Tyrone Crowder against Scott Pagano, Kevin Dodd against Shaq Anthony, Ebenezer Ogundeko against Jay Jay McCullough, Jordan Leggett against Stephone Anthony and Grady Jarrett against Isaiah Battle.

I have to be honest, that was a lot of fun to watch, especially seeing big Grady go mano y mano against Battle. Swinney started that round of drills by calling out Priester and Kearse, but after that would ask Chad Morris who he wanted and then ask Brent Venables his choice. With the coaches screaming and the players yelling and the on-lookers adding their voice to the din, those drills were the highlight of the time allotted to the media.

For the record, Leggett held his own against Anthony for more than a few seconds and the Ebo-Jay Jay battle was a contest of wills.

*During the “W” drills, I was actually pleased to see Spencer Region more than hold his own against Josh Watson. Both players brought a little attitude to the drill.

Another fiery competitor in the “W” drill was freshman defensive back MacKensie Alexander, who wants to be out there every play and every drill. It’s obvious he still needs a lot of coaching, but former defensive back Michael Hamlin looks like he has taken Alexander under his wing and is there for a word of encouragement every time Alexander walks off the field.

Kearse, who looks like a linebacker, was absolutely destroying people during the “W” drill. Whenever he ran into a receiver, it sounded like an offensive lineman hitting a defensive lineman. It was also during that same drill that Stephone Anthony hit an offensive lineman so hard that I thought one of their helmets shattered. After burying the lineman in the ground, Anthony jumped up and was swarmed by his teammates.

*The early portion of practice was spent on special teams, and Daniel Rodriguez and Adrien Dunn both spent a lot of time at punt return. I know that Swinney has spoken favorably of the improvement that Rodriguez has made since last season, but it’s obvious in all of the drills that the Purple Heart recipient is doing everything he can do to get on the field.

*Morris was putting all three quarterbacks through running and passing drills and the offensive line from left to right was Battle, Eric Mac Lain, Reid Webster, Tyrone Crowder and Kalon Davis. Webster is seeing a lot of time at center because starter Ryan Norton injured his shoulder.

Cole Stoudt was his usual accurate self, but just looks bigger than he has at any time since he’s been at Clemson. As it turns out he is 6-5. 230 pounds, but still moves well despite the added weight. In fact, he just looks like a big time quarterback.

Chad Kelly showed no signs that his knee is bothering him. His burst through the line on certain running plays reminded me of how he looked last spring before he injured the knee. But don’t think he’s all about the run – he made several nice throws, including a 50-yarder to Mike Williams.

Deshaun Watson and Demarre Kitt hooked up on the same pattern, but Kitt stumbled and dropped the pass at the last minute. Watson also looked better than he did a few weeks ago on the short throws, and it’s obvious he is getting more and more comfortable with his new environment and the pace of practice.

*An interested observer was 5-star quarterback prospect Torrance Gibson, who is making the rounds right now. Gibson has visited Auburn, LSU and Oklahoma this week, and he spent a lot of time watching the quarterbacks.

*Author Lou Sahadi was also at the practice. Sahadi has written books about Willie Mays and Johnny Unitas, but also wrote the book “The Clemson Tigers: From 1896 to Glory.” That book took a deeper look at the Clemson program and the National Championship season.

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com