|by David Hood|
Wednesday’s practice was the first in full pads for the Tigers, the full uniforms replacing the shells and shorts worn in the first four practices. Wednesday’s practice started with the vaunted PAW drills, with offensive and defensive linemen, running backs and linebackers on one end of the indoor practice facility with defensive backs, tight ends and wide receivers on the other.
The result was the kind of controlled pandemonium and chaos that marks the real beginning of fall football and Wednesday’s drills didn’t disappoint.
The first offensive group up was Joe Gore, Kalon Davis, Isaiah Battle and C.J. Davidson. It took Davidson two downs to break through for a score, running over both the left and right side. Davidson also scored on his second attempt in the drill.
After being beaten on the first two drills, the defense stepped up and Stephone Anthony quickly let redshirt freshmen running back Wayne Gallman know it by not only stuffing him on a run attempt, but then picking him up and throwing him to the ground. Gallman didn’t run to Anthony’s side after the encounter, instead scoring on the right side of the line. Gallman had his highlight moment when he leapt over Ben Boulware and raced for the endzone.
One of the highlight moments was freshmen Adam Choice’s first time participating in the PAW drill. Choice showed great burst out of the backfield and once he got close to the endzone he simply used his 5-10, 200-pound frame to bowl over All-American Vic Beasley for the score.
C.J. Fuller showed why he was one of the most explosive running backs in the state of South Carolina - he was strong and explosive during the PAW drill, at one point just running over Jabril Robinson.
Kurt Fleming had his moment when he split Dane Rogers and Jabril Robinson – running through the both of them – for the score.
Stanford transfer David Olson showed leadership - every time it was his turn to participate in the drill, he was constantly supporting and encouraging his linemen and running back.
After the PAW drill, Battle was a little gimpy with an apparent ankle injury and didn’t participate in any further activities while we were allowed to watch. He was trying to stretch his leg out, but was in apparent pain. With Battle, not participating, Kalon Davis moved to left tackle and Reid Webster played left guard. Tyrone Crowder then played right guard.
Battle spent time hydrating and working with trainer Danny Poole after the injury.
Christian Groomes, a walk-on kicker from Central (SC) Daniel looked good during special teams drills, hitting on every one of his kicks.
Watching the special teams drills gave us a little insight into who the coaches are giving a chance at punt returner. MacKensie Alexander, Adam Humphries, Adrien Dunn and Martin Jenkins were returning punts. Alexander – the redshirt freshman defensive back out of Immokalee (FL) - was explosive and is quick to turn up field after catching the ball. One downside is that he resembled Sammy Watkins (at times) by high-pointing the ball when catching punts. Other times, he caught it closer to his body. Jenkins showed that he is fully healthy this season with a quick burst up the field. He was 30 yards up field before anyone knew it, leaving one player to remark, “That’s who we need back returning punts.”
Robert Smith showed what a team leader he has become during special teams drills. He was on the sidelines with his group constantly asking what the call on the field was and coaching his group up – talking inside and outside technique and how to trail players.
For the first time since we’ve been allowed to watch practice over the last four years, Chad Morris applauded his offense’s tempo during the “Tempo” period, saying that Deshaun Watson’s group executed with, “Good tempo.” Watson once again showed his ability to throw on the on the run and make all of the throws that he was asked to make.
Scouts on hand
Scouts from several NFL teams were in attendance, including two each from the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans and individual scouts from the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
Another interested observer was former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, the father of quarterback Cole Stoudt. Don’t think, however, that Stoudt spent his entire time watching Cole. Like any football guy, he watched all of the position groups go through drills.
I don’t get caught up in the freshmen too much – who knows how much they can contribute or will play – but every time I watch the running backs Adam Choice just jumps out at me. Physically, he looks like he is ready to play, and he was better than I expected catching the ball out of the backfield as the team ran some wheel routes.
Choice has quick feet for a man his size, and if any of the upperclassmen felt complacent about their spot on the depth chart all they have to do is look at Choice. Considering that Clemson has four experienced guys ready to go and will get Tyshon Dye back at some point, I don’t know where Choice fits. But does he look like he can play now from a physical standpoint? Absolutely.
During one of the drills, Tony Elliott ran a drill where the put a big mat on the ground. As the running backs were running forward, former Clemson player Roscoe Crosby would try and strip the ball out while throwing the players to the ground. Later in the drill, Elliott had a long stick with a big boxing glove on the end of it, and he would try to knock the ball out while Crosby worked at stripping the football.
Watched freshman safety Jefferie Gibson for a while during the last part of practice, and he’s so tall and lanky he reminds me of Jayron Kearse when Kearse first arrived. During early drills, he dropped a few passes and was seen doing up-downs to the delight of his teammates.
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com