Jacksonville, FL -
Clemson held its first of four practices at Jacksonville University’s football facility on Saturday morning, as Dabo Swinney’s team continued preparation for the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl against Nebraska on January 1. It was the first practice for the Tigers since December 22. Clemson will continue practice with a full pads practice on Sunday afternoon.
“It was good to get back to practice and it was a good practice,” said Swinney, who will coach his first bowl game as a head coach on Thursday. “The weather was what the doctor ordered (78 degrees and sunny). We had to bundle up for a lot of practice as Clemson before practice, so it was good to practice in more comfortable conditions.
“Overall, the defense really moved well. They were really getting to the ball and again the secondary made some plays. The offense was a bit behind the defense, but I am sure they will pick up the pace on Sunday. We will have a full pads 18-period practice on Sunday afternoon.”
As has been the case during bowl practices, Swinney had four extra period of practice for young players and other red-shirts.
Clemson was without the services of Landon Walker for Saturday’s practice as he battled a case of the flu. Clemson players were to report on Friday afternoon, but Walker was too sick to make the trip. He was to arrive late Saturday and could be at practice on Sunday.
Walker, a native of North Wilkesboro, NC, started nine games this year at an offensive tackle position, including all four games that Dabo Swinney has won. He has played 614 snaps, second among all Clemson offensive linemen. His father was a member of Clemson’s 1981 National Championship team that playedNebraska in the Orange Bowl.
After practice Swinney extended his condolences to Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini, whose father died on Christmas eve. “I want to send our best wishes and prayers to Coach Pelini in light of the loss of his father this week. It is never easy to deal with the loss of a parent, especially this time of the year.”
Swinney was asked to compare his coaching career with Pelini after practice. “We are both in our first year (although this is Pelini’s second bowl game), we have both finished strong with three consecutive wins. But, he has his reputation as a defensive coach, and his team this year is known for its offense. My history is based in offense, but we have had a top 20 defense this year.
‘I am fine with that. The one national championship I have been associated with was the Alabama team of 1992. That team won it with a great defense.”
There were no serious injuries reported at practice on Saturday. Starting defensive tackle Dorell Scott and wide receiver Xavier Dye had minor knee injuries that limited their play the last few minutes of practice and they did not take part in the post practice conditioning.