Travis Etienne escapes a tackle during Thursday's W drill.
Travis Etienne escapes a tackle during Thursday's W drill.

Hot weather, injuries, and the W Drill: Fall camp heats up with physical competition

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Hot, steamy weather and the W drill. Welcome to August camp.

The Clemson football team practiced early Thursday morning, and the last period the media was allowed to watch centered on the W drill, which features two linemen facing off, a linebacker on a lineman, and a defensive back on a wide receiver.

We have a bunch of news and notes to pass along, so let’s get started. We will have head Dabo Swinney after practice today.

*The early portion of the session was spent on special teams, and kicker BT Potter was drilling kicks from all over the field. He attempted a 37-yarder that was not only good, it cleared the blue scissor lift behind the goal post and went another 25-30 yards. Would have been good from 60-plus, and I noticed three or four that had that distance.

*Wide receiver Tee Higgins was in a green (limited) jersey and defensive back Derion Kendrick was in a yellow (non-contact) jersey. Still in yellow jerseys are tight end Davis Allen, wide receiver Amari Rodgers, and linebacker Bryton Constantin. Linebacker Jake Venables was in yellow, defensive lineman Nyles Pinckney was in green and tight end Luke Price was in green.

*During the W drill, running back Lyn-J Dixon took two of his long strides into a small hole and raced through without being touched. Those strides and his burst are deadly in the open field, and it will be fun to see how much he’s progressed after a summer in the weight room.

*Logan Rudolph looks like he’s running with the first team at one defensive end spot, and he was one of the early winners in the drill. He shed an offensive lineman and stepped into the hole, stopping the running back in his tracks.

*Linebacker Regan Upshaw isn’t someone we hear a lot about, but twice he shed linemen to make easy tackles on the running backs.

*Running back Mikey Dukes had one really good run, splitting between two defenders for a nice gain, but was stripped of the ball by Joseph Charleston on the next run.

*Running back Chez Mellusi also had a good morning – there is no doubt that he doesn’t mind lowering his head and initiating contact. He is also elusive enough to break away when he has to. He already looks 10 times better than he did the first day.

*Running back Travis Etienne makes everything look easy. There is no doubt – even in the drills – who the top dog happens to be. He just seems to have a confidence and swagger that are hard to miss, and the fact that he’s also a little bigger helps.

*Linebacker Kane Patterson twice shed a blocker with one arm and made a tackle on the running back with the other arm. Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables has said that he is looking for hitters, and he’s got one in Patterson.

*Another linebacker that impressed was Baylon Spector – he makes you take notice when he pops somebody.

*Defensive lineman Xavier Kelly was pushing people around. He looks like a guy who is pushing for a starting spot, and at times made it look easy.

*Defensive end Justin Mascoll is another guy to watch. You could tell during the spring game that he has every tool to be great, and it looks like he’s comfortable. He kind of reminds me of Kevin Dodd, but more of a young Clelin Ferrell.

*Out of the offensive linemen, Jordan McFadden continues to make strides. He will be a part of that line rotation this season.

*Freshman Will Putnam has the size and he really impressed me the few reps I saw.

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