Spring Practice Observations: Freshman linebacker Sammy Brown looks the part
Sammy Brown works through a drill (Photo by Merrell Mann).

Spring Practice Observations: Freshman linebacker Sammy Brown looks the part

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CLEMSON – Rain moved most of Clemson’s initial spring practice indoors, but it didn’t dampen the proceedings as the Tigers officially kicked off the 2024 football season.

We were allowed a six-period viewing session – about 45 minutes – and we have some news and notes to pass along.

*Clemson rolled out three teams on offense during one tempo drill, and we caught the first couple of teams' personnel:

First team: QB - Cade Klubnik. RB - Phil Mafah. OL (L-R) - Tristan Leigh, Collin Sadler, Ryan Linthicum, Marcus Tate, Blake Miller. TE - Jake Briningstool. WR - Antonio Williams, Troy Stellato, Adam Randall.

Second team: QB - Christopher Vizzina. RB - Keith Adams Jr. OL (L-R) - Ian Reed, Dietrick Pennington, Harris Sewell, Trent Howard, Zack Owens. TE - Josh Sapp. WR - Cole Turner, Ronan Hanafin, Misun Kelley.

Some third team: Jarvis Green at RB, Mason Wade at offensive tackle.

*Wide receiver Noble Johnson, who was involved in a car accident on campus a few weeks ago, will miss the spring according to head coach Dabo Swinney. It is not punishment-related but injury-related. Johnson was in a jersey but wearing a walking boot.

*New offensive line coach Matt Luke was working with the field goal unit.

*Clemson legend Levon Kirkland, who is now working with the team as the Football Name, Image & Likeness Coordinator, was at practice with a notepad and pen. Spoke with him briefly and he said he’s excited about the opportunity.

*I noticed a little something different, and I need to ask the next time we get to talk to a coach, but long snappers Holden Caspersen and Philip Florenzo were working with the linebackers. Usually, the specialists find a corner and watch the proceedings, but both were working out with Wes Goodwin during drills.

*Speaking of the linebackers – that is a good-looking group. Dee Crayton came across the field wearing that No. 22 I am used to seeing Trenton Simpson wearing, and at 6-2, 225 he looks the part. You can tell he has really worked on changing his body since last summer.

And let me just say this….freshman linebacker Sammy Brown is impressive. During one drill, his explosiveness was on full display when they came out from under a blocking shade, and he chased a fumbled ball. One observer turned to me, and we smiled at each other, and he said, “That cat is just different.”

Swinney told us that Wade Woodaz will start out at the MIKE linebacker spot, and it will be interesting to see how much Brown improves and learns the defense this spring.

*Over along the offensive line, there was a drill where the linemen grab each other around the collar and move side to side. Pennington (6-5, 340) and Owens (6-6, 375) were working with each other, which was impressive. Owens is one huge human being, but he’s fast and agile. They have high, high hopes for him.

Also in personnel groupings, Antonio Williams, Stellato, Kelley, Chase Byrd, Peyton Streko and Jackson Crosby were back in return drills.

*It’s the first day for everybody out there. Not long after Swinney lauded Briningstool as a potential star this season, he walked over to a drill for contact after the catch, and Briningstool dropped the first toss his way in sight of his head coach. Briningstool recovered to complete the drill on his second try, though.

*Freshman wide receiver Bryant Wesco does look on the smaller side, as billed at 6-2 170, but it’s not hard to see the speed he brings to the group.

*Didn’t look like Trent Pearman was participating in drills today, so no competition behind Klubnik. Student coach and 2023 third-stringer Paul Tyson was not suited up, but he was throwing in drills alongside the QBs in a t-shirt.

Also, intern Brooks Thomason attended his first practice and had some observations of his own.

*I saw two different coaching styles from the two new coaches. Luke: More relaxed, working the intangibles. Rumph: Electric, really hyping up the players.

*Wesco dropped two passes but looked sharp on his routes.

*Flapjack (Owens) is a big guy and can move his feet laterally very well.

*In DL drills, Tré Williams was strong, while Peter Woods was as quick as can be at his size.

There are a couple of yellow jerseys, surgery guys, notable like Tyler Brown going through warm-ups, but his surgery has him still out.

*Cade (Klubnik) running the hurry-up offense. Good throw to the corner and some good offensive movement. It's the same running style. (Christopher) Vizzina with a low throw to the corner and low down the middle. Both completions, but some low throws near receivers' knees.

*Tight ends are focused on step-through blocking.

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