Spring Practice Observations: Justyn Ross as "Colonel Mustard" leads the way

by - Senior Writer -
Dabo Swinney points out
Dabo Swinney points out "Colonel Mustard" to me

CLEMSON – A sunny day on the Clemson practice fields, watching Colonel Mustard in the conservatory.

For the first time in a year, a few media members were allowed to observe the early part of the Tigers’ spring practice, and head coach Dabo Swinney was a happy man with wide receiver Justyn Ross back at practice, even if he is wearing a yellow (non contact) jersey.

During the last part of our viewing window, I was taking pictures of Ross when I heard Swinney call my name. He pointed to Ross and yelled, “That’s Colonel Mustard, and he’s in the conservatory! You know, because he’s in yellow!!”

That of course is a reference to the game Clue. Yes, Swinney is in a really good mood.

As for Ross, he was running routes with ease and even took part in punt return drills with no obvious issues. When he’s out there, he just has that swagger that says he’s the best player on the field. If the Tigers get Ross cleared and he’s able to play this season, watch out.

Other observations:

*Quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Brandon Streeter spent several minutes with D.J. Uiagalelei during the early stretching periods of practice. Streeter had his play sheets in his hand and was in deep conversation with Uiagalelei, who took it all in.

*New student coach Blake Vinson was active during practice with the offensive line.

*Tyler Clements and Tyler Grisham walked out on the practice field together video calling someone, most likely a recruit. If recruits aren’t allowed to visit, a video call before the start of practice is the next best thing.

*Backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh, tight end Jaelyn Lay, running back Mikey Dukes, and cornerback Sheridan Jones were missing from practice but I was told they are still part of the program and on the team, but “unavailable.” In the age of COVID, it’s easy to read what that means.

*Safety Lannden Zanders and linebacker Baylon Spector are out this spring and they weren’t dressed out, but did spend time jogging around the perimeter of the field.

*Brannon Spector, Tre Williams, Regan Upshaw, Jordan McFadden, and Frank Ladson were in yellow jerseys, while Davis Allen and Chez Mellusi were in green jerseys.

*The early part of practice saw Will Swinney, Will Shipley and Ross at punt return. Seeing Shipley in person (finally), it was obvious he’s thicker in his lower body than I remembered. He is smooth in punt return and even had one “return” where he changed direction four or five times as he tried to outrun the coverage.

*Aidan Swanson’s left-footed punts are a thing of beauty, and Will Spiers was hitting some monster shots.

Lemanski Hall and Mickey Conn worked with the punt team, replacing Danny Pearman. Tyler Grisham and C.J. Spiller coached punt return. Dabo Swinney, as he has in the past, took extra time to also work with the punt returners.

*Wide receiver Joe Ngata looks thicker than he did at any point last season.

*Running backs - Kobe Pace looks lighter, but stronger. He has a great first step. Just watching and comparing the running backs as they went through drills, nobody had an explosive first step like Lyn-J Dixon, but Shipley has a good one. However, it was Pace who was the first running back out with Uiagalelei when the offense started running reps.

*A year in the weight room paid off for Sage Ennis looks more physically developed than last year. Along those lines, Jake Brinigstool will benefit from a full offseason in the weight room to get to where the rest of the tight end group is physically.

*Freshman Dacari Collins showed impressive speed during individual drills and at 6-5, his height is the first thing you notice. He appears to be a head taller than all of the other wideouts in his group. It’s fun to watch Swinney spend extra time with the “Collins Towers”, Beaux and Dacari. Both have talent and look polished.

*There were just four cornerbacks while I was watching - Fred Davis, Andrew Booth, Nathaniel Wiggins, and Mario Goodrich. Malcolm Greene had surgery and is out.

*New running backs coach CJ Spiller looks like he’s been coaching his entire life. He’s played in the NFL and it’s obvious his guys listen to him.

*I saw an NFL scout earlier who told me that Clemson’s receivers ran “more polished” routes last season, especially Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell, and credited another former NFL guy ,Grisham, with the development.

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