Uiagalelei (5) and Klubnik (2) throw during practice this week.
Uiagalelei (5) and Klubnik (2) throw during practice this week.

State of the Program: Swinney delivers his thoughts on spring practice to date

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Head coach Dabo Swinney gave his State of the Program Address Wednesday night, and it’s obvious that he thinks his team is in good shape after the first third of the spring.

The Tigers have completed five practices and Wednesday’s practice was the first live work of the spring. Swinney said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen.

“It's been really good. We've been relatively healthy which has been good,” Swinney said. “Today (Wednesday) was kind of the first time we've gotten in some live work, five days in. So, it's good to see that. A lot of competition. A lot of energy. I love how the staff has settled in and we are getting done what we need to get done.”

On DJ Uiagalelei

“He's been great. Today was probably as good a practice as he's ever had at Clemson. He was 16-of-18 today. I thought he finished well. From a confidence standpoint, he looks great and the guys are doing a good job around him as well. He made some really good plays today. He has been excellent.”

On if Cade Klubnik reminds him of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence

“Rinse and repeat. The same type of deal. Very, very sharp. He is getting a ton of work with the twos (second team) and he's really responded well. He is a natural. He is everything we thought he was. He has put on some weight since he got here, he's close to 190. He will be 200-plus by the time we get to August. Very similar to Deshaun. If you took a picture of Deshaun Watson when he got here in January and you put them side-by-side, they are like clones. Body types. Weight. You name it. The whole deal. I am excited about where he is and how he's responded.”

On the quarterbacks as a whole

“It's been really good. That room has gotten healthy quickly. We are in a much better spot than where we were last year. And I am proud of Billy Wiles. He is a really good player. And Hunter Helms. And we have Hunter Johnson still coming, so a really good situation there.”

On Phil Mafah

“Mafah is the man this spring. He has really handled that well. He has looked very. very good. I am really pleased with how he has stepped into that role and it's been great for him. He is that guy that never really got a chance to be the guy. So what he's getting exposed to this spring, I think it will serve us well when we get everyone back. We have a chance to be a really special group.”

On Payton Page and the defensive line as a whole

“He is making a move. He has really made some strides. He has his body in a great spot and he's playing fast. He is playing with great technique. He shows up every day. That whole group, you can't help but notice them. It's been really good because we can kind of control the reps. We have a lot of veteran guys and those four defensive ends, they are all kind of working with the ones because we need to get Cade (Denhoff) and Zaire (Patterson) and Kevin (Swint) all that work with the twos. Inside it's the same thing. Tyler and Ruke have played a lot of ball and they are getting what they need, but it's been awesome to see Payton Page and DeMonte Capehart getting work and coming on. And then ET (Etinosa Reuben) how he finished last year, we are really developing the type of championship depth that you have to have.”

On the corners

“I really like where we are with that group right. Toriano (Pride) is as advertised. Jeadyn Lukus the same thing. Both of those kids are going to help us. It's a really talented group. We have Myles (Oliver) coming in here. (Andrew) Mukuba has played some corner as well. We are in a better spot than we were this time last year, all the way around.”

The right tackle competition

“We are mixing things up there. We are moving some things around. Mitchell (Mayes) has been in there some and (Bryn) Tucker has been in there. Dietrick (Pennington) is a guy that we think when it's all said and done will be a factor in there. He is not going live but is doing a lot of team stuff. And big John Williams got some reps with the first team today and did a good job.”

On Aidan Swanson and the punting competition

“Fine. He is doing fine. The guy that is standing out right now is BT Potter. He is trying to be (Chris) Gardocki I guess. He wants to compete and he's been really good. Jack (Smith), as you can expect, it's always that way when punters and kickers show up. BT couldn't kick it in the ocean when he first got here. It's just a chance and all that stuff and it’s a little different deal. Jack is going to be a good one but we need to get back outside to get him some work. But BT has been amazing. That has been a pleasant surprise.”

On the wide receivers and return of Brannon Spector

“We are going to have ten on scholarship. It's been a long time since we've had ten that we've signed. I am really excited. We don't have EJ (Williams) out there, we don't have Will Taylor out there, we don't have Antonio (Williams) and we don't have Cole Turner because those guys will join us this summer. But what we've got has been really fun. Spec looks really great. You forget how fast and explosive he is. We are doing a good job of creating depth and cross-training guys. I feel like I say this every year, and you are almost afraid to say anything, but the guy that has stood out has been (Joseph) Ngata. He has been unbelievable. He looks like a pro and is practicing like a pro and is making plays like a pro. Hopefully it will be that way when we get to the fall because he is so talented. But the last two years have been incredibly difficult. It's a lot of fun to see him have a smile on his face and he has a sense of urgency to him. “

Competition at linebacker

“I really like Trenton (Simpson) at the WILL right now. We are getting him a great foundation. Those guys, no matter who runs out there first this year, we have guys that probably more than any other year will see a lot of playing time. It's very similar to our defensive end situation. We have some dudes. And it's going to be fun to see that competition and performance on game day. I am confident in any of those guys. I am not ready to say that one guy is the guy right now.

“We are going to be really fast and really athletic at linebacker. Really fast. And when it's all said and done it's going to be an incredibly knowledgeable group. These guys have been around. We will be very fast and very athletic and with the guys we have up front, hopefully that will make their lives a little bit easier. We have a lot of options, probably more than we've had in quite a while.”

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