Swinney says Tigers would have gotten "smashed" in real game, but he sees progress

by - Senior Writer -
Uiagalelei (5) and Phommachanh (7) took the majority of the snaps in Friday's scrimmage.
Uiagalelei (5) and Phommachanh (7) took the majority of the snaps in Friday's scrimmage.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was pleased with a lot of the things he saw in Friday’s stadium scrimmage, but as the team prepares for next week’s spring game, he knows there are still several areas where the team needs to improve.

The Tigers scrimmaged for two hours in Death Valley Friday afternoon, and Swinney said he was pleased with the running game but also knows the Tigers would have gotten “smashed” had they played an actual opponent.

"I love how we ran the ball. Super impressed with our running backs," Swinney said. "A lot of big plays. Did not think our mindset was where it needed to be as far as stopping the run. But then the defense kind of flipped the script and created some turnovers in the red zone. They created a safety coming off the goal line. We had a couple of interceptions and a fumble recovery. We had way too many critical penalties on offense. A bad snap in the red zone. Both of our offenses won the day in the two-minute drill. Won the two-minute with a B.T. Potter field goal. Worked on every phase of special teams today. Very thorough practice.

"The effort was good but we would have gotten smashed today with the mistakes. Too many critical penalties. Too many missed tackles. Had some bad mistakes in the red zone with some details in those situational things. So lots of mistakes. Way too many mistakes to be able to win. We are repping three groups, repping everybody so sometimes that adds up. Seeing a lot of positive things from the offensive line. Really pleased with the depth we are developing there."

Swinney said all of the running backs made an impression (Lyn-J Dixon didn’t play).

"They all made plays and ran tough and physical. We emphasized the run today offensively. Really wanted to challenge our defense,” Swinney said. “I thought they were tough. We had some guys make some big, big, long plays. Every single one of them showed up today. Not one of them disappointed. There is a lot of competition at the position. That's a group that has a chance to be special."

The offensive line continues to perform well.

"Matt Bockhorst hasn't been doing any live work, so Paul Tchio has been our starter at left guard. It's been great for him. Bock has worked guard and center with all of our team separate install stuff. Big John Williams is making a lot of progress. Bryn Tucker is coming on,” Swinney said. “Trent Howard got mono but we have a high hopes for him. Marcus Tate has really impressed. Walker Parks is a new starter and he's not done anything to dampen the enthusiasm that we have for him as a player; he has a chance to be a really special tackle for us. Jordan McFadden has been great; Will Putnam.

“Without Bock going live, we've mixed guys. Hunter Rayburn had played guard and center, so has Mason Trotter. But Tchio, Tchio has really, really done a great job. Feel good about the functionality of that group. We are not there yet but I feel like by the time we get through camp in August, we'll be back where we used to be and that's having 9, 10, 11 guys that can not just be on a depth chart but go play winning football for us."

Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has shown his youth at times.

"You get reminded quickly he's not been the starter yet outside of a couple of games. We are trying to put him in as many situations and expose him as much as we possibly can so he can grow,” Swinney said. “We need him to grow. He made a couple of critical mistakes today in the red zone that we can't make, whether it be not making the right decision in the run game or not protecting the football. Situational awareness -- don't try to do too much and play within the system."

The coaches are also trying to challenge the backup quarterbacks, including Taisun Phommachanh.

"It was really his first time to scrimmage because he missed the first one before spring break. I love his ability to create,” Swinney said of Phommachanh. “I had challenge him and D.J. today to quit acting like they have a purple jersey on, and really play like it's live. I like some of the plays he made with his legs. He made a couple of nice throws. Had good body language to him. Again, it was his first live scrimmage work in the stadium since the season. It was a solid day-- he had some plays he'd like back. He's got to continue to progress.

"Hunter (Helms) went in there and I thought he did a solid job as well and had a couple of nice plays. But all three of them made mistakes we've got to learn from."

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