One-on-one battles highlight early portion of Wednesday's practice

by - Senior Writer -
D.J. Howard tries to run through a tackle by Stephone Anthony.
D.J. Howard tries to run through a tackle by Stephone Anthony.

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney Dabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said after Monday’s practice that many of his players seemed to think they were still on spring break. The guess here is that most of them won’t feel that way after an intense, physical early portion of Wednesday’s practice.

The media was allowed to watch the first 45 minutes or so of the practice, which was highlighted by the “W” drill and one-on-one matchups that were called out by the coaches.

To begin the one-on-one matchups, Swinney screamed out, ‘ Kyrin PriesterKyrin Priester
Fr. Wide Receiver
#17 6-2, 190
Lilburn, GA

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, come get you some!’ Swinney then looked over at the defense and screamed, ‘ Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
So. Safety
#20 6-4, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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, get out here!’ Those two locked up in a battle that lasted 20 seconds or more before Kearse took Priester to the ground.

Other fun matchups were Tyrone CrowderTyrone Crowder
RS Fr. Offensive Line
#55 6-2, 325
Marston, NC

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against Scott PaganoScott Pagano
RS Fr. Defensive Tackle
#56 6-4, 280
Honolulu, HI

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, Kevin DoddKevin Dodd
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#98 6-4, 280
Taylors, SC

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against Shaq AnthonyShaq Anthony
RS Jr. Offensive Tackle
#76 6-3, 265
Williamston, SC

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, Ebenezer OgundekoEbenezer Ogundeko
RS Fr. Outside Linebacker
#1 6-3, 230
Brooklyn, NY

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against Jay Jay McCulloughJay Jay McCullough
RS So. Tight End
#89 6-3, 230
Fort Mill, SC

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, Jordan LeggettJordan Leggett
So. Tight End
#16 6-6, 235
Navarre, FL

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against Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
Sr. Linebacker
#42 6-2, 235
Polkton, NC

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and Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
Sr. Defensive Tackle
#50 6-1, 290
Conyers, GA

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against Isaiah BattleIsaiah Battle
Jr. Offensive Tackle
#79 6-6, 280
Brooklyn, NY

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I have to be honest, that was a lot of fun to watch, especially seeing big Grady go mano y mano against Battle. Swinney started that round of drills by calling out Priester and Kearse, but after that would ask Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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who he wanted and then ask Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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his choice. With the coaches screaming and the players yelling and the on-lookers adding their voice to the din, those drills were the highlight of the time allotted to the media.

For the record, Leggett held his own against Anthony for more than a few seconds and the Ebo-Jay Jay battle was a contest of wills.

*During the “W” drills, I was actually pleased to see Spencer RegionSpencer Region
RS Jr. Offensive Guard
#74 64, 350
Cullman, AL

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more than hold his own against Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS Sr. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 285
Wilmington, DE

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. Both players brought a little attitude to the drill.

Another fiery competitor in the “W” drill was freshman defensive back MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
RS Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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, who wants to be out there every play and every drill. It’s obvious he still needs a lot of coaching, but former defensive back Michael HamlinMichael Hamlin
Safety (2004 - 2008)
#25 6-3, 205
Lamar, SC

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looks like he has taken Alexander under his wing and is there for a word of encouragement every time Alexander walks off the field.

Kearse, who looks like a linebacker, was absolutely destroying people during the “W” drill. Whenever he ran into a receiver, it sounded like an offensive lineman hitting a defensive lineman. It was also during that same drill that Stephone Anthony hit an offensive lineman so hard that I thought one of their helmets shattered. After burying the lineman in the ground, Anthony jumped up and was swarmed by his teammates.

*The early portion of practice was spent on special teams, and Daniel RodriguezDaniel Rodriguez
RS Jr. Wide Receiver
#83 5-8, 175
Stafford, VA

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and Adrien Dunn both spent a lot of time at punt return. I know that Swinney has spoken favorably of the improvement that Rodriguez has made since last season, but it’s obvious in all of the drills that the Purple Heart recipient is doing everything he can do to get on the field.

*Morris was putting all three quarterbacks through running and passing drills and the offensive line from left to right was Battle, Eric Mac LainEric Mac Lain
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#78 6-3, 260
Hope Mills, NC

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, Reid WebsterReid Webster
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#77 6-4, 285
Woodstock, GA

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, Tyrone Crowder and Kalon DavisKalon Davis
RS Sr. Offensive Guard
#67 6-5, 330
Chester, SC

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. Webster is seeing a lot of time at center because starter Ryan NortonRyan Norton
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#58 6-3, 270
Simpsonville, SC

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injured his shoulder.

Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
Sr. Quarterback
#18 6-4, 205
Dublin, OH

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was his usual accurate self, but just looks bigger than he has at any time since he’s been at Clemson. As it turns out he is 6-5. 230 pounds, but still moves well despite the added weight. In fact, he just looks like a big time quarterback.

Chad KellyChad Kelly
RS So. Quarterback
#11 6-2, 210
Buffalo, NY

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showed no signs that his knee is bothering him. His burst through the line on certain running plays reminded me of how he looked last spring before he injured the knee. But don’t think he’s all about the run – he made several nice throws, including a 50-yarder to Mike WilliamsMike Williams
So. Wide Receiver
#7 6-5, 205
Vance, SC

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Deshaun WatsonDeshaun Watson
Fr. Quarterback
#4 6-3, 190
Gainesville, GA

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and Demarre KittDemarre Kitt
Fr. Wide Receiver
#8 6-1, 195
Tyrone, GA

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hooked up on the same pattern, but Kitt stumbled and dropped the pass at the last minute. Watson also looked better than he did a few weeks ago on the short throws, and it’s obvious he is getting more and more comfortable with his new environment and the pace of practice.

*An interested observer was 5-star quarterback prospect Torrance Gibson, who is making the rounds right now. Gibson has visited Auburn, LSU and Oklahoma this week, and he spent a lot of time watching the quarterbacks.

*Author Lou Sahadi was also at the practice. Sahadi has written books about Willie Mays and Johnny Unitas, but also wrote the book “The Clemson Tigers: From 1896 to Glory.” That book took a deeper look at the Clemson program and the National Championship season.

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