Swinney talks early enrollees, redshirts and tight end situation

by - Senior Writer -
Korie Rogers will start the spring second on the depth chart
Korie Rogers will start the spring second on the depth chart

CLEMSON – Clemson kicks off spring practice this afternoon, and we finish up the three-part series from head coach Dabo Swinney Dabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s press conference last Friday.

In this section, Swinney previews the redshirt linebackers, the loss of Kellen JonesKellen Jones
RS Jr. Linebacker
#52 6-1, 233
Houston, TX

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, talks defensive leaders, the early enrollees, tight ends and the countdown clock.

Redshirt linebackers

“Kendall (Joseph) and Korie (Rogers) will start off as our second-team guys at mike and will. Kendall, we almost played last year. Was probably ready to play. Just felt like unless we had to have him, we were confident in the guys we had. But man, he’s a very good football player and I think he’s going to shine this spring. Korie I think is the same way. Those guys will get the first shot. Chris RegisterChris Register
Fr. Outside Linebacker
#45 6-4, 242
Greensboro, NC

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’s another guy that will be in there at mike ‘backer, Jalen WilliamsJalen Williams
Fr. Linebacker
#30 6-0, 215
Blythewood, SC

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will start out at will. Jalen we’ll look at two or three different spots, maybe Nickel/SAM. Then we’ve got the Davises, Chad SmithChad Smith
Fr. Outside Linebacker
# 6-4, 215
Sterling, VA

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and Jalen rolling in here.”

On Kellen Jones

“Kellen Jones just doesn’t want to play anymore. He just wants to graduate and go to grad school. He’s a really smart guy, and he’s just kind of wanting to move on with life. It’s nothing you can help. Those things sometimes happen after spring ball. I have exit interviews with every player post-spring just to make sure we’re on the same page and understand evaluation-wise ‘this is where we see you.’ I think it’s important you do that. It’s honest, and sometimes it’s a conservation about, ‘Hey, listen, you have to keep working, be ready and maybe be a little patient.’ Other times, it’s, “You’re going to be backup, or you’re just not quite good enough or not committed enough.” Whatever. Every now and then you’ll have guys makes decisions after spring where they want more opportunity to play. I’m OK with that. That’s not a problem. We usually don’t have a lot of that, but every now and then we’ll have some guys where they want to transfer down where they can have a little more significant role and things like that. When guys make that decision, that’s OK. My big thing is graduating. That’s the big thing with me.”

Defensive leadership

“That’s our biggest concern on day one is who’s going to do that. Who’s going to be DeShawn? Who’s going to be Grady? Who’s going to be Vic, Corey, Stephone, Robert? Who are those guys? I don’t know. It’s more so defensively than on the offensive side from just a pure leadership standpoint. That’s a big concern for us, and that’s something we work hard on, developing leadership, and I like what I’m seeing. Joey likes what he’s seeing down there on a daily basis, but you just have to go through that process. Post-spring, I’ll probably have some different answers for you. We’re going to look for those opportunities to challenge guys and grow that within our team. But I like our personnel. From year to year, it changes from a depth and experience standpoint. Our four starters right now on the defensive line are all going to be drafted. D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Jr. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-2, 322
Greensboro, NC

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, Carlos WatkinsCarlos Watkins
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#94 6-3, 294
Mooresboro, NC

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, Shaq LawsonShaq Lawson
So. Defensive End
#90 6-3, 269
Central, SC

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and Kevin DoddKevin Dodd
RS So. Defensive End
#98 6-5, 275
Taylors, SC

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. You can just check it. One of these days, their names are going to get called if they don’t get hurt. We have good people, but the difference from last year is all those guys were backups and experienced. This year, the backups are very talented, and we have more coming in, but they’re inexperienced. You can’t just give a guy that experience, and there’s a process of toughness that’s developed over time, and that’s what we’ve lost more than anything. We have our work cut out for us in coaching, teaching and developing that, but that’s what we do.”

On the new rule change for the o-line blocking downfield

“It really shouldn’t be a factor for us, to be honest with you, but I don’t like it. I don’t like the change. Just call a penalty. That’s the thing. I don’t like two things. I don’t like the fact nobody knew about it until it was ‘here you go.’ I went to the convention, was in a meeting for three hours and there wasn’t a word mentioned about it. we talked about a lot of things, but that was never mentioned. I just didn’t like the process of it, and the second thing is, we have a rule. Just call a penalty. When you look at the clips they looked at to talk about the rule, you have guys six yards down the field cutting backers and they don’t call a penalty. We don’t need to change the rule — we need to enforce the rule. That’s just my opinion on it. I use the example of basketball. We have a three-second rule in basketball, and we have guys camping out in the lane. Now let’s just change it to one second because we’re not calling it. Just enforce the rule. My whole thing is let’s don’t have knee-jerk reaction. Let’s put an emphasis on it this year, because that’s not fair. That’s not right. You have a linebacker getting cut at five yards and then throwing a post route behind it. That’s not fair to the defense, and I want it to be fairer. To just change a rule because we’re not enforcing the penalty or putting enough emphasis on it, I don’t think that’s the way to go. That’s my opinion, but they didn’t ask me until after the fact. I have no idea. Everyone has kind of voiced their opinion on it. Whether or not they’ll table it and put an emphasis on it for the year remains to be seen, but it won’t affect us. Our guys understand where they need to be, and the way we call things, they know they can be a little more aggressive downfield and when they can’t be.”

Will the early enrollees have an impact

“I think that’s natural to assume. It’s not a guarantee. We’ve had lot of guys come in because they weren’t just quite ready. You don’t want to play a guy just to play him, but a lot of times, yeah. You have an offseason where you’re getting installation for the third time. You’re getting a system installation in the spring, the summer and fall camp, and for your typical freshman, the first time they really get installation is fall camp, and they get it again for the second time in the spring, then the first part of the summer. It’s really almost like they have a year under their belt by the time they get to August, and they transform so much. Then a lot of it has to do with depth at the position. Obviously there’s some positions where we have some glaring needs. You look at some of the mid-years that came in, we’re going to need some help on the OL. That’s an area where somebody can help us pretty quick, but it’s not a guarantee just because you’re coming in mid-year you’re going to play.”

Milan RichardMilan Richard
Fr. Tight End
#80 6-3, 243
Savannah, GA

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and Jefferie GibsonJefferie Gibson
Fr. Safety
#38 6-3, 190
Hope Mills, NC

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“I think they can compete. Jefferie hasn’t really had a whole lot of opportunity yet. He’s turned everybody’s head on the scout team, but it’s a whole different deal when you start putting scheme with it. On scout team, you’re just playing loose and free. Can he really regurgitate the meetings to the practice field and so forth? We’ll see. Milan has had much more work. He was a guy we carried with us getting him ready to play, and then we kind of made that decision to hold him. System-wise, I think he’s further along just because we put Jefferie on the shelf knowing he needed to redshirt. He’s a talented young prospect and certainly can compete, and that’s why we recruited him. But Milan and Cannon (Smiht) are going to get ton of opportunities. Right now, Jay Jay is out, so Leggett and Milan and Cannon, lace ‘em up and let’s go. It’s going to be fun to watch them compete.”

The Countdown clock

“It was a big storyline to y’all because somebody walked by, saw it hanging on the wall and then wrote a story about it. It really wasn’t that big of a storyline to us. It wasn’t something we talked about every day or anything like that. It was just the one goal we hadn’t done a good job with it. We just had that daily reminder, and it’s still there. It’s a very important part of what we want to do as a program, but we want to win the league. It’s that simple. If we want to win the league, we have to win the division. It’s not just one particular team. We can’t just say, ‘Boy, if we beat Florida State, man, we’re the ACC champ.’ It don’t work that way. They’re all huge. Every single one of them are just huge. We just have journey we break the year into, and right now we’re in that get-ready phase. Then we’ll transform, get into primetime and have a daily focus. We have a formula for excellence, and that’s really just what we stay dialed in on, and that’s what we constantly put in front of our guys. It’s really not as much about who we play as it is how we play, and I think our guys have really bought into that. They’re all huge, everybody is capable of beating us and we’re not just going to roll out there and beat anybody. We’ve got to come to play, be ready and respect the opponent each and every week. Big picture-wise, we’d be in the ACC championship the last few years if we’d beat Florida State, and we haven’t gotten it done. We’ll get another shot here at home this year, and if we’re going to get back to the ACC championship, every one of those division games is huge. We all understand that, but we don’t sit around and think about that every day. We’re thinking about just getting Clemson to be the best it can be.”

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