Weekly spring practice wrapup

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The first three practices of the 2013 spring are in the books, and the Tigers will practice on Monday and Wednesday of next week before taking a 12 day break for Clemson’s spring break. Spring practice will resume on March 25th, and the Tigers will hold nine more practices leading up to the April 13th spring game.

As expected, there has been a little movement by some of the players as the coaches try and get the best players out on the field at any one time, and in this Sunday edition of the weekly camp wrap we’ll recap everything we’ve heard and seen.

*We’ll start with the offensive line and the left tackle position. Dabo Swinney told us Wednesday that he hopes redshirt sophomore Isaiah Battle can win that position, allowing the coaching staff to use rising senior Brandon Thomas at a variety of positions. Battle is your prototypical left tackle with this size (6-6, 285) and athleticism, and he played well in the bowl game against LSU.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris told us Friday evening that in a perfect world, Battle takes the position, and he worked with the first team during parts of Saturday’s practice. Starting right tackle Giff Timothy is still in a green jersey, and he was replaced at right tackle by Thomas, the same position he played in the bowl game after Timothy went out with an injury.

*At strongside defensive end – the spot formerly held by Malliciah Goodman – the competition appears that it will be a hot topic all spring and the winner might not even be known until after the games start next season. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables told us Friday that Vic Beasley – who was fourth in the ACC in sacks last season with eight despite limited snaps – would have a chance to earn playing time at one of the defensive end spots, and wouldn’t be limited to just rush end. Beasley weighs in at 229 pounds currently, but Swinney said he plays like a player who is much heavier. The coaches hope to get Beasley up to between 238 and 245 pounds by the start of next season.

"We're going to find out who our best two [defensive ends] are, get them on the field and then go from there. I expect a lot of things [out of Beasley],” Venables said. “He needs to be more consistent with his attitude, effort and intensity and really invest in it. The great ones do. All the other ones don't. You can't just invest when it's practice time. You have to do it off the field, become a junkie. You have to develop those habits where you are studying yourself and studying your opponent. It's got to be important to you. After that, you want him to become a leader. He's got a unique skill set in his quickness and his explosiveness, although he does not have ideal size. Some of the other things he has are hard to coach. We've just got to get him better at all the other things."

Shaq Lawson, Tavaris Barnes and Kevin Dodd will all be in competition for the spot. Venables said that Barnes and Dodd will remain at end for the foreseeable future, and if one was to move back to defensive tackle it would occur “down the line.”

*Venables echoed Swinney’s comments about Stephone Anthony staying at the middle or MIKE linebacker position for now. Venables said that Anthony was now up to 246 pounds, and he called Anthony a “prototypical” middle linebacker. At outside linebacker, Quandon Christian, T.J. Burrell, Tony Steward, Spencer Shuey and Kellen Jones, but he said Jones has also practiced at the MIKE.

*On the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Chad Morris said he is pushing running back D.J. Howard to elevate his game after taking a step back in 2012. Morris said that rising senior Rod McDowell picked up right where he left off, and has been consistent through the first few practices. Rising sophomore Zac Brooks has gained a little weight since the end of last season, and Morris hinted that fumbles have been an issue for Brooks.

Morris then said that freshman tight end Jay Jay McCullough is swimming right now, and barely is keeping his head above water through the first few days of camp.

"Excited about him, but he's got a long way to go and has to get serious about everything as well."

*Morris said that wide receiver Sammy Watkins is working mainly at the 9 position occupied by Nuk Hopkins last year. Morris said he hopes Watkins will benefit from the one-on-one matchups he will have on the outside. Martavis Bryant is also at the 9 spot, while Adam Humprhies and Germone Hopper are at the 2 spot that was the home for Watkins and Humphries last season.

*I spent a few minutes talking to Tim Boyd, Tajh Boyd’s father, as he left practice Friday, and he said that he didn’t realize the kind of beating Tajh was taking in the bowl game until he went back and watched the game on DVR. Tim Boyd said his son has always had the kind of body that allows him to take a beating and get right back up.

Late in the season, if Clemson had a third-and-short, almost everyone in the stadium knew Tajh was going to keep the football out of the Pistol or the Shotgun, and he still made first downs. It would be great for both Boyd’s health and the team itself if the coaches can find someone else to run those short-yardage plays.

Tim Boyd also said that Tajh would once again go to California over spring break and work with quarterback guru George Whitfield. Boyd went last season, but will have teammate Chad Kelly along with him this season.

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