Big "thud" highlights first day of practice in full pads

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AUDIO: Dabo Swinney after practice audio

First Day in Pads Photo Gallery

CLEMSON – The key word following Wednesday night’s practice, the first practice in full pads for the Clemson Tigers, was thud.

Not the kind of thud that head coach Dabo Swinney wanted to hear, however.

The Clemson offense was in a red zone situation and about to score when quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
#10 6-1, 230
Hampton, VA

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took off on a read play, and defensive end Andre BranchAndre Branch
Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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apparently knocked Boyd to the ground to the cheers of his defensive teammates, the groans of the coaches and the tight smiles of Boyd’s offensive mates.

Boyd immediately jumped up and congratulated Branch on a nice hit.

“Laying the wood,” Branch said following the practice. “I got a nice little shot on Tajh. I felt like everybody was out there competing. The offensive line and defensive lines were battling.”

Boyd was wearing the purple jersey usually worn by players who aren’t supposed to be hit, and Branch called the hit a surprise, even to him.

“The coaches don’t want us hitting him, but it was kind of a spur of the moment deal,” Branch said. “We were competing and it was the red zone, and I wasn’t going to let him score.”

Boyd said he didn’t mind the hit because it will prepare him for the hits he will have to take once the season starts.

“It felt good. The intensity picked up,” Boyd said. “It was a read play. I was waiting for my blocks, but if I would’ve seen it, I would have broken down. He made a good play coming over the top. It was a positive play and we got about six yards. It was a red zone situation where we needed to keep the ball moving.

“Sometimes I wish we could get hit a little bit more and have live practices, but it’s something the coaches do for security and safety reasons. Playing back there, you might get tagged and not even feel the tag, so you can definitely get a false sense of security, chillin’ back there in the pocket. When everything is live, it makes the game speed up a little bit faster. That’s more of a realistic game situation, because you can get hit running or throwing.”

Boyd was known for taking some hard shots in his spot duty last season and said that is something he has been working on.

“I was watching the Jon Gruden thing where they were talking about Jake Locker taking a lot of hits,” Boyd said. “It’s just one of those things that you have to run with. Last year, I was taking some big hits. This year, I checked out some other quarterbacks and say, ‘ok he slid right there’, so I have to slide and get out of there. It’s just a learning curve.”

Boyd said it was the fact that he has been running freely through the defense that led to the hit.

“I think the defense gets sick of me out there running and freelancing and making moves out there. They just hit me today,” he said. “I got up laughing and pat him on the butt. It was a good hit. Honestly, stuff like that livens up the practice. We might have a fight here and there with the testosterone levels of football players. It is definitely fun, but at the same time it’s serious work out there.”

Swinney said it was a little bit bigger of a hit than he would like to see.

“We kind of have to hit them a little bit with what we are trying to do. We have rules,” Swinney said. “When they become a runner, we can thud them up, but that might have been a little more thud than I wanted to see. No harm. No foul.”

*Branch said Wednesday that redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes
Defensive End
#6 6-3, 265
Jacksonville, FL

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had a good day.

“Tavaris Barnes jumped off the radar today,” Branch said. “He really competed and he was grinding. He looked like a player. He is ready for the season.”

Swinney agreed with Branch’s assessment.

“Tavaris Barnes is a guy that we are really going to be counting on,” Swinney said. “He was really good today and not so good yesterday. Now, we just have to find that consistency.”

*Middle linebacker Corico HawkinsCorico Hawkins
#42 5-11, 230
Milledgeville, GA

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said seeing the younger linebackers reminds him of when he first arrived on campus.

“When they first came in, they were so excited and trying to work out,” Hawkins said. “I told them they would get all the workouts and conditioning they would need, that they would get that soon enough. I told them they need to be patient. But it is great to help those younger players become the players they can be.”

*Swinney said he was pleased with the practice.

“It was a good first day in pads,” Swinney said. “The team responded and they were focused. We spent a lot of time working in the red-zone and that will be an area of emphasis the entire preseason. That is an area we must improve this year. We lost five games by six points or less last year and had we been more efficient in the red-zone we would have had a better record.

“We also worked a lot on short yardage situations, third-and-one, third-and-two situations. You have to keep the chains moving in this offense and obviously getting off the field defensively when you have short yardage is just as important.”

Swinney said a couple of the freshman stood out during special teams drills.

“I think we have some really special return prospects in Watkins and Bellamy,” Swinney said. “They are the two fastest guys in the state of Florida. The whole state of Florida is counting on them and so are we. Nuk Hopkins is money. Jaron didn’t get enough opportunities last year. Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
Defensive Back
#27 5-10, 170
Roswell, GA

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has some promise.”

*The only Tiger who was in a yellow jersey on Wednesday was starting senior defensive tackle Rennie MooreRennie Moore
Defensive Tackle
#94 6-4, 270
Saint Marys, GA

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, who “tweaked a knee” in Tuesday’s practice. He ran on the side on Wednesday and is expected back at practice by the end of the week.

*Swinney on the receivers : “We caught the ball really well as a group. We have a lot of guys that can play the position well, that we haven’t had over the last year. Physically, the young guys are ready. Mentally, they are picking things up pretty quickly.”

*Swinney on Bellamy: “He is learning how to practice. He is buying in on the way thing have to be done. It’s not negotiable. He is learning to finish and do the little things the right way.”

*Swinney said Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 205
Greenville, SC

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had the early edge at kicker. ”That’s something you have to gauge throughout camp. Catanzaro is the guy right now. He has earned that. I like how Ammon [Lakip] is trying to compete. Right now, it’s too early to tell.”

*Clemson will practice once on Thursday and twice on Friday before holding its first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday morning. All practices are closed to the public.

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