Clemson football gets off to a running start this week with interviews and golf

by - Senior Writer -
Swinney has the Tigers pointed in the right direction
Swinney has the Tigers pointed in the right direction

Last Saturday marked eight weeks until Clemson’s season opener against Wofford, leaving many fans stuck in the summer doldrums, but this week marks the beginning of college football for many coaches, players and media as conference and team media days spring up across the country.

Wednesday marks the unofficial beginning to the Tigers’ season with head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s annual media golf outing at The Reserve at Keowee in Sunset. Swinney will have a brief statement at noon and will have a more in-depth meeting at 7 p.m., with assistant coaches popping in for interview sessions starting at 10:30 a.m. and lasting into the afternoon.

Four days later, Swinney and players Eric Mac LainEric Mac Lain
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#78 6-4, 305
Hope Mills, NC

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and D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Defensive Tackle (2012 - 2015)
#48 6-2, 325
Greensboro, NC

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will join the other ACC coaches and players at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina for the annual ACC Football Kickoff.

That will be followed by the start of fall practice on August 4th, which is three weeks from tomorrow. Football is here.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look at Swinney’s media outing this week and what we will be watching. There are a lot of expectations for the Clemson program for the 2015 season, but there is also a lot of uncertainty. We might have some answers Wednesday.

Ammon LakipAmmon Lakip
RS Sr. Punter / Kicker
#36 5-11, 200
Alpharetta, GA

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Clemson’s starting kicker was suspended by Swinney back in June after it was learned he had been arrested for DUI and simple possession of cocaine. At the time of the suspension many assumed that Lakip would be kicked off the team – defensive end Ebenezer OgundekoEbenezer Ogundeko
RS So. Defensive End
#1 6-3, 250
Brooklyn, NY

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was dismissed after a fraud charge in May – but Swinney and the school have been quiet about Lakip’s standing since the original statement.

Swinney will be asked about Lakip’s status during the noon press conference, and while we don’t know for sure that a decision has been reached about a suspension or dismissal Swinney will certainly have an update.

Offensive line issues

Clemson’s offense should be dynamic this season, especially if superstar Deshaun WatsonDeshaun Watson
So. Quarterback
#4 6-2, 205
Gainesville, GA

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is healthy. Watson has a bevy of playmakers to help – Wayne GallmanWayne Gallman
RS So. Running Back
#9 6-1, 205
Loganville, GA

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, Artavis ScottArtavis Scott
So. Wide Receiver
#3 5-10, 190
Oldsmar, FL

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and Mike WilliamsMike Williams
Jr. Wide Receiver
#7 6-4, 210
Vance, SC

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to name three – but we’ve seen the Tigers’ struggle before when they’ve had outstanding skill players and a less-than-stellar offensive line.

Joe GoreJoe Gore
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#73 6-5, 290
Lake Waccamaw, NC

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started three game last season before injury and inconsistency sent him to the bench, Tyrone CrowderTyrone Crowder
RS So. Offensive Guard
#55 6-2, 330
Marston, NC

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will be getting his first crack to be a full-time starter, Mac Lain gets his first real chance and freshman Mitch HyattMitch Hyatt
Fr. Offensive Line
#75 6-6, 270
Sugar Hill, GA

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will get every opportunity to replace the departed Isaiah BattleIsaiah Battle
Offensive Tackle (2012 - 2015)
#79 6-7, 290
Brooklyn, NY

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. We’ll talk with offensive line coach Robbie CaldwellRobbie Caldwell
Assistant Coach / Offensive Line
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to see if any other players will make the transition to tackle and what his plans are for getting Hyatt ready for the rigors of the season.

Special teams

The days of sending Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
Punter / Kicker (2009 - 2013)
#39 6-3, 200
Greenville, SC

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out for a sure-thing field goal and depending on Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
Punter (2012 - 2014)
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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to flip the field with a booming punt or boot kickoffs out of the end zone seem like a long time ago. The uncertainty surrounding Lakip and Pinion’s early departure to the NFL present plenty of questions for special teams coach Danny PearmanDanny Pearman
Assist. Head / ST / TE
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. Add in the fact that the Tigers will have new starters at long-snapper (probably Jim BrownJim Brown
RS Sr. Long Snapper
#51 6-4, 230
Walterboro, SC

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) and holder ( Seth RyanSeth Ryan
RS So. Wide Receiver
#85 5-11, 170
Summit, NJ

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) and the Tigers could send out four new starters against Wofford, joining punter Andy TeasdallAndy Teasdall
RS Jr. Punter
#95 5-11, 185
Winston-Salem, NC

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Deshaun Watson

We’ve seen Watson several times over the summer and he looks fantastic, but he told ESPN last week that he hasn’t been cleared to practice. That is probably just a formality, but we will try and find out when Watson will be fully cleared. If it’s not by the August 4th start of practice, should we be concerned?

Defensive depth

The numbers that were put up by Clemson’s defense were incredible, but Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Def. Coordinator / Linebackers
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not only lost some talented players from that squad, a lot of leadership also graduated. You have to feel good about the frontline starters – guys like Ben BoulwareBen Boulware
Jr. Outside Linebacker
#10 6-0, 235
Anderson, SC

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

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and Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
Jr. Safety
#20 6-4, 210
Fort Myers, FL

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have played a lot of snaps – but the inexperienced depth is a concern. It will be interesting to sit down with Venables and pick his brain about how he plans to get the youngsters plenty of snaps in the first two games.

The Freshmen

We saw a good portion of the freshman class during spring practice, but youngsters like Christian WilkinsChristian Wilkins
Fr. Defensive Tackle
# 6-5, 305
Longmeadow, CT

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, Austin BryantAustin Bryant
Fr. Defensive End
# 6-4, 250
Pavo, GA

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, Mark FieldsMark Fields
Fr. Cornerback
# 5-10, 185
Cornelius, NC

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, Ray-Ray McCloudRay-Ray McCloud
Fr. Wide Receiver
# 5-9, 175
Land O' Lakes, FL

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and Deon CainDeon Cain
Fr. Wide Receiver
# 6-1, 190
Tampa, FL

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are all expected to compete for playing time this season. We will sit down with the position coaches to see what they’ve heard about those players during summer workouts and what their expectations are heading into fall camp.

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