Clemson football notebook

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – It’s been a busy week around the Clemson campus – one game already in the rear view mirror and an exciting road game just over a week away – and there are plenty of minor storylines to follow and quotes to get out there.

Here is some of what we’ve heard in and around the West Zone this week.

*On the offensive line, freshman Kalon Davis has been touted through much of fall camp as a possibility to play instead of redshirting this season, but he did not play against North Texas. Line coach Brad Scott said that doesn’t mean Davis will red-shirt, however.

“I don’t know that [redshirting] is always a popular choice,” Scott said. “If I had played him, that decision would have been made. We will keep him game ready. By the fifth game of the year we will make that decision. I did not play him Saturday but that is one game. There are always injuries and things can happen that will change that. But we will keep practicing him with the second team and he will keep getting reps. He is doing really well for a true freshman.”

Scott drew a laugh from the assembled media when he was asked about the blocking on Andre Ellington’s 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and he responded that the back judge, who was run over on the play and had to be taken from the field, “took out two defenders all by himself.”

Officials aside, Scott said he was pleased with the group’s effort during the first game.

“We’ve got to clean a few things up,” he said. “They played hard and they played physical. The first game, I’d say they passed. They got a passing grade.”

Scott said no lineman was exceptional, but left guard David Smith earned Lineman of the Week honors.

“Just because he got the most push on the down guys, probably blunted the front, as we like to say—knocked a hole in it a couple of times—effort was real good,” Scott said. “He had a pretty consistent effort across the board.”

Second team tackles Phillip Price and Brandon Thomas played 19 and 14 snaps, respectively, and Scott said both acquitted themselves well.

“They didn’t have any glaring mistakes,” Scott said. “Phillip actually led a couple of our wide, off tackle plays, including on Jamie Harper’s touchdown run. Brandon did alright for a rookie that was out there for a first time.”

*Punter Dawson Zimmerman had a good first week, including a 79-yard punt in the second quarter, and he credited a conversation that he had with offensive coordinator Billy Napier a few weeks ago for helping change his mindset.

Zimmerman said he had been playing ping-pong in the West Zone, and was still “fired up” about the game when he entered the elevator. He said Napier challenged him to take that attitude onto the football field.

"Death Valley is such a huge environment and it can often be intimidating, but if you treat it like it's a game, like you're up 21-20 in ping pong and I have to get this point, then it's so much easier to deliver," Zimmerman said. "You aren't thinking about 'What if I mess up? What's the impact going to be if I shank this punt?’ Being afraid to make a mistake, a don't-shank-it mindset, I kind of had it last year. Emptying my head is really important."

That changed attitude helped him average over 50 yards per punt on Saturday.

"I just want to punt it, send it a long way," Zimmerman said. "It's definitely a change of mindset from years past."

*Linebacker Corico Hawkins challenged his defensive teammates before the opening week to be the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation in 2010, but Saturday’s defensive effort was less than superb after the Mean Green ran up 462 yards of total offense and went 11-for-22 on third down.

Hawkins, who as the middle or Mike linebacker is responsible for the defensive calls, said having to make the calls and still play was not an issue.

“I made every call correctly, I lined everybody up correctly and I made all the assignments all the checks with no problem at all,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said that the defensive deficiencies are things that are correctable.

“Technique, proper angles, and I missed a few tackles here and there,” Hawkins said. “One in particular turned into like a 40-yard gain, which I was devastated after it happened.”

The play in question was a shovel pass from North Texas quarterback Nathan Tune to running back Lance Dunbar, who had plenty of running room once he cleared the line of scrimmage.

“After I watched the film, I was like, ‘Dang, I should have taken a better angle to the football.’ I would have made that tackle and it would have been a tackle for loss,” Hawkins said. “It wouldn’t have been a big gash. After watching film and looking at that, I was devastated for that particular play. Like I said, it’s a work in progress.”

*Defensive line coach Dan Brooks played six different defensive tackles last Saturday, but might be a bit-short-handed this Saturday against Presbyterian.

Senior Miguel Chavis sprained his ankle early in the game and didn’t return, while senior Jarvis Jenkins, who led the group with nine tackles and had a team-high three tackles for loss, sprained his MCL. Chavis is listed as probable, but Jenkins is listed as questionable, which means that Rennie Moore and freshman Tyler Shatley could see plenty of playing time against the Blue Hose.

Jenkins played 58 snaps, Brandon Thompson played 45, Moore had 32 and Shatley 24.

Brooks said he was pleased with Shatley’s performance.

“He did OK for that first ball game,” Brooks said. “He played about 25 snaps, which was really good that he could do that. He knows what to do. He’s a very coachable young guy. He’s never played the defensive line much. He was the horse. He carried the football a bunch in high school.”

*And finally – defensive coordinator Kevin Steele interrupted running back Jamie Harper just before his interview session was about to begin, and asked, “Have you told these guys yet that you are switching to linebacker this week?”

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