Dan Scott Interview: Dabo Swinney

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Kelvin Grant had a solid spring practice for the Tigers.
Kelvin Grant had a solid spring practice for the Tigers.

Clemson wide receiver coach Dabo Swinney was a recent guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott to discuss the progress of the wide receivers this spring.

What is your general feeling of the wide receivers now that spring practice is over?

You try to cram as much stuff into 15 days as you can. When it is all said and done you wish you had another day or two. I think it was a very productive and successful 15 days for us. I think we got better as the spring went along. My concern is our depth and inexperience. My biggest concern going into spring was trying to get some question marks answered such as…How would Chansi Stuckey do as far as developing into a receiver. We had some questions on his skills because I just had not seen him in that role. Question marks with Kelvin Grant and how he would handle a different role. Would he get better and respond a little differently? I had question marks on a guy like Gerald McCloud just moving over (from defense) and Chris Jefferson who hadn’t played and just had been on scout team. Just real concerned with our depth and inexperience but after 15 days I feel good about some of the things we got accomplished. We don’t have a deep enough group right now where I feel confident in playing more than about five guys if we had to play tomorrow. We really need to feel comfortable with seven or eight guys in order to play the way we like to play. So we still got a lot work to do in the fall, but we had several guys that really took advantage of the 15 days.

What is the status of Kelvin Grant?

He is good standing and finishing up classes this week. He is working hard. He had a tremendous spring…just really, really had a great spring football wise especially. He has worked hard in the classroom. He has put a lot more effort into things as far as trying to be more of a leader. He is in a role right now on the football team where he has a lot of eyes on him, and he did a good job this spring from that standpoint. He just needs to continue to bear down and become a complete college football player and student. He is working hard on that. It’s a daily process, but he has made some progress.

It sounds like you are a lot more positive on the progress that Kelvin has made on the field and off since we talked to you last year.

We have had some bumps in the road. There is really no gray area here at Clemson and with Coach Bowden. I think for what ever reason a guy like Kelvin didn’t want to get in line so to speak academically … going to class, study hall and that kind of thing. He has does a lot better job, but he is still not where we need him to be and all that. He still makes mistakes like they all do, but he has made a lot of progress from last summer to where he is right now. He is giving himself a chance to improve as a student, and I hope we will continue to do that. Like I said he is a guy who if he continues to mature and grow on and off the field the sky is the limit for him. He is really his only limit. He has got tremendous ability, but the great thing about college football is it’s not like professional football where you just play football. You still have a chance to impact these guys and help mold them so they have a chance to be successful citizens and have a chance to go out in society and compete and win and have a job and know right from wrong and those type things. There is so much more that goes into the college football experience than just showing up on the practice field and catching passes and playing in ball games. That’s something we are really concerned with, and Coach Bowden has put a lot of emphasis on with all our players. Kelvin is a guy who I think has grown up a lot over the last year, and hopefully he will continue to do that and finish strong with his finals and have a good summer. If he does that then I think he could have a tremendous year this fall.

Kelvin looked like he was putting some good practices together during the spring.

There is no question. Last year, he had a guy in front of him that was a fifth year senior who was very dependable, very reliable, very mature in Kevin Youngblood and knowledgeable, but talent-wise Kelvin has more talent than Kevin Youngblood. But talent alone will not win you the job. There is dependability and reliability and knowing assignments and execution and signals and all the things that go along with playing within a scheme of an offense. It’s one thing to just go out there and beat a guy on one in a route. It’s another to be able to play in a system, and those are two totally different things. He just wasn’t quite mature enough and quite ready enough to take on the challenge of beating out (Kevin Youngblood). But this spring more by default than anything else he is put out there as a starter, and he just responded really well to that role. He had more of a sense of urgency to him in meetings, more a sense of urgency in paying attention to details and as a result he had success on the football field. If he will continue to do that he will have a great season.

What is your depth chart looking like?

We always start out in our 4 wide out sets and kind of go from there. Kelvin Grant is the starting X receiver. Airese Currie is our starting H receiver. Chansi Stuckey is our starting Y and Curtis Baham would be our starting Z in our four wide out set. If you went to a three wide out set you would still have those same guys and Baham would be the guy that plays all three spots.

Talk the progress of Airese Currie.

Very proud of Airese and where he has come from as far as last spring to now. He is guy when I got here you hear people questioning his consistency and catching the football. We really challenged him on that, and I think he did a great job last spring and summer and in camp and ended up winning the starting position. He was probably our most consistent guy. He had a 96% catch percentage. I think he had 43 catches in 45 opportunities. So he had an outstanding year as far as answering that critique of himself. The biggest thing with him is can he stay healthy? Can he be around for 12 games because we need him every week? Hopefully he will continue to work hard this summer. We are going to push him hard. I think he will have a great year for us. We just got to keep him healthy and continue to improve on some little things like discipline on depths and route running. All in all I am excited about him. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that we have him available and at our disposal for 12 ball games because if we do he will have a great year.

How does Chanis Stuckey look at his new position?

I just really love everything about Chansi Stuckey. He is just an exciting, exciting prospect. His potential is limitless. I think he can be a really great wide receiver especially after seeing him this spring. He has a lot of natural ability. He catches the football very, very well. It’s just natural. He still has to get more comfortable doing things at full speed like coming out of breaks and body control but just as far as catching the football it’s a very natural thing for him. It’s a natural instinct which is really good. He has a great grasp of our offense and understanding of what we are trying to do in the big picture. The fact he was really able to concentrate on the receiver position and techniques and skills, he just picked things up everyday and got better. I just think he is going to be a really, really good player. I’m excited to have him for three more years. I think football, winning and being the best guy on the field are very important to him. I think those are attributes you don’t have in a lot of players. You put that with great talent and his work ethic and those desires he has within himself and he has a pretty good combination. I think he is going to be really, really exciting for all the Clemson people to watch him grow and mature through this year. He is going to make some mistakes. He is going to have some good days and some bad days.

Talk about replacing the three receivers you lost from last season’s team.

Three great, great talents that are gone but the thing I am excited about and nervous about is Kelvin Grant easily replaces Kevin Youngblood’s ability as a receiver, Chansi Stuckey will bring the same thing to the table as Derrick Hamilton did, and Curtis Baham who is a battle tested guy who is invaluable to me as a coach is a much more talented guy and brings some of the same things (leadership) as Tony (Elliot) did. We will be able to replace those guys and have the same sort of dynamics and attributes that those guys last year brought to the table. But the concern is they have not done it in a game. Kevin Youngblood has made play after play. Derrick Hamilton made play after play and Tony has in front of 86,000. Kelvin Grant has had limited time. Chansi Stuckey hasn’t done it at all at the receiver position and Curtis has in a limited role. The concern is taking it from the practice field to the game field and the inexperience we have with those guys. Talent-wise I am very confident we will not miss a beat, but sometimes the growing pains you may have to go through from an inexperience standpoint you worry about. The other thing I am concerned about is our lack of depth. We are going to have to play some young guys. Gerald McCloud has not played wide out. Chris Jefferson has not played wide out. We got four guys coming in the fall to play receiver. I feel good about the first four we talked about. I feel good about Michael Collins and his role. I’m looking for the sixth, seventh, and eighth guy. Who are they because those are the guys that help get you over the hump? Last year we could take Derrick Hamilton out and put Curtis Baham in and play. You could take Airese out and put Tony in there.

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