Day One Update: Mike Williams, Deon Cain and special teams


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Clemson receiver Mike Williams returns to practice.
Clemson receiver Mike Williams returns to practice.

CLEMSON – Mike Williams is ready to be a first round pick. He’s just a year behind his original schedule.

Williams, the Tigers’ talented wide receiver, was back at practice Monday afternoon as Clemson opened spring practice for the 2016 season. Williams sported a green jersey, a jersey he will wear all spring. He can participate in all drills and practices – he just can’t be tackled.

Following practice, Williams trudged over to a chair for interviews, plopping down with a weary air. Running back Wayne Gallman was already being interviewed, and someone asked how Williams was doing after his first practice in months. Gallman slyly cut his eyes at his teammate, grinned and said, “Tired.”

Williams agreed, and said it was time to follow through on his goals.

“Yeah, I am a little tired, but it was good to get back out there,” he said. “There were some goals I had set for myself last season, and I didn’t get to achieve them. When I come back, it will be emotional. But it was good to get back out there today. It was a lot of fun.”

Williams then said there will be no redshirt year – this is his senior season.

More on Deon Cain

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told the media earlier Monday that wide receiver Deon Cain is still on the team and still a part of the football program but won’t practice during the spring. He was out at practice Monday, throwing the ball around and running up and down the field. After practice, he spent about 10 minutes in the indoor facility running routes and catching balls from Deshaun Watson.

Cain treated the session like it was the last ten minutes of his life – he did everything with energy and passion, and you could tell he was taking his limited time seriously.

If you remember, Jay Guillermo walked away from school and football last spring as Swinney gave the talented center time to deal with some personal issues and put his life together. As a result, Guillermo said he feels like he knows a little about what Cain is thinking.

“I think he is doing what he has to do right now," Guillermo said. “I don’t know the specifics of the situation, but I do know it’s hard being away from football. He’s a hard worker, he’s a good person and he’s a good guy and I don’t have any doubts he will do what he needs to do. It’s just something you have to work through. You have to be willing to put in the work, sometimes by yourself and sometimes when you don’t want to. It’s tough, but I think he can do it and I think he’s a good enough person to do it.”

Trip to Houston

I talked to offensive coordinator Jeff Scott about the offensive staff making the trip to Texas a few weeks ago to meet with Houston head coach Tom Herman and his staff. As it turns out, Oklahoma St. head coach Mike Gundy’s offensive staff was there as well, and Scott said the time was used to see how other teams attack different defensive schemes. We will have a story on it later, but Scott said that the relationship with Herman began when Herman visited Clemson in the spring of 2012.

Line leader

Guillermo was all smiles as he talked about the offensive line becoming his group. Guillermo said the mantle of leadership is something he saw Dalton Freeman pass down to players like Eric Mac Lain, and Mac Lain and Ryan Norton have passed the torch to Guillermo.

Guillermo said that he thinks this offensive line can be better than any the Tigers have had since he’s been at Clemson, and that left guard Taylor Hearn is “just nasty. He just likes to hit people, like I do. This is going to be fun.”

Wilkins at defensive end?

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve speculated as to who will fill the shoes of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd at defensive end, and names like Richard Yeargin, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Chris Register come up, as they should.

Well, sophomore defensive tackle Christian Wilkins wants to add defensive end to his already lengthy resume that includes wide receiver, talk show host and team leader.

Wilkins told the media Monday evening that he sat down with the coaches and told them that he would be open to the possibility of playing defensive end if that’s what they need him to do. However, he said he thinks the team will be just fine with the ends that are already on the roster.

“That would be a lot of fun to get a little edge rush going, definitely,” Wilkins said. "We’ve got guys in the position right now who can do it – Richard, Austin Bryant, Clelin and Chris Register. If they need to put me in the rotation, I’ll be more than happy. Whatever the team needs to do, I’ll be there.”

O’Daniel is ready for the spotlight

Dorian O’Daniel has waited his turn behind Korrin Wiggins and Travis Blanks, and with Blanks graduated and Wiggins moving to safety, it’s finally time for him to show what he can do.

O’Daniel said that he is preparing the same way he has during the three previous years, but he knows this is his chance and he’s tired of waiting. He’s ready to lock down the nickel/SAM spot.

“It’s not much different because I’m competing as if I’m not the starter,” O’Daniel said. “I’ve been waiting a really long time, and I’ve been patient. I’m very fortunate that it’s here. I know that the opportunity it’s in front of me, and I have to grasp it.

Clemson’s all-time leading rusher?

Wayne Gallman spoke candidly for the first time since the College Football Playoff National Championship about his decision to return to Clemson, and he said there were several factors in his decision – the opportunity to earn his degree, his love of playing for Clemson, and the opportunity to make history as the Tigers' all-time leading rusher.

Raymond Priester currently holds Clemson’s all-time rushing record at 3,966 yards. After playing just two years – and less than that as a full-time starter – Gallman sits at 2,296 yards, just 1,670 yards shy of the record. Gallman said he wants to break the record before he leaves.

Special teams a priority

O’Daniel initially carved his niche on special teams and continued in that role last season. He said they realize special teams – kick coverage and kick return in particular – cost Clemson the national championship and they are all dedicated to fixing the problems.

As a matter of fact, the process has already started.

“It’s a lot (of an emphasis). The coaches have been doing a lot of coaching and a lot of teaching and a lot of fundamental drills,” O’Daniel said. “We know how important special teams are – kickoff coverage and kickoff return, both of which hurt us in the national championship. We know how important it is, and everyone is taking that into account.”

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