Defense Dominates Offense in First Day of Pads

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON,SC - The opportunity to finally hit someone was too good for Clemson's defense to ignore Monday.

The Tigers' defensive unit clearly dominated a sluggish offense on the first day of full-pad workouts. The morning session was highlighted by strong safety Charles Hafley separating wide receiver Joe Don Reames from his helmet late in practice, setting an early tone for the pair of scrimmages Clemson has scheduled this week.

"The defense was a little more enthusiastic and I think it showed in their performance," Bowden said. "They had a nice day of hitting and the offense seemed to struggle a bit. They dropped too many passes."

Perhaps the lone bright spot for the offense was the play of sophomore wide receiver J.J. McKelvey. At 6-foot-4, McKelvey is proving to be an effective weapon early in camp, using his combination of size, speed and long arms to impress the coaching staff.

McKelvey is seeing time at both the outside receiver and the slot. However, it's the outside spot which Bowden sees McKelvey being most productive.

Tommy Bowden talks to media after practice.

"If he keeps going like he has the last couple of days, he's really going to be something," Bowden said. "He's going to be a good addition to this offense. He's a big target, catches the ball well...he really presents a problem for small defensive backs. Our offense can isolate you, pretty much. You get a lot of single coverage on small guys, and he's the kind of guy you like."

The Tigers will go through situational scrimmages today, working on specific down and yardage situations. The work will serve as a preliminary for more extensive scrimmaging Saturday at Death Valley.

Both days will give the coaching staff it's first real opportunity to watch position battles take shape.

"(Today) we'll go third-and-3, third-and-6, a little goal line and kicking," said Bowden. "You'd like to see (running backs) Bernard Rambert or Keith Kelly make a move on (Travis) Zachery. You'd like to see some of the receivers make big plays. You'd like to see Woody (Dantzler), Willie (Simmons) and Matt Schell continue to make progress executing the offense; throws, catches, high percentage decisions, things like that.

Defensively, the Clemson staff will keep close watch on the cornerback position, where Darrel Crutchfield, Brian Mance and Kevin Johnson are battling to start opposite Alex Ardley.

The performance of four young defensive linemen - Paul White, Khaleed Vaughn, Marcus Lewis and Donnell Washington - also will be under close scrutiny.


- Linebacker Travis Roberts remains excused from practice for personal reasons. Bowden said his status may not be decided until Friday or Saturday.

- Bowden singled out others for their performance Tuesday, including junior linebacker Keith Adams ("He always stands out, so I'll only mention his name once," Bowden said) and sophomore linebacker Rodney Thomas.

- Fewer players are having problems with cramps during Bowden's notoriously brutal conditioning drills.
"It's not hot," he said. "We've had a nice breeze and it's not as humid. Plus I think these guys are getting used to the tempo of our practice, which helps."

- Freshman linebacker John Leake continues to impress Bowden, who called him a "putty guy."
"You can plug him in on punt returns, kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt block, linebacker...he runs good and is in great condition."
Leake also unveiled a team-best 40-inch vertical leap during practice, after suffering leg cramps.
"I wish we were far enough along in the program where we could redshirt him," Bowden said. "I'd like to take five like him and redshirt them."

- Redshirt freshman wide receiver Kevin Youngblood continues to show both a world of talent and flashes of inexperience.
"He'll have a great practice and a bad practice. He'll catch two then drop two," Bowden said. "Consistency is his problem right now."

- Long-snapper Henry Owens apparently accepted the challenge of job security.
With his scholarship openly up for grabs among himself and a pair of freshman, Owens seems to be improving over his performance from last year.
"I guess he wants to keep his scholarship. He's a little ahead of the other guys," Bowden said.

- Injury update: Kelly and Rambert (hip flexors) both returned to practice Tuesday. Derrick Hamilton (hamstring), Kyle Young (foot), Theo Mougros (ankle) and Jason LeMay (hamstring) all sat out both sessions.

- Today's situational work and Saturday's full scrimmage both are closed to the public.

Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at

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