Football Focus: Clemson players dialed in as camp starts
|Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 10:14 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Clemson’s football team ran the gamut of summer in South Carolina during the first practice of fall camp Tuesday afternoon, as practice started with a light drizzle that turned into a steady rain, but finished under sunny skies and steamy conditions.
Welcome to August camp at Clemson.
Several players came out for interviews, so we’ll recap some of what we heard here with more to follow later this week.
Let’s start with defensive tackle Albert Huggins. Huggins has long been known as a player who has fun playing the game, but tackles coach Dan Brooks said two weeks ago that Huggins needed to learn when to focus and when to have fun. Huggins said his lesson has been learned.
“It’s football focus,” Huggins. “It’s time to grind. The next three weeks is the time to focus and then when the season comes that’s when you have fun. I am just ready to get back to a National Championship. In the past I haven’t taken advantage of my opportunity like I needed to, but this year I am.”
The dynamic defensive tackle said there’s a sense of unfinished business as fall camp gets underway.
“I would say so. We are all working hard, and we know what we want,” Wilkins said. “We know what we want to accomplish. We just have to take it one day at a time and one practice at a time.”
Wilkins said he feels like he can be a leader.
“That seems like it’s been the story for the defensive line the last two years, is losing guys to the NFL,” he said. “We have to replace those key guys and starters but we try to have competitive depth and it’s next man up. I am making it my job to push the defensive line and especially the interior guys and make sure we are getting better every day.”
Wilkins said freshman cornerback Trayvon Mullen caught his eye during the first practice.
“I hope he can bring that every day,” he said.
Clemson’s second-year kicker was fighting for a roster spot and just to become a walk-on a year ago, but he said he can tell a difference in this year's focus and mindset heading into the season.
"I wasn't here for the offseason last year, but just from how the guys have been talking about it, they seem more focused," Huegel said. "We've been to the biggest stage that college football has to offer and we know what it's like to be there. Now we just need to know what it's like to win it."
As for Huegel, he's been focusing on a little bit of everything and even hit a 63-yarder over the summer.
"I will say I've been working long field goals and extra points the most," he said. "It's weird because they contradict each other, but those are the biggest things I've worked on this offseason just so I can go out there and get it done for the team."
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said middle linebacker Kendall Joseph probably would have started last season, but injuries derailed his hopes for playing time and senior B.J. Goodson grabbed the starting spot.
Joseph feels like his time is now.
“I am ready. I feel like I know the playbook and the system, so it's up to me to come out and go to work every day and prove I've earned my spot,” he said. “I learned a lot from Stephone Anthony and then I learned from B.J. Goodson last year. He taught me how to be patient and he had faith and believed in himself. It's tough. You want to play and make an impact for your team. But you have to keep your faith up and keep the positivity up and keep working. In this business you never have a spot secure.”
The Vance (SC) wide receiver is coming off of one of the most difficult seasons of his football career, but all was not lost as Williams sat out last season with a neck fracture.
"Watching from the sideline, you see the whole field," Williams said. "You can read defenses better. While I was out, I was just learning defenses to make my game better."
As a matter of fact, Williams said you'll see an even better version of No. 7 than you did two years ago.
"I'm real hungry right now and I'm excited for this year. It was tough but I told my teammates to let's just go out there and have some fun," he said. "I'm ready to be a part of this team this year. I'm a lot stronger and a lot faster. You're going to see a better Mike Williams."
Gallman was faced with a difficult decision last January - whether to forego his final two seasons of eligibility at Clemson or enter the NFL Draft.
Ultimately, unfinished business won out.
"Overall, I knew I didn't want to leave. I would've felt really uncomfortable if I did because I knew I would've left something here," Gallman said. "That was my whole thought process. I really wanted to graduate and I will in December. That was a really big goal of mine."
Now, he's focused on finishing what last year's team started.
“Of course I think about it, everyone is going to think about the draft. That's the best part of an athlete's life - making it to that peak," he said. "I'm not even worried about it anymore. I don't really care about the media and all of that. It's all about winning and putting Clemson on the map."
It's no surprise that Deshuan Watson, Artavis Scott, Hunter Renfrow and Mike Williams were some of the last players to walk off of the practice field, and Clemson's junior quarterback said he’s excited about the arsenal of weapons he has around him.
"I kind of knew that from the get-go. Throughout recruiting and when I first stepped on campus, I knew the type of guys that we recruit here and the talent we have," he said. "I'm very excited with the skill guys we have and all of the weapons I have on this team."
Including Deon Cain, who is rejoining the team after missing the College Football Playoff semifinal, final and spring practice.
"He's good, too. I was with him all summer," Watson said of Cain. "A lot of these guys, I was already with so I knew what to expect. It's just good to see all of the guys out there competing and trying to get better."
If there were ever any questions about Williams' health, Watson said he's better than ever.
"He's the same guy. He's much bigger, much stronger and much faster," Watson said of Williams. "He's got bigger hands, so it's good to see him out there just competing and getting ready to go for another year."