Friday Orange Bowl notebook

by - Senior Writer -
Coty Sensabaugh's cousin Gerald Sensabugh plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – The Clemson Tigers took to the practice field at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale Friday morning under sunny and warm skies as they prepare for next Wednesday’s Orange Bowl against West Virginia.

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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was asked about the importance of bowl wins, especially since the Tigers lost their bowl game last season yet rebounded with a strong spring and an ACC championship a year later.

“You always want to win your bowl game, but especially a BCS bowl game and an Orange Bowl,” Swinney said. “For us, a win would be our 11th of the season and we haven’t done that in a long time. Plus, we have had some success down here in the Orange Bowl, and we want to continue that.”

*Clemson wide receiver DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins was at practice and dressed out, but from what we were able to see in the early portion of practice he was not going to participate in many drills. Swinney said again Friday, however, that he expects Nuk to play in the Orange Bowl. Hopkins suffered a concussion in an auto accident in Clemson early this week.

*Senior cornerback Coty SensabaughCoty Sensabaugh
Gr. Defensive Back
#15 6-0, 180
Kingsport, TN

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comes from a family of defensive backs, a family that includes Dallas Cowboys defensive back Gerald Sensabaugh, who is Coty’s second cousin.

Sensabaugh said that almost all of the members of his family in Kingsport, Tenn., are defensive backs, except for a brother that played tight end.

Sensabaugh has become a shut-down corner for the Tigers in his senior season – even gaining attention from the NFL – and said Friday that he has learned a little something from all of them, including his NFL cousin,

“Everybody in my family was a defensive back, so it was natural that I ended up there,” Sensabaugh said. “I talk to Gerald all the time, at least twice a week. Sometimes we don’t even talk about football; he just helps me out with life and other things. But I do pick his brain on football a lot. One of the things I learned about him was that he is a very smart football player. I have learned to play smarter. He has really helped me step up my game.”

*Tight end Brandon FordBrandon Ford
RS Jr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 235
Wando, SC

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had a breakout game in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, catching two touchdown passes from quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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in a losing cause.

If junior tight end Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen
RS Jr. Tight End
#83 6-3, 255
Fayetteville, NC

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departs early for the NFL, Ford would be relied to be the main threat in the tight end passing game next season and I asked him if he was ready for that challenge.

“Absolutely. I caught 72 passes for 1700 yards as a senior in high school, and I honestly feel like if I put in the time out on the practice field, the weight room and the film that I can hit some pretty good numbers,” Ford said. “I know I have the ability. I just have to work hard. Dwayne has put up some incredible numbers, but I feel like I can do the same thing if given the chance.”

*Ford said the Tigers have watched a lot of tape of West Virginia’s losses to LSU and Syracuse this season in preparing for the Mountaineers.

LSU defeated West Virginia 47-21 earlier this season, while Syracuse earned a 49-23 verdict in late October. LSU gained 366 total yards in their win, but rushed for 186 yards on 41 rushing attempts. Syracuse rang up 443 total yards, but tight end Nick Provo caught six passes for 61 yards and three of those catches were for touchdowns.

“We have watched a lot of tape of their games against LSU and Syracuse, just trying to get a feel for what those teams did that was so successful,” Ford said. “For a tight end, playing against a defense like they play (3-3-5) it can create some opportunities in the passing game, but you have to be careful because it is almost harder to block. You will see more stunts and loops and you have to make absolutely sure you pick up the right guy or your quarterback could get killed. They have a couple of great pass rushers, and you have to watch out for them all the time.”

*Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Fr. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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’ had some visitors at Friday’s practice, including Grant Redhead, his head coach at South Fort Myers. We are doing a story on how Clemson landed Watkins out of south Florida later today, but Redhead said he had a couple of other kids he spoke about on Friday.

One of those is Joe Fennell, a 2013 kid who plays mostly on the offensive line at South Fort Myers but who projects to play on the defensive line in college. Redhead said Fennell – who is 6-5 and weighs 320 – is an SEC-type defensive tackle who has the speed to chase backs down the line scrimmage but can also push the pocket with his strength.

Fennell has offers from West Virginia, Florida St., Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky but Redhead said he is beginning to draw interest from all over.

Another kid he said to watch out for is 2014 linebacker D’Ronjzhiah Mathews, a 6-2, 200-pounder who Redhead said had a dominating year as a sophomore. Redhead said Mathews has the same demeanor as Sammy Watkins, and said he was the next “Sammy Watkins-type” that he had coming through his system.

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