Friday Practice Insider: Rodgers gets help from NFL player, Venables in a better mood

by - Senior Writer -
Amari Rodgers has impressed the coaching staff this spring
Amari Rodgers has impressed the coaching staff this spring

CLEMSON – Clemson’s practice fields and new football operations center were all swarming with football coaches Friday afternoon as part of head coach Dabo Swinney’s 2018 Coaches Clinic, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from practicing for two hours.

The Tigers have another half-scrimmage and half-practice Monday and a practice Wednesday, the last two practices before the spring game.

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott joked and said he thinks the offense has done extremely well this spring.

“We have seen every front in the history of college football,” Scott joked, casting a sidelong glance at defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “We won’t see that many fronts during the season, so that has been good for our quarterbacks.”

*Scott mentioned tight end JC Chalk as a standout, saying that Chalk is up over 250 pounds and has had a good a spring. Braden Galloway is still in a green jersey and Scott doesn’t expect Galloway to play in the spring game, but said, “He looks like the guy we thought we had when we signed him.”

*Scott said wide receiver Trevion Thompson had the best catch of 2018 spring practice today during a one-on-one situation. Scott said Thompson has been a different player this spring. Thompson is battling Diondre Overton and Tee Higgins at the 9-man receiver spot, and Scott said he wanted to see one of those players separate themselves from the other two. Instead, all three have elevated their game, reminiscent of the jumps DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Williams took after their freshman season.

*Scott said Amari Rodgers practices like an NFL player and not a college player and reminds him of someone who is 28 or 29 years old.

Rodgers told me he has been playing the 2-man spot (the spot vacated by Ray-Ray McCloud) and thinks he can bring a physicality to that spot in the screen game and on the jet sweep. I also asked Rodgers about his improvement in the return game, and he said a former player of his dad’s at Southern Cal, Nelson Agholor, worked with him on running North-South during spring break.

Rodgers told me he is currently at 207 pounds but hopes to be around 205 pounds at the start of the season.

*Sophomore defensive back A.J. Terrell has heard defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ criticisms of the secondary loud and clear and he’s taking every comment personally. Terrell even went as far to say that he was offended, but he’s using the negative comments as motivation.

However, he knows that some of the secondary’s struggles are because of the lack depth, but he and his teammates aren’t using it as an excuse.

“We know we don’t have a lot of depth,” Terrell said. “We’re just going out there every day, not really thinking about the depth because it is what it is right now. We just have to go out there and compete. We’re all tired but we’ve got two corners coming in so we’ll see how it works out.”

*Running back Adam Choice has drawn rave reviews from the coaches this spring, and he told me did think about transferring after the end of last season. After discussions with his family, however, he decided to come back to Clemson and get his Master’s. He said he sometimes thinks backs to his freshman season at Boston College when he tore his knee and wonders “what if” but chooses to concentrate on the here and now.

Choice said he knew running back Travis Etienne was going to be special after the first practice last fall when Etienne took a handoff and scored on a long run. He said Tavien Feaster has shown a lot of maturity this spring.

*Scott continues to tell us that the coaches feel like they can win with all four quarterbacks.

*Venables met with the media for nearly 10 minutes Friday evening and while he seemed to be in a better mood, he still wasn’t ready to dole out many compliments.

He said the defense still has a lot of work to do and a lot of depth to build, but there still a lot of time between now and September.

*When asked who caught his attention behind defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, Venables quickly named Chris Register.

“He’s been the most consistent and he would be the next guy,” Venables said of Register.

*The freshmen who enrolled in January have had their good moments but have also had times where they’re swimming, but Venables said they’re progressing like they should.

*Shaq Smith was banged up and it sounded like he didn’t practice Friday, but Venables said he’s pleased with how Smith is progressing and stepping into a bigger role.

*On Xavier Kelly:

“I wish he was as good as Clelin right now, so I guess the answer might be no. Where should he be progressing? He’s probably there.”

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