Swinney says Tigers are an "average football team right now"
|Thursday, April 5, 2018, 7:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – A visiting college coach walked off the field in Memorial Stadium Wednesday afternoon, smiled and said Clemson looks like a team that contends for a spot in the College Football Playoff every season. Head coach Dabo Swinney disagrees, telling the media following a short scrimmage that his team is average at best.
The Tigers practiced for 2 ½ hours inside Death Valley Wednesday afternoon, and while there were a few bright spots, Swinney says there is still a lot of work to do.
“We’re an average football team right now. It’s just where we are,” Swinney said. “We’re not a great team but we don’t have to be a great team in April. We need to be a great team come September. We’re a football team right now that’s got a long way to go and a lot of work. That’s what we do. This is the first leg of our ‘Get Ready’ phase - the first quarter of our journey.
“We take what we do this spring and give the guys all of the tools they need to go get better this summer. It’s on them to go through that transformation phase this summer and then we come back and it’s always interesting to see the improvement in some of those guys. There are several guys out here that have been exposed this spring that if they are who I think they are, they’ll be much better come fall camp.”
However, Swinney said last year’s team was average during the spring.
“I don’t think we were a great team this time last year, far from it. We were a long way away but we have the ingredients. They don’t put themselves together,” Swinney said. “You’ve got to put it together, mix it up, get it just right, get the oven just right. We’re not where we need to be in our consistency. We’ve got too many guys making mental errors. We’re doing too many stupid things like bad snaps. I’m talking about the whole team.
“It would be easy for me to throw our top 22 out there and we’d look pretty good. They’re all ours and they all matter. Jumping offsides on 3rd-and-10 and now it’s 3rd-and-5. Then we get a late hit on fourth down at the end of the game. The game is over and now they get a first down. You get average really quick when you get a lot of that stuff going on. Just inconsistency across the board. Hopefully, we’ll get there but right now we’re not a great team. We’ve still got work to
Several coaches from both the college and high school levels were on hand, as well as a bevy of recruits.
“We had a lot of people here today - a bunch of visitors. Just wanted to get them out here one more time. Today was a half scrimmage day,” Swinney said. “Friday will be a big day for us. We’re going to have 700-plus coaches here for our clinic, which will start tomorrow night. Friday’s practice is much more oriented toward those coaches and trying to help them. We’ll have one more half scrimmage type day on Monday. We’ll divide the team and the staff on Tuesday and they’ll flip for it on Wednesday.
“Wednesday we’ll practice in shorts and we’ll use that day for teaching them how to manage their drills in the summer and get the teams organized. This is going to be a huge thing for us. It’s a big deal. When we play, the scoreboard is for real. This is a great opportunity for us to create the best environment that we can to give us another opportunity to evaluate our players. Hopefully, we’ll have a good crowd. It’s on ESPN. It’s a big deal and I hope our fans will show up and we’ll have a packed house in here to really challenge these guys.”
After evaluating last week's scrimmage, Swinney said there was some good along with bad.
“It was bad in certain spots defensively,” Swinney said. “We just did some dumb things, had some critical penalties. Offensively it was a day they found the endzone more than they normally do in these scrimmages. I give them some credit too because they did make some plays.”
The start of Wednesday’s practice was punctuated by the Win Drill and the one-on-one callout, and one of the stars was freshman defensive tackle Josh Belk.
“Those are two tough drills that we believe in and our core values of our program. We hang our hat on that. We can’t do it all the time but we try to get a few sessions each spring and fall camp to make sure we’ve got the preparation for game day that we need,” Swinney said. “Josh (Belk) was great in the Win drill and in the one-on-one call out that we did. When it’s just low man wins and leverage, he’s pretty good. If he gets his hands on you, he’s strong and can move people. You weigh him down with all of the scheme and alignments and all of the details that matter, he’s a freshman. He’s going to be a good one.”
“He’s been in all of the meetings. He’s been at every practice. He’s progressing mentally, but we need to get his butt in that weight room where we can cut him loose and he can start doing the lower body lifts. He’s got a good foundation. I need to see him do a little bit more than run routes on air. He was in a green jersey today but I know he was excited to just get out there and get going with his teammates.”