Swinney says work is in, now it's time to go play

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON –The Clemson Tigers practiced in helmets and pads for two hours Wednesday afternoon, their last live hitting before the season opener on Saturday, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the next step in finding out what kind of team he has will occur on Saturday when the Tigers line up against an opponent.

“It was good Wednesday work, and we finished with a good two minute drill,” Swinney said. The first [team] defense won their session and second [team] offense won their session, so it was kind of split. I thought it was a good practice. One of the things we’re looking for now as we get ready to play a game is that second stage of evaluations for us as coaches is game day.

“We’ve done about all we can do in practice. We are lined up where we need to be going into the game. So, as I told the team, game day is the next level of evaluation for us to make decisions. Some guys will get exposed, if they don’t know their plan like they’re supposed to know it and others will rise. I’m anxious to get out there and see.”

Junior linebacker Brandon Maye had arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday, and Swinney said that everything went as expected.

“Everything went good today,” he said. “We’re hoping he’ll be back for PC [Presbyterian College]. It was exactly what we thought it was- just had a loose body in there. Should have him up and at em’ here pretty soon and don’t anticipate any issues.”

The Tigers shifted junior linebacker Daniel Andrews, who had been working behind starter Quandon Christian at strongside linebacker, over to weakside linebacker on Wednesday, where he will back up Tig Willard, who starts in place of Maye, and he said that senior Brock Henderson will also see time there.

Swinney then said that he doesn’t think depth will be an issue at the position on Saturday.

“Tig has played. He’s got some experience- he played some in the championship game,” Swinney said. “I know he didn’t get a ton of reps, but he’s played. Corico, he’s solid. With their style of play, there will probably be a lot of nickel and some dime sprinkled in there, so we probably won’t have a lot of base defense. So, that takes your depth problem and condenses it a little bit, and you rely a little bit more on your depth in the secondary- from that standpoint, that’s good. I think we’ll be okay. Hopefully we’ll come out of this first game with some good experience. Quandon will have his first game under his belt, [Spencer] Shuey will have his first game. We’ll get it on film, coach them and continue getting better from there.”

He was asked when the decision on the “bubble freshmen”, the ones who may or may not redshirt, will be made, and he said a lot depends on what happens once the season starts.

“A lot of it is going to depend on what happens in these first couple of games,” he said. “We are continuing to get a guy like Kalon [OL Kalon Davis] ready, for example. If I had to guess, he would play, but we are going to try and protect them if we can. Same thing with [CB] Darius Robinson. [CB] Martin Jenkins still looks like he’s going to have to play. We would like to hold both of those guys if we could, but we’re just going to keep going in that direction right now and we’ll make a decision over the next few weeks. We don’t have to make any final decisions right now- some of those guys we know for sure, but some of those bubble guys, we’ll just kind of see what happens over the next couple of weeks.”

Swinney ended the interview by chastising the media for not asking about fullback Chad Diehl.

“Out of all the players asked to be interviewed yesterday, nobody asked for Diehl- what the heck is wrong with all of you guys,” Swinney asked. “That sucker might be the best player that we’ve got and nobody asked to interview him. I mean he’s a nice guy, he’s not going to hurt any of you. You’re basing that on his past behavior, he’s a new and improved Chad Diehl. He’s redefining himself.”

Swinney said that Diehl has worked since last season on becoming more than just a lead blocker, and Saturday could see him catching the ball and even carrying it a few times.

“All spring, he worked on broadening his game,” Swinney said. “He’s done a good job with it. He’s going to have to catch the ball, he’s going to have to carry the ball, he protects, he plays on the line, he’s off the ball, and moves. Of course, he’ll always be that guy that everyone wants to keep their eye on because a collision is going to happen one way or another. He’s done a really good job of becoming a much more complete player. He’s really caught the ball well. I’m anxious to see him play over the course of the season- I think you’ll see his role different than it was last year.”

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