Tiger Tidbits: No Fly Zone, Deshaun Watson and more

by - Senior Writer -
Deshaun Watson is already over 200 pounds
Deshaun Watson is already over 200 pounds

Football is here, whether you are ready or not, and members of the media got a taste of what’s to come when we met with the Clemson coaches and assistant coaches this week at Dabo Swinney Dabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s annual media golf outing.

A lot to report? You bet, and we will fill these pages with the interviews and news and notes from now until the first practice on August 1st, and we will even throw in the sights and sounds of the annual ACC Kickoff in Greensboro this weekend.

But first, let me get you caught up on some of the things we are hearing.

Deshaun WatsonDeshaun Watson
Fr. Quarterback
#4 6-3, 190
Gainesville, GA

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The first question I asked Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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– hey it had to be asked – was if Morris and Swinney would consider seeing if Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
Sr. Quarterback
#18 6-4, 205
Dublin, OH

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and Nick SchuesslerNick Schuessler
RS So. Quarterback
#3 6-3, 185
Grayson, GA

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could shoulder the load this season and allow Watson to redshirt. I knew the answer, but still……

Morris cut me off mid-sentence, and came out with the news that Watson was going to play regardless of whether Chad KellyChad Kelly
RS Fr. Quarterback
#11 6-2, 210
Buffalo, NY

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was here or not, and then said that Watson would play at Georgia. How much? He doesn’t know, and we don’t either, but I have some interesting news to pass along.

A lot of people have been worried that Watson is too thin and won’t hold up to the rigors of the season. I was told Tuesday that he is at 204 pounds right now, up from the 182 he was when he arrived back in January. I saw him at Swinney’s high school camp, and he looked solid. Swinney told me that he thinks Watson can get up into the 220 range before it’s all said and done.

Stoudt is the starter – deservedly so – but the competition between the steady senior and the talented freshman is going to be fun to watch during fall camp and during the season.

Ray-Ray McCloud

The Tampa (FL) Sickles athlete is set to announce on July 28th, and he told us last week that he is just ready for the recruiting madness to be over. I continue to talk to his dad and others close to his recruitment, and this one is just too close to call right now between Clemson and Florida.

Following McCloud’s visit to campus last month, I felt really good about Clemson’s chances. Since that time, however, Florida has made a move and he will visit their campus one more time before he makes a decision. Clemson commit Deon Cain – McCloud’s buddy – is doing everything in his power to help the Tigers.

No Fly Zone

The more I am around defensive backs coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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, the more impressed I am. I thought Clemson’s defensive backs looked better-coached last season than at any time in the last several years. Were there lapses and holes and blown coverages? Absolutely. But this group tackled better, they were more physical at the point of attack and played with better fundamentals and technique.

In talking with Reed and defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Def. Coordinator / Linebackers
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, I get the feeling that there is a sense of optimism surrounding this group. Reed has given the group the phrase “No Fly Zone” as a phrase that they need to live up to, and he told me that he feels like he is a player’s coach and wants to make the game fun.

If this group does live up to the billing, this defense could be really, really fun to watch. MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
RS Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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gets all of the press, but Cordrea TankersleyCordrea Tankersley
So. Defensive Back
#25 6-1, 190
Beech Island, SC

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is one that the coaches rave about. Tankersley played at Hargrave in 2012, and then had 13 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss in 21 snaps over 12 games a year ago. During the spring, he took a major step forward and Swinney said that he thought Tankersley had played well enough to earn a starting spot.

And both Reed and Venables said that Jayron KearseJayron Kearse
So. Safety
#20 6-4, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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isn’t a lock to start at strong safety – both men said that Jadar JohnsonJadar Johnson
So. Defensive Back
#18 6-1, 180
Orangeburg, SC

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is pushing for playing time.

Germone HopperGermone Hopper
RS So. Wide Receiver
#5 6-0, 170
Charlotte, NC

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Wide receivers coach Jeff ScottJeff Scott
Asst. Coach (WR) / Recruiting Coord.
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said that Germone Hopper was not allowed in the WestZone during spring practice – Swinney thought that Hopper needed to pay more attention to his academics and didn’t allow him to practice with the team or attend meetings.

Any time the team was participating in football activities, Hopper had to be in Vickery Hall.

Did it work? Everything I’ve heard says that Hopper has been a model student athlete since that time, and he should be ready to contribute this fall.

Chip on their shoulders

Morris, Venables and Swinney all made mention of the fact that the national media isn’t giving the program a lot of attention this season, pointing to the fact that many pundits must feel that Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
Quarterback (2009 - 2013)
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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and Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Wide Receiver (2011 - 2013)
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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were the entire team a year ago. Is what they are saying merely a motivational tool for the players, or do they really believe that this team has a chance to be special?

I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say it’s a little of both. This team has talent across the board, and a little confidence could go a long way towards determining how this season ends. That is why I think the Georgia game might be the most important opener Clemson has had in a long time – win that one and get a little confidence brewing, and there is no telling what this team can achieve. A loss could set the stage for a lack of confidence is some big early-season games, including Florida St., UNC and Louisville.

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