Tigers return from spring break, get ready for Saturday scrimmage

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker has become more of a vocal leader in his second season

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney welcomed his football team back from spring break on Sunday night, and the Tigers hit the field on Monday for the fourth spring practice, and said he was impressed with the energy the team brought back out of the break.

“Good day. Good energy out there today,” Swinney said. “The guys came back out of their break going about their business, which is what you want the make-up of your team to really be about. They were very business-like and knew it was time to go to work. I thought that showed last night when everybody showed back up here, and we had a good meeting, and that carried over into today.

“I felt good about last night but you never know until you get out on the field. It was cold and windy, but the energy was very good from the get-go, and the tempo was much better today. The first three days of practice we had a lot of installation, and we were repping a lot of guys. As a result, the tempo wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I kind of bit my tongue a little bit. There was a lot of installation going on.”

Swinney said it was good to see the players bring back what they had learned and be able to build on the previous three practices.

“Today we had some guys that showed they have had a chance to process what we did the first three days,” he said. “It was evident that they did that. They didn’t just turn the switch off and then show back up today. A lot of those guys, especially the young guys, you could tell they were ready and had processed the first three days of installation, so the tempo was good.”

The Tigers will have Tuesday off, and then practice again on Wednesday [the last open practice of the spring] as they prepare for a scrimmage on Saturday, and Swinney said as he points the team toward the scrimmage, he was happy with both sides of the ball.

"I thought today defensively, when we got our hands on the ball, we caught it,” Swinney said. “That's a real key. We were third in the nation in interceptions last year. We had our hands on a few other balls that we didn't hang on to. That's one of our points of emphasis. When we touch it, let's come up with it.

"Offensively, after four practices it's pretty obvious - and I'm real pleased - is our wideouts are getting better. That whole group is really improving. They really are. They had a good day today. I'm also pleased again with our front. Both sides of the ball, front-wise, are on schedule. I really like the makeup of our team after four practices. I'm looking forward to our next 11. I thought we kicked the ball well today. Our timing was off a little bit as far as the snap and getting down, so we've got to correct that.”

Swinney also said that quarterback Kyle Parker is showing increased maturity as heads into his second season as the starter.

"KP looked sharp today. He made some really nice throws said. “I'm really pleased with him. He's getting in his installation. He's obviously paying attention. He's not missing checks. He's checking protections. You want a veteran guy to do that. And another thing, he’s been out there and asserted himself as a leader. I'm real pleased with what I've seen from him.”

Swinney was asked what has made Parker stand out as a leader, and he said it was the little things.

“He's vocal. He's prepared. I think that's part of being a leader, showing up and knowing what the heck you're supposed to do. He understands it. He's taken command of the guys up front. When we're getting on and off the field, he's leading them off the field. He's leading them on the field. I think some of that is that he's more comfortable in that role now from where he was this time last year."

The receivers and tight ends have also shown signs of promise.

"Jaron Brown, he has shown signs of a guy who could develop into a great player,” Swinney said. “Hopefully he'll continue that trend. Marquan [Jones] has had a good spring so far. He's really playing fast which is kind of been something that has held him back in the past, backing up Jacoby and backing up Tyler. He’s kind of a rep guy. He's getting more reps and is responding to that.

"Tight end - they're doing well. Dwayne Allen and Chad Diehl. And we've been pleased with Drew Traylor and Kasey Nobles. It's a do-or-die spring for those guys. Both have been a surprise for us. If they'll continue on, hopefully they can have a role for us and be dependable guys.”

Other notes from Swinney:

*On the receivers - “I don't know that we'll have a guy that will catch 70 balls. I don't know that we'll have an Aaron Kelly. I think it'll be real competitive if it plays like it has so far. If we played today they'd roll in and out and compete. But we've challenged Xavier to be a leader. He's done a nice job with his opportunities. He hasn't dropped many balls. With the opportunities he had last fall, he did an excellent job. He has proven he can make plays. We're kind of looking to him to take the bull by the horns and lead. So far he has done that. He came back today focused and had a good day.

"Brandon Ford and Brandon Clear made a couple of nice plays today. If the light is on - and it appears to be on - he [Clear] can do it. He's got all the skills. He's just got to be consistent. And Ford, if you ask him to do the right things and he can be successful. He's got probably the best pure ball skills of any of them. There are certain things he can really be good at."

*On his impressions of David Smith, who is pushing for starting job on the offensive line – “As we met on Thursday after that last practice and talked about personnel, his name kept coming up. The light just kind of came on for him the last half of the season and he hasn’t looked back. He's confident, strong, and physical and has been impressive on film. We feel confident that he can play and be a starting guard. We feel confident that he could be a starting tackle if we needed him there. He's really proven to be a real commodity for us and a valuable asset. If he'll keep progressing, the sky is the limit for him. He can make some money playing this game. He's very talented."

*On whether one player had stood out to him to this point in spring practice - "If I had to say one guy - Dwayne Allen. I'm noticing him for the right things. That's good. He's a very talented guy. And the two backs, I’d say I'd put them into one person because they've both been excellent so far. Defensively, one guy, I'd probably say Marcus Gilchrist. He's a very talented football player and takes his job serious. I mean he is attentive to the little things. He hates to lose. He hates to get beat. It doesn't matter what he's doing out there. He wants to do it right. He's another one of those guys that I see trying to be more of a leader. He's one guy that has jumped out at me.”

*On continuing to develop depth on the offensive front - "We've got more depth up front. This time last year I could have given you just two names I felt we could win with - Hairston and Austin. Now we're starting to get confidence with our second group. Brandon Thomas, we've got a water hose in his mouth, force-feeding him. Same thing with Phillip Price. I really think he'll be a solid player for us. He's tough, athletic and has the right demeanor. He's working at it. He's been a guy that will progress hopefully. Wilson Norris, you know, has come light years from where he was when he arrived. I've got a lot of confidence in him. He understands his role and is becoming a leader for us. Matt Sanders is a guy who has shown some flashes. He's a guy that I was a little worried about last year. Now he's just maturing into what I think will be a good solid guy for us this year. He's still a young player, a sophomore. And Mason Cloy has played a lot of football around here. He's working hard and is a guy we think we'll get in some drill work probably here in a few days. It won't be live but we'll get him some drill work to keep him up to speed."

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