CLEMSON—As the Clemson Tigers continue into the second week of camp, the coaching staff are constantly searching for creative ways to break up the monotony of being around each other as much as they are right now.
And the perfect opportunity to break up camp presented itself Wednesday night, as the Tigers gathered for a pseudo-tailgate at the football complex to watch six of their former teammates compete as the Carolina Panthers hosted the Houston Texans.
“It was fun. We had a great time. We’re always trying to find ways to spend good, quality time together,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re getting a lot of time this time of year, and this is a long camp, because school starts a week later than it has in, at least, two years. We’ve got a long way to go and we only a week into camp.
“We just had some fun, and it was great. We got off the field and had a big tailgating party last night. The facility allows us to do a lot of things—we had a big blowup TV, and we blew it up and had like a drive-in theater. The weather was unbelievable, I don’t think I’ve ever been through a camp like this right now. But when we move camp over to the meadows (Jervey Meadows) I’m sure the sun will come out and cooperate like we need it to.”
The Tigers took full advantage of their newest staff hire, chef Donna McCain, who provided the Tigers with a buffet that would be the envy of even the most dedicated tailgaters.
“It was great. We hired a chef named Donna, and she’s amazing,” Swinney said. “But they had just a big, sho’nuff cookout—chips and dip, made a few of us corndogs. It was good, a good time and guys enjoyed it.”
For the Tigers, it was a time to hang out with family and teammates while watching former Tigers competing on the stage that every player dreams of. But at the end of the day there was still camp looming—meaning it was early to bed for most of the Tigers.
“Those guys take a lot of pride in watching their teammates. Their messing with Carlos (Watkins) amongst their selves, guys clapping for Deshaun or everybody’s excited to see Ben,” Swinney said. “It’s a lot of fun for those guys and fun to see some football. We had a good time and then they were able to get home, everybody was pretty much here for the first half—and we are trying to do a good job with our sleep.
“We try to do a smart job with how we structure camp to make sure that these guys are getting enough rest on the backend and the frontend with our itinerary. So, guys, we’re tracking that—we’re tracking that. Guys are doing a pretty good job right now of getting the type of recovery that we need, so we can have the cognitive performance that we’re trying to get.”
With just two more practices, a Thursday evening practice and Friday practice, before the first scrimmage of the season, Swinney is beginning to see the makings of a squad that could be pretty special—namely the tight ends and the cornerbacks caught the eyes of the head coach Thursday morning.
“Well the tight ends today as a group. This is the best day we’ve had as a group,” Swinney said. “I’m really proud of how they practiced and how they competed—they made the plays we need them to make. We’ve got a group of guys that all bring something to the table. We just need them to be the best version of who they are and what they bring—and I saw that today. That was really encouraging. Because that group as a whole, it’s putting together all the pieces. It was good to see that today.
“I’m pleased with our corners, if I could just pick through. We’ve got some guys that can play. I love how they’re encouraging each other. I love how they’re all competing together, but we’ve got a chance to be pretty good there.
“I’m real encouraged by what I’ve seen out of that group, really the whole camp. I just see a lot of improvement, but all these guys are getting better.”
Dorian O’Daniel Growing Up:
The Tigers head coach took time to single out one of the talented linebackers after practice Thursday mornings, praising his dedication and commitment to the game—that player is graduate student Dorian O’Daniel.
O’ Daniel earned the starting strong side linebacker spot after an outstanding spring, however the growth that Swinney has seen out of him since last season is fun to watch.
“Dorian O’Daniel’s a guy, to me right now, is probably as good as any player we’ve got on the team,” Swinney said. “I mean, he’s a really good football player—playing at a high level, playing fast and physical, confident. He’s really learned the scheme, and that was something that wasn’t always easy for him early. He didn’t really work at it. He didn’t have the football work ethic to go—he thought it was just going to come easy to him. It’s so much fun to watch him excel like he is right now.
Young Receivers Making a Name:
With names like Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow and even true freshman Amari Rodgers receiving all of the press through the first week of camp, Swinney took some time to refresh the minds of those in attendance that the Tigers have quite a few more names to remember this season.
“Then we’ve got some young receivers, like T.J. Chase. He’s been a wild guy. I am so encouraged by T.J. Chase, he’s really becoming a craftsman at his position,” Swinney said. “Easy to notice, taken advantage of his opportunities. Trevion (Thompson) is another guy that is very vital to us. Very encouraged with Diondre Overton—he looks right now what I hoped he would have looked like last summer when he got here, much improved. And Tee Higgins just continues to show up. We’ve got a lot of good things, good pieces.