By: Cory Fravel
This figures to be one the more important spring practice periods on record. The main focus this spring is the new OC Chad Morris and the furious pace he will set. The defense has ground to make up a well with the losses of DaQuan Bowers, DeAndre McDaniel and Marcus Gilchrist.
Spring practice has started and with more energy focus than the past two years. New OC Chad Morris commands a big on field presence with his enthusiastic nature and upbeat personality. It’s clear Morris will get the most out his players and push them to get the most out of themselves.
The offense pushed through 22 periods at a furious pace and new OC Morris was very pleased with the first day of practice. There were 8-12 seconds between snaps. I can tell you now teams will have a long week trying to prepare for Clemson this fall. No one in the ACC runs anything like this offense and by early indications this offense is going to put a lot of pressure on on opposing defenses.
Morris was pleased with QB Tajh Boyd but for probably the fifth time he has emphasized the importance of Boyd working on his footwork. Boyd’s throwing motion is not of concern but his footwork is. In this offense the QB needs to be able to read the DE’s without selling his play with his footwork. This is a story line to watch throughout spring and fall camp. One note of importance is that Boyd looks to be 15 lbs lighter. He appears in much better shape than in past years. Boyd’s ability to absorb what Morris is teaching and the new fundamentals will likely dictate his success this fall. Cole Stoudt appears to be the #2 with a bullet in the case Boyd were to go down. From what I have seen I think you will see Tony McNeal redshirt.
OL coach Robbie Caldwell- folks he is making his presence felt in a very big way. Really getting after guys not letting for one second. Pushing these guys for perfect technique. I think by mid-season or earlier you are going to see a more fundamentally sound, tougher and more efficient offensive line. This was a big hire, BIG.
Lots of formations with TE Dwayne Allen lined up at FB/TE offset to the backfield blocking catching screens, running curls and flat routes. Speedster RS freshman WR Joe Craig is in the backfield in certain formation and in the wildcat formation. You have to think when RB Mike Bellamy arrives he will be used this way too.
Hot Rod McDowell and DJ Howard worked as 1 and 2 at RB’s with Andre Ellington still on the mend from toe surgery. This will be beneficial to both backs as they get more seasoned with the first team offense. DJ Howard continues to narrow the gap and close in on McDowell. Watch for this battle to escalate as spring practice continues. Coach Swinney expects Ellington to start running next week but won’t practice until fall camp. This is not as significant as Heather Dinich made this sound. All this means literally is that Ellington can start to run again and make some light cuts. Again he will not resume practice until fall camp.
Postion change- This was talked about around bowl practice and now is happening. RS Freshman Bashaud Breeland has moved from safety to cornerback. He is one of if not the best 1 on 1 defenders on the defense. I would be surprised if he wasn’t one of the starting CB’s game one.
Interesting note former Clemson CB and NY Jet Justin Miller was working with the return team on the practice field. He left after his junior year for the NFL and is back in town taking some classes to work on his degree. WR Nuke Hopkins will be at all 15 practices this spring. He will dress for the VT basketball game but will not travel with the baesketball team for the ACC tournament.