If Danny Ford is paying attention to the day-to-day goings-on in Clemson’s preseason football camp, he should probably indulge himself a knowing smile.
Dabo Swinney has ripped a page right out of Ford’s playbook with his sudden fussing and fuming over his Tigers’ lack of focus, boneheaded mistakes and general mid-August malaise.
To get his sweltering hoard of young people back on track, Swinney and his coaches have resorted to a bit of well-proven theater.
The Tigers, they say, are ‘soft.’ The veterans, in particular, have been told that they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. One first-line mainstay was booted out of practice and sent to a cold shower.
In the next breath, the coaches will tell you how much they like so much of what they’ve seen during the first 11 days of preseason drills.
It’s a variation on the old ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ routine, delivered and orchestrated toward a productive end – to hone these Tigers into a tough, edgy, hungry football team that starts winning by stopping shooting itself in the foot at seemingly every opportunity.
Dwayne Allen is one Tiger who’s been around long enough to recognize the tune.
He says the message at the root of Swinney’s rant is that the Tigers will be pushed to the limit by their coaches in an effort to eliminate the kind of mistakes that resulted in 6-7 mediocrity a year ago.
“When you get down in the red zone and on the goal line and the pressure is high, you’ve got to be able to function,” said Allen after the Tigers’ Tuesday practice. “We didn’t do it well on both sides of the ball…
“It’s just mental errors in critical situations…guys busting under pressure. It’s the middle of camp and guys start wanting to take a day off. This is when your leaders really show themselves.”
Allen said practice these days is “a grind…it even gets to me.”
“But coach Swinney has done a great job in putting this coaching staff together…They’re not going to allow their guys to have a down day…When you set your expectations high, you have to stand up and reach them.”
Three decades ago, Ford’s teams often played and practiced their best following a serious butt-chewing.
I’m betting that Swinney’s Tigers will have a particularly productive double practice session today.