CLEMSON — Despite a third practice marred by rain and lightning, Dabo Swinney found plenty of positives from his young players Monday night.
Clemson’s head coach praised his team’s energy even through a mid-practice transition in and out of the indoor track facility thanks to storms. He was impressed with several young defensive linemen and wide receivers.
The Tigers practiced for the first time in helmets and shoulder pads; they will be allowed to wear full pads Wednesday, per NCAA practice rules.
Ford "solid" in camp, Peake/Bryant improving
“The story of our team, in my opinion, is going to be our sophomore group. There are so many of them that are going to be starting or playing really big roles for us, and Tavaris and Vic are two of those guys can be very disruptive,” Swinney said. “Different skill sets, different kind of guys, but they’re both guys who can help this football team. It’s good to see them show up.”
Barnes played last season as a defensive tackle, but has moved outside to help bolster a thin defensive end group. Swinney says his long-term future is inside, but the ends need immediate help.
“He’s one of those guys, if he continues to work and commit himself, stays healthy, he’s an ideal body to play on the next level. He can run,” Swinney said. “Outside of Vic Beasley he’s the fastest defensive lineman we’ve got. Powerful, got his body in good shape, trimmed down a bit, his body is at 267, the only guy have inside that can play outside.
“We’re trying to address that in this recruiting class. Just thin. Tavaris is one guy that can do it. I think he can do it well. He can play end, be very effective. There’s no doubt he can slide inside and be a dominant player, with his speed, athleticism and size. I think he’s in a spot right now to give us a chance to win, where we’re very thin depth-wise.”
He’s also impressed with freshman defensive end Kevin Dodd, who has shown significant improvement from spring practice.
“Dodd was very raw this spring, not engaged, not dialed in, could not come close to getting the big picture. The first three days, I’m proud of him, he doesn’t look big-eyed,” Swinney said. “You could tell he’d gotten out there this summer and guys had done a good job with him, our veteran guys. He’s still a long way away from being a great football player, but I think he’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a great body, he’s got a ton of upside, and he’s one of those guy that I think can develop into a really great football player.”
With Sammy Watkins suspended for the season’s first two games, young receivers will be counted upon to fill his shoes. Swinney says both sophomores Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant have been impressive. According to Swinney, Peake ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.2-second range this summer, fastest on the roster.
“Charone’s been awesome. If there’s a guy on our team on a mission, it’s Charone Peake,” Swinney said. “He’s been that way since … I don’t know what clicked, other than he’s got that first year behind him, which I’ve seen a lot of times with guys. He’s incredibly confident, fastest guy on the team, I think he ran faster than any guy on the team this summer. That’s incredibly impressive, we’ve got some guys that can run. He’s playing at a high level, hope that’ll continue. He’s picked up where he was this spring and gotten even better
“Martavis is doing a good job, he’s engaged, and we’re cross-training those guys. Both are learning our “nine” and “five” positions, both will have to play them at some point. We’re training Charone a little bit at 2-man. He’s done a good job, so has Martavis. Both have loads of talent. We keep coaching them every day and bring them along.”
Cornerback Martin Jenkins suffered a hip flexor injury Monday, but it is not serious; he is expected to return soon. Sophomore defensive tackle Grady Jarrett suffered a mild groin strain.