CLEMSON — Thursday afternoon, Clemson was forced into a cramped indoor track facility for its fifth preseason football practice as heavy rain rolled through the area. It limited the ability to play smashmouth football, and while installation wasn’t hampered, the ability to truly “cut loose” was.
Next fall, that won’t be a problem. Inside the Tigers’ football complex, the steel frame of a new $10 million indoor practice facility rises, which Clemson hopes to move into by December.
That, coach Dabo Swinney says, will be the lasting impact of Terry Don Phillips’ tenure as Clemson athletic director.
Phillips, who announced his retirement Thursday effective in June 2013, was instrumental in a facilities blitz that included the new practice facility and the WestZone complex, which will cost $65 million and include new locker rooms, team meeting and meal facilities, luxury suites and a museum devoted to Clemson’s athletic and military history.
He said Phillips’ legacy was “getting Clemson back in business from a facilities standpoint.”
“What he has done with the facilities in all our sports has been incredible,” Swinney said. “I know it hasn’t always been that way. He’s been persistent and he’s persevered. He has given us a chance to compete at the highest level from a facilities standpoint, a staff standpoint, contracts, all that stuff.
“He has changed the playing field here. I’m so appreciative of the opportunities we’ve had. We just moved into a new dining hall in the West Endzone last week, a tremendous addition. We won’t have issues in November, hopefully, if we’re able to move into the new indoor practice facility. To be honest, they ought to name it after him.”
Phillips elevated Swinney from wide receivers coach to interim head coach and then full-time head coach in December 2008 following Tommy Bowden’s resignation; the Tigers have won two ACC division titles and an ACC championship in his three full seasons. The two talked Thursday in Swinney’s office, and Swinney said his boss is “at peace with the timing.”
“I just love him,” Swinney said. “He is a great man, he is a man with class, a man of integrity and he is a man vision. He is a man of guts. He had the guts to hire me four years ago for this position. It was a special moment last year, that I’ll never forget, being able to hand him that ACC championship trophy in Charlotte.”
Starting right tackle Gifford Timothy was at practice Thursday on crutches, with his left knee in a brace. Timothy left Wednesday’s practice on a cart after sustaining the injury; he had locked down the starting job in spring practice.
Swinney said he will have surgery to repair a meniscus tear Friday morning, “scope it, clean it up, do a lateral release on the other side.”
Timothy will likely miss several weeks, with hopes of returning by Sept. 1’s season opener with Auburn. Swinney was happy with the result.
In his absence, redshirt freshman Joe Gore would likely be the starter.
“I hope he’s going to seize the moment. It’s a great opportunity for him,” Swinney said. “He’s a very talented player, obviously he doesn’t know a whole lot. He has a lot to learn, but he’s got all the skills. This might be a blessing in disguise for the next two weeks, 10 days. Hopefully Joe will seize that moment.”
“(Freeman) is a fifth-year senior, we know exactly what we’ve got with him,” Swinney said. “Norton is a guy we’re really excited about, who’s made some progress and jumped up there quickly, shown we can count on him. We’ll get him in situations where he’s with Tajh (Boyd) and the first group. “The most critical position is the guy snapping the ball and setting things up for us. He’s done a really good job. He’s working with the ones and twos, and we’re trying to monitor Dalton’s reps more than anything else.”
In addition, redshirt freshman Jerome Maybank has moved from defensive tackle to offensive line. He will be evaluated at both guard and tackle.
“I think it’s a good move for him, good move for us long-term,” Swinney said. “He’s behind but evaluating our personnel and everything we have, you’re always trying to get everyone on the right seat of the bus. I think that’ll give him a better opportunity to compete and help our team at some point.”