Dabo Swinney pushing Clemson through physical practices

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on the sidelines during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on the sidelines during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

— Even though final exams are finished, life has been anything but easy for Josh Watson this week.

“It’s kind of hard to get out of bed some days,” Clemson’s sophomore defensive tackle said. “I’ve been popping some pain pills.”

Crawford: Physicality at 10.5 out on 1-10 scale


Dabo Swinney’s Chick-fil-A Bowl practice plan is working just the way he wants it to. Clemson’s head coach called LSU – the Tigers’ New Year’s Eve opponent – the most physical team the Tigers have played in some time.

So he’s treating practices exactly that way. Clemson finishes its on-campus portion of bowl workouts Friday, but the Tigers will earn their break by completing bruising practices first.

“Iron on iron, iron sharpening iron. It’s just battling in there,” Watson said. “Coach Swinney’s got his foot up our butts, basically, and he doesn’t plan on taking it out for about four days.”

Watson says Swinney is “doing a good job” of preparation, including running the dreaded “Paw” drills – also known as “Oklahoma” drills – where a running back runs behind an offensive lineman with a defensive lineman trying to bring him down. If the running back breaks free, the offense wins. If he goes to the ground, the defense wins.

“That’s what it’s going to be like on the 31st,” Watson said, “so we’ve got to get prepared.”

That’s all about simulating LSU’s style, Swinney said.

“We’ve tried to create what they’re going to see in this game,” he said. “When you play a triple-option team, you’re going to present what you see week to week the best you can. This team we’re playing, their style of play is the most physical that we’ve seen in quite a while. So we try to do the very best we can and work for it.”

Sophomore defensive end Corey Crawford said practices are, on a 1-10 scale, “10 and a half, as far as being physical.” It has been a constant message from Swinney.

“We need it to have the upper hand on (LSU),” Crawford said. “They’re a physical downhill team, and they’re going to come and hit you in the mouth, so we have to be ready to strike back.”

Proving a point about the ACC and Clemson’s physicality, Watson said, is important.

“I’d like to prove some people wrong,” he said. “People like to think we’re not as physical. Because they’ve got an SEC logo on their jerseys, they’re tougher than us. We’d like to get out there and show them we put our pads on the same way they do.”

By the time the Tigers leave Clemson, the framework for that plan should be in place.

“You try to get dialed in and honed in on what we’re going to do, and button up the game plans as if we were getting ready to play on Saturday,” Swinney said. “Nobody wants to spend a lot of time game-planning when you get to the bowl site. You want to be locked in on what you want to do and spend that week getting precision down and sharpening up your execution, just studying, getting the plan. Guys have responded well, practiced hard and we’ve put them in adverse situations and they’ve responded well.”

Tigers practicing physical to play physical


Swinney announced Wednesday that sophomore cornerback Bashaud Breeland will miss the bowl game due to a groin injury and would undergo surgery Thursday to repair the injury. Breeland has been limited by a groin injury that bothered him over the second half of the season; he missed the Wake Forest and South Carolina games with the injury.

“He had practiced some this month with the hope of getting him ready to play against LSU, but it is apparent he will not be well enough to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” said Swinney.

Breeland started five of the first seven games and had 30 tackles in those games. He played in just three of the last five and had just two tackles in 52 snaps. He played in 10 games and had five starts overall. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up and a sack.

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Comments » 12

MyTwoSENSE writes:

While i understand what he meant, I wish he wouldn't of said, "popping pain pills," because I'm sure the crazy NCAA will read that as painkillers or something crazy instead of aspirin or Tylenol. Lol

cuGIZ82 writes:

Looking forward to see if the preparation pays off. Hopefully both our O-line & D-line perform well.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Among players on scholarship: Xavier Brewer, Garry Peters and Cortez Davis. Travis Blanks has played nickel, but is supposed to be working more safety, where he will be next year with Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks gone.

MoncksTater writes:

Im hoping that after the bowl game ...LSU will be "popping pain pills" .

33dtb writes:

Evidently it's not jut my humble opinion:


....."How to build a championship team: what Clemson can learn from LSU’s roster makeup.."....

TRUETIGER1 writes:

I wish we would have started this physical thing sooner.

TigerFan95 writes:

Why has Dabo waited until now to decide to grow a pair?

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I do remember 4 (Four) straight loses to a school we used to own, only because they are more physical than we are.

Xander5000 writes:

S. Carolina has at least one more year to match that five year straight run we had against them, but I admit things got to get better quick. What ever happend to Lateek Townsend, did I miss something? Is he still with the team?

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think the softness of the conference has a major impact on how hard and physical our players play. It is the coaches job to prepare for every opponent, some take more work than others. The calls are even different in SEC Ball(let them play) compared to the ACC(make UNC look good). The ACC is not a physical conference and it shows when we get out of conference play. We were soft against FSU and USC. These are still kids and they need coaches to lead. I think some of the toughness in teams like Alabama IS COACHED.

kellytown writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree with you Dabo has been great for the Tigers. I really appreciate him very much. The problem we had was we let TB stay too long and we got behind and know we have to catch up. Dabo is one of the best recruiters you could ask for. He has the passion and has assembled a very good coaching staff and will continue Dabo is a very smart coach and he knows what to do and he can make the hard choices. It took us 10 yrs too get bad under TB watch its taken us 4 yrs to get better and Dabo is not through.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Merry Christmas! GO TIGERS!

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