Watkins looked 'great' back at practice
“You’d never know,” Swinney said, “that three, four days earlier, he was being rushed to the hospital.”
Clemson’s star sophomore wide receiver didn’t make the trip to Boston College Saturday after suffering what Swinney called “the perfect storm “ of illness – a virus, dehydration and kidney trauma stemming from a hit sustained at Florida State.
“All that together, the next thing you know his kidneys are reacting to it and it’s all out of whack,” Swinney said. “It’s a very dangerous thing.”
Watkins’ bloodwork was “scary” on Thursday, but improved over the weekend. He is expected to play Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Safety shuffle: With sophomore Garry Peters expected to start Saturday at cornerback, versatile senior defensive back Xavier Brewer could see more time at safety; he has shifted between safety and corner through the first half. Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he would rotate between the positions due to the lack of depth.
Swinney said the position as a whole needs more consistency.
“ Jonathan Meeks has been very solid for us,” Swinney said. “He had his worst game at Boston but he’s been steady Eddie for us. Everyone else has been inconsistent. Up and down up and down, and that’s where we’ve got to improve. Rashard Hall has had some really good moments and some disappointing moments.”
When asked, Swinney said Hall – who underwent offseason microfracture surgery on his knee – is fully healthy.
“He’s as good as he’s ever been,” Swinney said. “He played last year at 80 percent and did a good solid job. He’s played tough, played hurt. He’s been pretty inconsistent (this year). He’s doing some not-so-smart things in the back end.”
Ellington returns: With Watkins sidelined Saturday, senior tailback Andre Ellington was impressive as a kick returner, piling up 129 yards on five returns.
Swinney suggested that even with Watkins back, Ellington could see time returning kicks going forward.
“We’re pretty confident in Sammy Watkins, and we’re still confident in him, but we saw Andre, and he’s a natural,” he said. “He’s a gifted runner with great vision. With Sammy doing it to, it’s like having Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller back there together. Those guys are gifted.”
Eat to win: Clemson announced Monday that it has hired Lisa Chan, formerly of Auburn, as its new sports nutritionist. Chan will design and recommend optimal nutrition programs for athletes’ performance, weight gain and weight loss and educate athletes on diet and nutrition in their personal lives, as well as monitor menus and the football training table and preseason meals.
“I’m excited about it,” Swinney said. “It’s a big step from a program standpoint as far as trying to create another edge in our program as far as the development of our players. When those guys leave here (they’re out of our control). Now to take that element and have a person that really understands that part of it, take it to the dining hall and helping people eating to champions and eat to win. That’s a big part of it. Sleep to win, eat to win, train to win. All those things.”
Keep ‘em educated: Swinney was asked about juniors DeAndre Hopkins and Tajh Boyd and if contact with agents could be a potential issue.
“They’re talking to those guys in high school,” Swinney said. “We have to do a great job from a program standpoint thinking about that. But if they’re focused on that, (our players) have lost their mind. We start talking to those guys about that as freshmen, when they arrive on campus, what they can and can’t do. (Director of player development) Jeff Davis does a great job. But they don’t waste two seconds thinking about that. All that’s on their mind is being the best players in college they can be.”