CLEMSON – Almost a week to gameday, the Tigers didn’t pick the best time for their worst practice.
Nevertheless, that’s what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney saw Thursday night.
“I thought it stunk. I thought it was very average,” he said. “Very mentally sluggish. We would’ve got beat 65 to zero today. Really disappointed. Just not a lot of attention to details.
Practice Report - 8/22
Thursday session 'stunk'
“Just didn’t practice with a lot of purpose.”
Of no coincidence was the fact that classes began Wednesday, putting a little more on the players’ plates. That isn’t an excuse the coach will take, however.
“I know they’re just starting school back and all that,” Swinney said, “but you’ve got to have mental toughness and push through all that stuff… they’re feeling sorry for themselves with class and this and that. Not focused, very disappointing.”
Part of his apprehension on the Tigers’ focus comes going into the vital “Beanie Bowl” situational scrimmage in Memorial Stadium Friday.
“That’s a huge, huge deal,” said Swinney. “We’ll throw a lot at these guys tomorrow night and see how they respond. It’s the first time together on the sidelines. Really work that situation. Going to put them under the lights really for the first time.”
Their prep continues with meetings on Saturday and a day off Sunday before game week kicks into high gear on Monday.
On the injury front, he hopes to have freshmen DBs Jayron Kearse and Adrian Baker and running back Tyshon Dye back by Monday.
The injuries have plagued the secondary, but it’s nothing recent that they haven’t planned for.
“We’re way past all that,” said Swinney. “Adrian has been out a while. Mackensie (Alexander) has been limited for most all camp. Martin is back. Martin has been solid and good for about a week and that’s been a shot in the arm for us.”
From that plan, they’ve identified a core of upperclassmen as co-starters at cornerback.
“It’s kind of a toss-up between (Bashaud) Breeland, Darius (Robinson), (Garry) Peters and Martin Jenkins,” Swinney said. “They’re kind of all starters in our eyes and we’re going to need all four of them.”
After some talk of playing nickel, Jenkins said Thursday he is working exclusively at corner. On the mend health-wise, Swinney says they’ll get more comfortable with his versatility.
“We have not worked Martin at a lot of nickel,” Swinney said. “Just because going into we didn’t know if we could count on him until we could consistently see him practice. He’s a guy that will be back in the mix going into the season.”
Safety is really the concern in the back-end, per Swinney, with two projected starters without a career start at the position.
There and elsewhere and coming off an “off” practice, Swinney says there’s plenty of work left before the Tigers and Dawgs go under the lights.
“There’s still a lot of preparation to get the team ready to play,” said Swinney. “We’re not ready to play right now. I know there’s a lot going on on campus and there’s some energy around here, but we still have a lot of work to do with this football team.”