Brent Venables not quite ready to anoint Tigers' DE Vic Beasley a 'freak'

After waiting his turn, Robert Smith leads secondary; Brandon Thomas back at left tackle

Clemson safety Robert Smith pumps his first in the third quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson safety Robert Smith pumps his first in the third quarter.

Brent Venables is as impressed as anyone with the progress made this spring by rising junior defensive end Vic Beasley, who is making strides toward becoming an everyday player for the Tigers.

Well, almost anyone.

Tajh Boyd, who's been dealing with Beasley's pass rushes all spring, recently labeled his teammate a 'freak.'

Venables isn't quite yet ready to go that far.

"He had a really good scrimmage (on Wednesday)," said Clemson's defensive coordinator following practice on Friday. "But 'freak' is pretty high. Freak is Adrian Peterson. Freak is Sammy (Watkins) and Nuk (Hopkins) at their best. We'll see."

Back To Status Quo: With Gifford Timothy back on the field at full-speed, the Tigers practiced Friday with Brandon Thomas at left tackle and Timothy at right tackle, with David Beasley and Tyler Shatley manning the guard spots, and Ryan Norton at center. That's the same offensive front that started last season with the exception of Norton, who has replaced Dalton Freeman.

Rising sophomore Isaiah Battle has gotten most of the work at left tackle this spring, along with Eric Mac Lain and Patrick Destefano.

Robert Smith Impresses: Venables said that rising junior Robert Smith has been the most impressive of Clemson's defensive backs throughout the first half of spring. Smith is currently the Tigers' starting strong safety.

Smith has been a special teams regular and occasional backup during his first two seasons, just waiting, Dabo Swinney said earlier this spring, for Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks to get out of his way.

Smith has made the transition to being a full-time defensive player after posting staggering offensive numbers during his career at Woodland High in St. George, S.C. In high school, the 5-11, 210-pound Smith racked up more than 11,000 total yards, with over 8,000 yards passing and more than 3,000 yards rushing. He was responsible for 124 touchdowns.

Steward Expected Back Next Week: Rising junior linebacker Tony Steward should be back on the field next Thursday when the Tigers resume practice. Steward, who Venables said had his best practice of the spring last week, has missed the Tigers' last two sessions after suffering a hyperextended knee.

The injury is not considered to be serious, but was undoubtedly a scare for Steward, who has had ACL surgery on both knees in the past three years.

Clemson Hosts High School Clinic: In addition to the 20 pro scouts on hand for Andre Ellington's workout Friday morning, numerous high school coaches watched practice on Friday after attending Clemson's annual High School Coaches' Clinic. One of the scheduled speakers for the event was former Nevada coach Chris Ault, the inventor of the pistol formation which the Tigers used successfully last season.

Recruiting Carries On: Three 2014 Clemson recruiting targets made visits to campus this week.

Cornerback/running back C.J. Fuller made the short trip from Easley, S.C. to watch the Tigers scrimmage on Wednesday. Fuller, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a junior, also has offers from North Carolina and N.C. State.

New Jersey wide receiver Saeed Blacknall completed a swing through the southeast with a stop in Clemson on Thursday. He also visited LSU, Georgia Tech and Georgia. He had 40 catches for more than 700 yards as a junior.

Clemson also got a return visit from Lithonia, Ga. cornerback Wesley Green. He has long had Clemson in his lead group, along with Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and South Carolina.

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