Dabo not worried about throwing, catching, running; but OT is another matter

Kicker is his No. 2 concern: 'We just lost probably the most accurate kicker in the history of this school'

Clemson's Eric Mac Lain, left, absorbs a push by Clemson's Kalon Davis during practice Tuesday at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Eric Mac Lain, left, absorbs a push by Clemson's Kalon Davis during practice Tuesday at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

Everywhere Dabo Swinney goes, he hears variations of the same questions:

Who's throwing it?

Who's running it?

Who's catching it?

Oddly enough, Swinney isn't particularly worried about any of those things.

As the Tigers take the field Wednesday for their first of 15 spring practices, Swinney's mind is in the trenches - particularly the offensive tackle positions.

Rising junior Isaiah Battle is penciled in at left tackle, replacing two-time All-ACC performer Brandon Thomas.

The right tackle spot is up for grabs.

It might have belonged to Gifford Timothy, who spent much of two years as a starter, or Patrick DeStefano, who a year ago was on the fast track to early playing time. But before Clemson's 2013 season ended, both tackles had been forced to give up football because of chronic injuries - knee problems for Timothy and a potentially dangerous neck condition for DeStefano.

Complicating the right tackle situation further is that rising junior Shaq Anthony, the most experienced candidate, is suspended for the Tigers' opener against Georgia, and Eric Mac Lain, who played some at right tackle last fall, will get first shot to take over the starting left guard position.

That leaves rising junior Joe Gore, redshirt freshman Maverick Morris, and possibly Kalon Davis - who is slated to start at right guard - to fill the position.

"The biggest concern for me is sorting out our tackle situation," said Swinney. "To me, that's a bigger question going into spring ball than quarterback, running back and wideout. I know that by the time we play, we'll have some very high quality people ready to go.

"But tackle is another question. We lost two guys we didn't anticipate losing off-cycle. I like the guys that we have, but we've got to develop them. Mac Lain is going to play both - we'll start him out at guard and give him a chance to be the starter, because we feel like he's earned that opportunity. But he'll have to keep his hand in at tackle, as well.

"Shaq Anthony has some experience and is talented, and Joe Gore is really what you're looking for. He has all the tools to be an outstanding player. His junior year is big for him. Is Maverick Morris going to be a guy who can catch our attention? I like what I've seen from him, but can he go out and put it together? Kalon is a guy who's very smart and moves well.

"That's sort of the jigsaw puzzle right now. We're going to move a lot of guys around and find out who our best five are."

Swinney said his No. 2 concern is developing a consistent and reliable placekicking game.

"We just lost probably the most accurate kicker in the history of this school," Swinney said. "That's a pretty big deal. The one bad season that we've had, we weren't very good at kicker. That's a very critical position, especially when you're as good on defense as I hope that we'll be.

"Ammon Lakip is poised and ready to step into that role, and I'm very encouraged with his development and what I saw out of him the last part of the season. Now he's got to go do it."

Swinney said that injuries will keep some players off the field, or out of contact, this spring.

Redshirt running back Tyshon Dye will miss the spring after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon; safety Travis Blanks will be sidelined as he rehabs a torn ACL suffered in November; and cornerback Martin Jenkins and walk-on linebacker Marcus Bullard are out after undergoing surgery to repair shoulder problems.

Working out in non-contact drills will be wide receiver Charone Peake and linebacker Kellen Jones, both of whom are rehabbing ACL injuries that occurred early last season.

Offensive tackle Oliver Jones will miss the first few days of practice, but should be back in action after spring break.

Swinney announced the suspension of four potential starters - Shaq Anthony, offensive guard David Beasley, cornerback Garry Peters and defensive end Corey Crawford - for the Georgia game because of a violation of team rules.

He said there are two players who will make position changes this spring. Rising sophomore T.J. Green will move from wide receiver to safety, while walk-on tight end Zach Riggs has moved to center.

Swinney said that rising senior Tony Steward will get first shot at the starting 'will' linebacker position, and that Brent Venables will experiment with several dual-range players at the nickel back/'sam' linebacker position, including Korrin Wiggins, T.J. Burrell and Blanks, when he returns from his injury. He said B.J. Goodson could see action there as a run-stopper.

Swinney said the Tigers will kick off practice on Wednesday with a 'tombstone ceremony' commemorating their victory over fifth-ranked Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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Comments » 2

33dtb writes:

We don't need no stinkin' O-Line.
We've gotten along since T B w/o one.

clemvol writes:

Forget about throwing, running and catching just give me hitting, tackling, pain and a nasty attitude and part of this can be for the coaching staff too.

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