August has finally come around, and fall camp is well under way for Clemson Football. The hard work and dedication that the student athletes have put in during the hot summer sessions have paid off as weigh-ins showed some terrific progress among the players. Now it is back to full pads practices and stadium scrimmages as the team prepares to face off against Georgia later this month.
The work that the Tigers did over the summer was evident during the big weigh-in when the team reported to Clemson to begin fall camp. Senior starting quarterback Cole Stoudt has gained 21 pounds since last year in preparation to lead the team, and freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson has gained an impressive amount of weight since he arrived on campus in January to weigh in at 204 pounds. The competition for playing time on the field is certainly fueling a fire that seems to be benefiting both the quarterbacks.
Among the relatively new and unknown faces in the Clemson offense comes a sense of urgency that those players have to earn starting positions and prove their talent. The new starters appear to be underestimated by most people. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been using the lack of respect to motivate his offensive players to make names for themselves. By doing this, he has been noticing some great talent emerging from the newest Tigers.
In Clemson’s first scrimmage this past Saturday, Morris was pleased with the growth of some of the younger players, especially running back Wayne Gallman and freshman wide receivers Demarre Kitt and Artavis Scott. Morris also noted that the passing chemistry between the quarterbacks and receivers was where it needed to be, and that the competition for the starting running back position is still a close one.
As for the offensive line, Morris is still trying to figure out the winning combination. It was announced that junior starting offensive tackle Isaiah Battle suffered an ankle injury during the PAW drills, and he sat out the scrimmage. His injury is not too serious, but it has given the coaches the opportunity to move around players to find the perfect fit for each position. One player that the coaches have mentioned to be a stand out in Battle’s absence is Joe Gore. Head coach Dabo Swinney was impressed with Gore’s work at left tackle.
In regards to Battle’s injury, Swinney also has said, “With Isaiah Battle out it allowed us to move some players around and get experience playing other positions. Kalon Davis saw a lot of time at tackle and Eric Mac Lain played four different positions over the course of practice. Kalon has had a good preseason so far. He is one of the smartest guys on the team.”
Battle is not the only one who has been sitting out of practices due to an injury. Tight end Stanton Seckinger has injured his ankle and is expected to be out for three to four weeks. Wide receiver Charone Peake is still out from a recent minor knee surgery, but is expected to make a full recovery. Travis Blanks, Sam Cooper, Tyshon Dye, Shaq Lawson and Kellen Jones all sat out from the team’s scrimmage as well.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Carlos Watkins has returned to fall camp in playing condition after suffering from injuries related to a car accident that led him to miss the 2013 season. Watkins has claimed to be 100% again after taking a medical redshirt season to recover from the accident and rebuild his strength.
The first scrimmage brought a few surprises but an overall encouraging feeling to the coaches. Although the defense has been getting most of the praise in the preseason, the offense started off strong by driving 70 yards and 13 plays for a touchdown. That exposed some potential weakness on the defense, but also shows Stoudt’s efficiency and the chemistry between the quarterback and the receivers. Swinney was very pleased that his offense also had no turnovers and that the defense dominated in goal line situations. There is still work to be done before kickoff August 30th, but Clemson is off to an encouraging start.