More Notes from the Swinney Media Outing

Since this is the only time of the year when our (non-coordinator) assistant coaches are allowed to speak to the media, per the new policy, I thought we might need to go through some comments for posterity's sake and cover some notes.

-- Clemson has cancelled the home & home series to take place with Oklahoma State, and jointly cancelled the series with Ole Miss. You can thank the 9 game ACC schedule for our part of that.

-- Dabo said yesterday that LB Tony Steward was cutting without a brace and has been medically cleared to play

This isn't just a player. This is a great, great player. He's one of the best in America, and we need as many of those guys as we can get. He's still Tony Steward. There's been no weaning off a knee brace. You look at him and you'd never know anything has been wrong with him."

While some rightly point out that his first surgery and rehab were done elsewhere, I fail to see why I should be so excited that this one was done under Clemson's supervision. Its not like we have a good track record with joint injuries, and this would not be the first time we heard of a guy being ready to play and 100%, only to find out in January that he was only 80%. If Steward is not visibly 100% confident in that knee, and able to go full speed hitting, he needs to RS for his own benefit this fall. I do not want to see another Scotty Cooper situation. He is just too good a player.

- Cole Stoudt has a defect in his femur above his right kneecap that has caused significant swelling. He had a surgery to repair it once before, and for whatever reason it has flared again. The prognosis is that he'll be OK. With McNeal out, Boyd's penchant for brain farts, and the only other player who know the system being Morgan Roberts, we will definitely need Cole this fall.

-- My primary interest was on the Offensive Line and how they've handled the offseason. We know we have a potential disaster, a la 2008, if we can't block for the skill players we have on the field. The offense only goes as far as the OL takes it. This far it appears that Isaiah Battle's lack of PT/coaching in HS and relative technical rawness is hindering him, and Joe Gore is closer to Timothy than Battle is to Thomas. No one argues that Battle won't be very good in the long run, but we can't expect him to take over the LT job quickly.

Dalton Freeman sits at 285 lbs, and has been asked to get up to 300. He hasn't been able to put that weight on. Now that Clemson is hiring the football nutritionist for the Training Table that will start in August, we should see some kind of change in the physical makeup of some guys. I don't think he needs weight at all, he needs tenacity.

OG Spencer Region sits at around 350, down from 385 when he reported to Clemson. He needs to have that baby to play though; 350 is still way too fat. Perhaps he can get on the treadmill next time Chad Kelly mouths off to him, and work out his aggression that way.

TE Brandon Ford is up to 248lbs, and I'm a little skeptical if that is all good weight, but he has by all accounts carried it very well so far. We will see soon enough.

Caldwell said what we expected him to say about Norton and Guillermo, which is that he'd like to play one of them at Guard. Norton is a good enough blocker to possibly work in there, and I think he would've last year if we had flexibility at Center, but that puts us in a bind at Center with a freshman backup again, which isn't much margin for error or injury.

Right now Caldwell believes we have 7-8 that we can win with, which is a step up from last summer. Swinney believes Kalon Davis really must elevate his level of play at LG for us to be successful.

-- Overall there wasn't much else that came from the Media outing at Cross Creek that wasn't unexpected. Tony Elliott thinks Zac Brooks will grow and become a good player, but my impression is that will be 2013, not 2012.

"You're going to prepare him to play and obviously you would like to red-shirt him. With where he's at physically, you'd like for him to have a year to red-shirt. With Mike Bellamy not returning next season, Zac will have to be ready to play. You'd like to think that D.J. and Hot Rod could carry the load, but at the same time they take a beating every single play."

"Obviously you're concerned because you'd like to have five guys. I'm confident with the guys that I have. Between those three, they'll be able to carry the load once Andre needs a break."

Where does Brooks need to grow the most?
"Pass protection. Last year we sat here and said the same thing with Bellamy. He played running back and receiver, so he was always involved. He's a smart young man. He can pick it up. He just needs those reps. He needs to be able to get back there, stand next to the quarterback and see the safety rotation, see the corners coming, see the different blitz variations they have."

As I've said many times to people screaming about Bellamy not playing enough, you cannot play this offense, that blocks primarily with 5, without a back who can recognize fronts and pick up blitzes. You're asking the defense to blitz you, because it is apparent on film who cannot block. I'm proud of the way Ellington got better at that aspect over the years, and Howard will have to pick this up especially if he wants to play.

When Brooks learns this offense, what can he give you that perhaps you're not able to get from other backs?

"What I'm anticipating with Zac is I see him continuing to grow and be a 210-pound back with size and power. D.J. is probably the next biggest back. He gives us that element of power. As you know, we struggled in short-yardage situations last year. Once he continues to put on some weight, he'll be that guy who can give you some power out of the backfield. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield, too. He won't be just a downhill power guy. He can be a guy who you want to do everything in the offense."

Do you think D.J. can be the guy if thrown into the lead situation should Andre go down?

"He'll have to be, if that situation arises. I've told them all, they've got to be ready to drive the car because you never know. I like what's happening in our room. We're coming together as a unit. Everybody wants to be that lead bird when their opportunity comes. I definitely think D.J. can be that guy. We'll have to be smart with Andre, too, because we know how important he is to this offense."

On Ellington

What's left for him to improve on in order for him to take that next step?

"The big thing with Andre is catching the ball better out of the backfield. We saw that was something that he needed to work on after last season. And being able to stay healthy. As you saw toward the end of the season, if you've got a healthy Andre Ellington, you've got something special. He needs to continue to build that mental toughness and continue to work to get better catching the football."

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