ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 29: Stephen Hill #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is tackled by Corico Hawkins #42 and Corey Crawford #93 of the Clemson Tigers at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This will be short and simple. We'll start with a couple housekeeping notes:
Clemson's preparation for Auburn officially began Monday. Yes, this is a bit earlier than Clemson started gameday prep for Troy last season. I assume the combination of a tougher opponent and level of experience play a factor in this timing decision. This means a lot for the players. First and foremost, they'll be in more of a game week strategy. The 1's and 2's will get the bulk of the reps with the others relegated to scout team and clean up duty. Long and short, if you haven't made the two-deep, it will be difficult to move up the depth chart due to lack of reps.
Camp wrapped up Tuesday. The staff, per usual, gave the team the day off today for the first day of classes. Preparation for Auburn will resume Thursday. I believe the annual Beanie Bowl gameday walk through occurs Friday. I also assume Monday's practice will converge on Swinney's regular in-season practice schedule because, well, routine is an important thing in life and athletics.
Swinney pointed to Cole Stoudt as the team's backup. Chad Kelly will most likely travel with the squad to gain experience and as an insurance policy should the injury bug bite early in the season. At this point he appears to be headed for a redshirt. With the depth the Tigers have at the receiver position will also likely assure Germone Hopper sits this year, though Swinney is taking a metered approach with Hopper. The staff will wait several weeks into the football season to make a final decision here-obviously based on his advancement and circumstances surrounding the other receivers. I gave Swinney and the staff credit for making some good decisions regarding the redshirt process so far this campaign. This is another one, as this gives the staff a couple weeks to assess team situations and make an intelligent situation later...instead of making a rushed move now that may squander a year of someone's eligibility.
Brent Venables has been less than encouraging with some media comments lately. Clemson's defensive coordinator is not nearly as comfortable with his personnel as he'd like, particularly the defensive backs (corners). Outside of the starters, BV admittedly is having difficulty creating depth there and is continually rotating folks around to try to find suitable players for quality snaps outside the 1's. This includes Garry Peters who has been taking snaps at corner en lieu of the safety spot.
Likewise, the defensive line will be thin here but we've heard less complaining through camp regarding the boys up front. Dr. B has discussed this before and points to Brooks' and Hobby's excellent coaching skills as a reason to believe that this unit will be, at minimal, serviceable at Auburn. I had more concerns here than in the defensive backfield, but that opinion his changing as the season opener gets closer. I do know one thing...any rotations up front will be shallow. Goodman, Crawford, and Beasley will get the vast majority of the DE snaps while Williams, Jarrett, and Watson will be the guys to watch inside. Accordingly (and without some sort of post-camp breakout), the participation distribution will be dominated by few players like last season.
We've beaten to death offensive line items and I really don't have much more to say there. I have seen a lot of questions regarding Roderick McDowell. Hot Rod has been on point so far and The Chad expects to use him and Howard extensively this fall because Andre Ellington will need a break at some point. Everything I've heard about Rod has been positive...good attitude, hard worker, produced, and (in my mind probably the most important) his protection skills have improved. When a coach tells you he's comfortable with a back in pass protection you are in business. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that McDowell gets significant playing time. With the relative lack of depth here and all the positives coming out of camp, you almost think that the staff will have to get him in there quite a bit in '12.