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Very, Very Early Camp Observations


One Team. One Dream. One Clemson.  You knew Michael Scottt Dabo Swinney wouldn't go into a new season without showing off his tricks from magic camp introducing a new, cheesy slogan.  I will say that I'm happy to see Dabo recruit and pimp new slogans if it keeps him away from meddling in the offense.   And, yes, if/when he wins some football games (10 in a season, min.), I'll question less this silly stuff and accept it as part of the price you pay to be a winner...Until then, that is not a very manly slogan for your football team.  In fact it more mirrors the bad commercials shown for retired living centers.  "All In" was a little played out with the World Poker Tour, but I could get down with that.  What ever happened to the kick ass themes like "Pride, Class, Courage, Will to Win"?  Oh well, if we win, I'll get down with whatever.

On to actual important stuff...we've repeatedly told you that Clemson will show a base 4-3, and that is correct and will be true for most of the season but... Kevin Steele showed more 3-4 looks and repetitions than expected early in camp.  I don't want to read too much into this, as camp is a learning period and typically used for installation and fundamental periods in addition to football associated conditioning. The first two weeks are almost totally installation. This may be an install to allow sporadic use of the odd-man front or it may signal a slight shift in overall philosophy due personnel losses from last season.  We know Kevin Steele watched a lot of professional film (including the use of three man fronts) as well as some on different 4-2-5 schemes to get ideas on defeating pass schemes and pass protection packages.

Along the lines of 3-4, Vic Beasley moved from TE to LB this spring and got reps at bandit end. He is being groomed for possible PT at the Jack linebacker.  Andre Branch is also reported to be a candidate for snaps at the Jack spot in addition to putting a hand on the ground as an end.  We expect others to get experience here as the fall session moves along to assure personnel flexibility for Coach Steele.

Tajh Boyd has been widely praised by the coaching staff.  We heard good things about him over the Summer and were impressed to see how much better shape he was in at weigh in last Thursday.  Boyd gained leadership accolades from everyone in the first two sessions and he has improved his mechanics since the bowl and the O/W game.  Boyd spent a ton of time watching film and studying the offense this offseason so we'll be interested in his understanding when the complete package is installed over the next couple weeks.

On the topic of quarterbacks, Cole Stoudt garnered a lot of attention this spring.  Barring injury or something ridiculously strange, he will press Boyd this fall but won't catch him.  Boyd has elevated his game as a leader and quarterback.  Stoudt wasn't as consistent as Boyd this weekend and still looked to be picking up the college game in addition to the new offense.  No doubt he has talent and has impressed with some throws.  It is unreasonable to expect a true freshman to come into camp ready to play from the get go.

All reports out of the receivers reaffirm our high hopes.  Watkins and Bryant are in fantastic shape and will be on the field sooner than later.  These guys are both in fantastic shape and have been praised as "looking like veterans" from their QB and the staff.

Mike Bellamy was described as lighting quick with Dabo even talking about how he evaded defenders even though the tag only non-contact early sessions.  I was a little disappointed with Bellamy's weight (178ish) and hoped he would come in a little bigger.  He'll need this extra weight when he transitions into the primary back role later in his career but it isn't as big of a deal this season.  Bellamy's issue now is maintaining confidence while learning the offense.  Like the other newcomers, he's got a lot to learn in a short time period so there will be mistakes.  He has all the talent to make some big plays for the Tigers in '11 and we expect big things out of this player over the course of his Clemson career.

The linebackers were also impressive and threatening to the incumbent backers, particularly Tony Steward.  Steward is an imposing figure who is very well built and whose body looks recovered from last season's knee injury, but there havent been contact drills. Anthony will be a good one and worked at SAM in the first few sessions but he could move depending on how things settle out.  All of these guys will push the experienced players, which is great.  I am still eager to see how Justin Parker pans out.  He was last recruiting cycle's "big splash" and finally, as Steele puts it, had the light come on in the Spring.  While he's not as talented as some of the incoming freshmen, Parker's got plenty of God-given ability and we'd love to increase depth with it.

We talked a good bit about being impressed by Thursday's weigh in video and the shape that most of our guys are in entering camp.  A couple were complete disappointments, however.  Spencer Region looked more prepared to participate in an episode of "Man vs. Food" than a fast paced football practice.  At least he's a young buck and didn't know better.  Antoine McClain's physical shape is unacceptable.  We have never been impressed with his drive and overall attitude and really are put off by the fact that he is a senior and isn't in half the shape of the other upperclassmen.  McClain spent more time with the trainers than in drills because of cramps and being way out of shape.  Teammate Mason Cloy had to pick up his slack.  Way to lead there Antoine.  Now we understand the lack of discipline (and what appears to be half ass effort) during games.

On the subject of conditioning, Morris' offensive practices are designed to be fast.  You've already read elsewhere about the speed of the drills and how The Chad expects constant motion and no wasted time during drills and from station to station.  I really like this aspect, as it shows extreme organization and coordination.  I guess you have to be well organized if you plan on calling 85 plays a game, though.

I don't believe the kickers will get hot and heavy for the next week or so.  The early periods are designed for basic installation before going full speed with contact on Wednesday.  That being said, be cautious of what you read and believe this early on.  There are a lot of flag football All-Americans out there and the game changes completely when contact is involved.