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Clemson Fall Camp Notes and the Clemson Athletic Department Lockdown

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No you can't interview me...
No you can't interview me...
Streeter Lecka

I am surprised I have not seen any push back from the media folks connected to Clemson University. But, then again, I'm really not that surprised. This fall camp has been the most locked down camp in perhaps the entire history of Clemson athletics and Clemson football. You won't read about this from other outlets because they are afraid of losing what little access they have right now. If you have been to the newly revamped Clemson Athletics site they are masterfully using story streams to give you their controlled version of practices and Clemson news. This is by design as the AD becomes a one-stop shop for all things Clemson sports and media.

Let me be clear, I don't fault the Clemson AD and if I was in their position I would be doing the exact same thing. Bring everything in-house and build your own media empire and brand from within so you completely control the message and the access. We don't even have Don Munson to kick around anymore (who would have thought we would be missing his voice giving us practice reports?). One PAW Drill video this year and I was surprised we even got that.

This has been in the works for years now. Coach Swinney has continued to limit media coverage after getting advice from Mack Brown at Texas and others. The time allotted to media types to watch practice has dwindled each season to the point that 'reporters' (yep, guys from Tigernet and TCI get to call themselves reporters--ha) only see 10-15 minutes of practice at the start of camp, which is scripted and tells you nothing. They get to interview a few players, which allows them to grab a couple of quotes and spin them into puff pieces and columns. You don't talk to position coaches, only coordinators (even less this year than last) but ask them anything substantive and you won't get much (but really don't ask that because you could get identified as a trouble maker and you're making almost no money already so don't jeopardize it--lots of people to take your place and write puff pieces). Again, I don't fault the coaches--just the way things run these days.

Local journalism hasn't made the transition to digital space without some serious bumps in the road. Recruiting services started popping up that fed sports fans with what they really wanted--insider knowledge and access 24/7 and AP cutting beat guys who wanted to write fluff pieces every couple of days just couldn't keep up. Rivals, Scout, and even 24/7 emerged as profitable businesses that were bought up and backed by major conglomerates like Fox and Yahoo. These guys weren't interested in 'journalism' or investigative reporting--they were often fanboys and would never compromise their ability to get information (local journalism rarely did this anyway but now you have a situation where Spurrier can berate Ron Morris and nothing happens).

It has gotten to the point that things said by Swinney in standard practice interviews are sold as 'nuggets' coming from camp. So local reporters have nothing and even the recruiting sites are being squeezed. If you are at practice you have to sign your life away on a document that says you would rather die than disclose any information (an exaggeration but it is close to the truth). This is a real thing and squealers aren't looked kindly upon if they are found out. Inside info has dried up for everybody. More info came out after the last practice where some IPTAY folks were able to watch.  I give you some of these camp notes but take them with a grain of salt--these are the perspective of largely one person and subject to that person's biases and opinions (let me know if you disagree). I like to think of these notes as discussion starters than any kind of truth being presented. Those of you who have been to camp or have heard different things--please chime in!

QB: Watson continues to impress and will get limited packages during early games (despite what Swinney says I think he has some scripted plays but they will open everything up to him as the season goes on). Not sure that includes Georgia (could be smokescreen for Pruitt) but it is certainly on the table.

Cole Stoudt has the accuracy but is a bit up and down with the deep ball. We were spoiled with Boyd's velocity and we will miss his deep ball ability but the feeling is that Cole also won't throw it into triple coverage and lock-on to a single receiver/be predictable. I have heard mixed reviews on Stoudt's ability to consistently go through his progressions.

DB's: Came out about Travis Blanks wanting to explore a redshirt. He has looked a step slower and not completely healthy. I'm glad that he is being proactive and looking at this possibility. Kellen Jones is just cutting it loose late in camp but he is well behind where he was a year ago. He will play this year but still needs time to get back to playing the way he is capable of.

I'm not sure why people are thinking we have a wealth of depth at the Nickel spot. Sure Wiggins is a solid player but O'Daniel is still undersized and learning the system and Burrell just isn't at the same level from a talent standpoint. Martin Jenkins will play there more now but that is more ideal in passing situations. Jenkins has also shown enough to put him as one of the starters at CB (as you can see on the released depth chart). This isn't all that surprising if you remember back to the start of last year where Jenkins was playing a lot against Georgia. He has the experience but Tank will get a lot of work and will be needed later in the year (FSU) against bigger, taller WR's.

Jayron Kearse and Jadar Johnson are actually having a battle. It is not just lip service to motivate Kearse. Johnson has improved and while Kearse is more talented and has the higher upside it seems the coaches want someone who will be steady on the back end and not give up chunk yardage more than anything. Kearse still struggles with playing only his assignment and reading his own keys. His aggressiveness can be exploited. That said I still see Kearse playing the majority of the snaps but Johnson will get his too this year.

OL: The line is settling in. It is Joe Gore or bust at RT. The two options going into camp were either:

LT: Battle, LG: Mac Lain/Crowder/Webster? C: Norton RG: Davis RT: Gore
OR
LT: Battle LG: Mac Lain/Crowder/Webster? C: Guillermo RG: Norton RT: Davis

With Gore solidifying his hold of the RT spot, Kalon Davis is firmly entrenched as the RG starter. MacClain has struggled some in camp. His footwork is just not where it needs to be (as we said early in camp) and so I think you could see Crowder pulling the majority of the snaps at LG as the season goes on and possibly starting. He will be a good one. I'm a bit surprised by the Webster starting release today. Morris said that Crowder had been struggling in camp, which is news to me. This means that Webster and MacLain will split time but I still believe we will see a bunch of Crowder going forward. Might be that the start for Webster is a reward for sticking in there (if he didn't crack the two deep in the preseason there was talk that he might hang it up for a coaching position type deal). Webster does provide quality depth all along the line (he was the first called upon to play center last year when Norton got banged up for a play.

I still question Gore's ability, not physically, but mentally to put it all together when the lights are on (would have been nice to give him one warm-up game to get more acclimated). Let's hope he can put it all together because there is no one behind him (eerily similar to Lambert being started against Bama but Gore has a ton of more natural talent).

Norton gets abused by Jarrett, which is completely understandable. I'm not sure how he will hold up again this year against the more elite DT's. Vic Beasley has had to take some plays off because he has been too disruptive (you never like to hear that).

The problem is the lack of depth at the Tackle position as said in the o-line preview (everyone was right to freak out about a potential injury to Battle). Anthony could have been serviceable but beyond him there is nothing--a good reason not to recruit two guards a year for the past two recruiting cycles. As I said in the comments, Anthony was looking at more than the one game suspension and didn't like that Gore had beat him out for the position. This was his choice but he has been in the proverbial doghouse for awhile now--stemming back to last year and his academic suspension in 2012.

RB: Tough race to call. Howard will start with the Brooks injury but it will be by committee and that is largely because the younger guys have struggled in pass protection. Gallman would be the starter but he still doesn't have much of a clue with pass protection. Same with Choice (which is completely understandable). Choice has been very impressive and used in some goal line situational packages but I doubt they will be trusted much in games without showing more improvement in protecting Cole, especially early in the season. He runs with a low center of gravity and may be the most talented back on campus. Fuller will redshirt.

Brooks will also redshirt. Still not over 200 pounds and I didn't think he would stay healthy all year. However, he and DJ Howard are the only two the coaches really trust in pass pro right now and Brooks is much more versatile than Howard (a much better receiver). Disappointing loss. Howard still runs too upright but looks better. He was contemplating moving into a GA role coming out of spring and now he will likely start.

I like CJ Davidson's continued progression from athlete to RB--he gives you breakaway speed. I wouldn't be surprised to see Davidson end up with the most carries. Gallman will get his too.

No inside info but with Brooks injury I think Jay Jay gets more looks as a running option. Not sure on how much Fleming gets used but one person said he could be used more than anyone thinks right now. Just depends on how Chad Morris schemes things and attacks Georgia.

TE: Jordan Leggett is on fire. He and Cole have a clear connection. Cole goes through his reads and progression and finds the TE. Should be a big weapon for us all season. If any young WR's struggle, I could see Leggett in motion more and more--he has that kind of talent. Doubt Seckinger plays much, he was still limping a bit.

WR: Like Swinney said, Trevion Thompson has hit a wall and will most likely redshirt. Hopper has had his best camp and has put himself back in position for substantive playing time.

K: Ammon Lakip should be fine but don't put the game in his hands just yet. We have been spoiled by Catman and while Lakip is pretty consistent he could definitely struggle.

That is all I got. Use these as discussion starters and anyone with more (better) info, please chime in!