Clemson had one of the more successful seasons in program history in 2011, winning 10 games, including an ACC title. But with 13 starters returning, six of which are from one of the most explosive offenses in the country, Tiger fans expect an even bigger season in 2012.
While Clemson does look extremely good on paper, the ground work for success begins in fall camp, which has already begun.
With the season just three weeks away from kicking off, here are the latest injury updates, news and more involving your Clemson Tigers throughout the fall.
Clemson is rapidly wrapping up its fall camp, as it is now focusing on the big regular season game against the Auburn Tigers. And with the real stuff about to begin, head coach Dabo Swinney is trying to put together a more concrete depth chart. (Via Greg Wallace of orangeandwhite.com)
Monday’s our last day of two-a-days and we’ll be honing in on Auburn, getting guys penciled in to where they need to be. He said. We’ll have staff meetings and make some tough decisions. Whatever decisions are made, they’re not final decisions, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
The offensive line seems to continue to be an area of concern, as the Tigers allowed 33 sacks last season. Swinney says that the unit must continue to make progress and this week of practice is going to be more important than ever.
We’ve got to get guys dialed in. He said. The guys we have to start the game with, those guys really have to get a lot of work the next two weeks to get on the same page. Not that other guys aren’t going to have an opportunity to continue to compete and play, but the next couple weeks, whoever we decide to go with, they’ve got to practice at a high level. We’ll give the guys a chance to compete but it may not be truly settled until we get live bullets.
Good news is that wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez is back on the practice field after suffering a shoulder injury earlier in fall camp. Rodriguez is of course the Army veteran, who was cleared by the NCAA to be eligible to play for the tigers right away this year.
Humble Tajh Boyd
Quarterback Tajh Boyd really made a name for himself last season. Now that he is known around campus and throughout the college football world, it is real easy for him to get a little comfortable with where he is at as a football player. Boyd says that won't happen this year. (Via Travis Sawchick of the Post and Courier)
The time when you get complacent is when you get beat. Boyd said. You start to do things that are outside of you. For me, I wasn’t trusting what I was taught. I wasn’t even in my drop half of the time in games. I’m stepping up in the pocket and now I’m at the line of scrimmage because I didn’t get deep enough in my drop.
Speaking of quarterbacks, offensive coordinator Chad Morris says that he is not seeing any separation for the backup role behind Boyd.
“There is no separation,” he said. “It is pretty tight knit right now. It is a true three-man race. If anything, I would say Chad Kelly is pushing some guys.” (Via Scout.com)
Offensive line improved
One of the things that must improve for Clemson is the offensive line. Last season, the Tigers allowed 33 sacks, which was 10th in the ACC. What makes things worse is that they lost a ton of experience during the offseason, however offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell is reaming optimistic. (Via Travis Sawchick of the Post and Courier)
Athletically, we could be better than the group last year. We will be better. Caldwell said. That’s not a slight on anyone, just facts.
I met with our strength staff and I love it when they have nothing but good things to say. If we got seven or eight guys we can go to battle with, it is going to be a lot of fun. I am anxious to see. We will know quickly when we get on the field.
Sophomore Tony Steward has already been told he will not redshirt after feeling good recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season. But while he is competing for a starting role at the linebacker position, defensive coordinator Brent Venables has said that he isn't sure what type of role Steward will have this season.
I don’t know. I’m a next week, next month, next year kind of guy, just as far as trying to plan. Venables told CUTigers. We’ll see. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time. We always have the big picture in mind, not just kind of living for the moment. (Via Hale McGranahan of Scout.com)
While nobody is quite sure yet, Venables has said that he looks great on the football field so far.
“He feels comfortable in the defense. I could probably say that from the first day. He looked comfortable. That’s a very positive thing,” Venables said.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd has established himself as arguably the best player in the conference at his position. He threw for over 3,800 yards, rushed for over 200, and scored 38 total touchdowns. But he felt he was out of shape as the season began to drag out.
“I feel like, at my ideal weight, this is where I’m best at,” Boyd said. “I’m able to make smarter decisions. I’m able to sustain longer, things like that.” (Via Hale McGranahan of Scout.com)
Boyd said that he started at a healthy weight, but as the season went on he began to pick up a few unwanted pounds.
“Last year, I started off at about 222, 223 and I started gaining weight throughout the season. It’s important,” Boyd said.
Good news is that Boyd is in much better shape as camp begins and says that Tiger fans should see a much better and more explosive quarterback in the 2012 season.
“When a situation occurs and I need to take off, I need to be as fast and explosive as I can. I feel like, at this weight, that’s where I can perform at,” Boyd said.
Boyd comments on Sammy Watkins suspension
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been suspended for the first two games of the season, as he was arrested for drug possession. Losing one of the best playmakers in college football will certainly hurt this team, especially in the game against Auburn, but quarterback Tajh Boyd says his team should be fine.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but I really feel like this will give a lot of the guys an opportunity to step up for the first game,” Boyd said.
Gifford Timothy hurt
Gifford Timothy is the projected starting right tackle for the Tigers this season, but ended up leaving a recent practice with an apparent knee injury. The severity of the injury is not known yet.
"I'm not a doctor but any time a player tweaks his knee it is a concern," Swinney said (via Travis Sawchik of aikenstandard.com).
Andre Ellington better than ever
While Sammy Watkins seems to receive the majority of the attention on this Clemson offense, the Tigers also had a 1,000-yard rusher in Andre Ellington. He scored at least one touchdown in nine straight games last season and was just as important to this offense as anybody. Well, it seems he has put in extra work this offseason and gotten even better.
"Ellington looks great. This is the best I've seen him in two years -- he's strong, fast, fluid,” Swinney said (via Hale McGranahan of Scout.com).
Ellington says he worked closely with quarterback Tajh Boyd and looks to become an even bigger factor in the passing game this year. He caught 22 passes last season for 109 yards, the most of his three year career.
Tony Steward doing much better
Tony Steward was a top recruit of the 2011 class, but has a nasty history with ACL tears. He played in six games his freshman year before going down with yet another injury. Good news is that he is back on the field trying to regain his original form.
"I feel like I’ve been out for enough time," Steward said. "Come the season time, it’ll be about eight months. That’s longer than I had with my first ACL. I’ve been able to build up both knees. I feel like I’m good to go. But if anything comes up, I’m sure that I’ll be able to sit out the year," (via Hale McGranahan of Scout.com).
Steward has gotten in much better shape by shedding a few pounds, and continues to work on his speed.
Defensive tackles receive praise
Clemson wasn't exactly the greatest defensive team last season, as they were ranked eighth in the ACC. But it appears that they have found two defensive tackles, DeShawn Williams and Grady Jarrett, who have impressed the coaching staff very much throughout camp.
"If I could have a hundred of those guys, I would drive a truck, load them up and bring them back because this would be the easiest game to coach in America," Swinney said. "If they were all like DeShawn Williams and Grady Jarrett we would not even have to come to practice," (via midlandsconnect.com).
This article will be updated throughout fall camp to provide you with the latest news, injuries, and everything else that involves your Clemson Tigers.