Clemson Football: First Impressions from 2014 Fall Camp

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

Sophomore linebacker Ben Boulware (10)
Sophomore linebacker Ben Boulware (10)Tyler Smith/Getty Images

The Clemson Tigers opened fall camp on Friday, and the countdown to the season opener at Georgia is officially on. The Tigers had it easy through the first few days of practice, with the temperatures unseasonably cool and practicing in just helmets and shorts, but expect head coach Dabo Swinney to ramp things up this week.

Swinney, speaking to reporters, said he's never seen weather like this during his time as a college coach, per Clemson's official website:

It has been Cupcake Camp so far, this is my 25th season of college football and I have never been around weather this cool for the first two days. It has been good in that it has added to the energy and the attention to detail by the players. At the same time, we need some hot days from a conditioning standpoint. We know they are coming. When we put the pads on in the heat it will separate some of the positions.

While Swinney and the coaches may want to the see weather warm up a bit, the players likely have no problem with it. Swinney will have the Tigers in full pads for the first time on Wednesday. 

Although Clemson has been on the practice field for just a few days, there has been enough time to make impressions. What are the biggest impressions made from Clemson's first set of practices?


Weight Gains

Generally, when you speak of a player gaining weight it's viewed as a bad thing. It's often the wrong kind of weight. Coaches often fear players will not use the time between the end of spring practice and the beginning of fall camp wisely. 

That's not the case anymore, as it's easier than ever for coaches to keep tabs on players and monitor their time in the weight room.

Before the Tigers had their first practice on Friday, the annual fall weigh-in occurred on Thursday evening and, surprisingly, quarterback Cole Stoudt had put on 21 pounds since the spring and weighed in at 231 pounds. At 6'4", Stoudt now has the size to withstand the additional hits he will incur as the starting quarterback.

Isaiah Battle, Clemson's projected starter at left tackle, weighed in at 288 pounds. At 6'7", Battle has struggled to keep weight on in the past and would like to begin the season at 297. For most linemen, though, it's tough to keep the weight on throughout a long season. Battle seems determined, though, per Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier:

"After I leave here, you'll see me with three plates (of food). At least three plates. Nothing less, whatever they have for dinner. Lot of carbs, protein, a lot of meat. I eat three peanut butter and jellies a night, just try to stay consistently eating and adding on my diet."

Redshirt freshman running back Wayne Gallman showed up at 209 pounds. Gallman is the most diverse back on the roster and is seen as a dark horse to start for the Tigers. The increased weight is good for Gallman as long as it doesn't slow him down. 


Charone Peake's Knee

Junior receiver Charone Peake arrived at Clemson with Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant in the much-heralded class of 2011. While Watkins and Bryant are now in the NFL, Peake is trying to take over as Clemson's No. 1 receiver.

That quest took a bit of a hit last week when Swinney announced that Peake had minor knee surgery. Remember, Peake suffered a torn ACL last September that forced him to miss the majority of 2013. 

Swinney said Peake's ACL was structurally sound and in good shape. However, is any surgery minor? It has to be a bit concerning that on the eve of fall practice Peake had to undergo another knee surgery.

Peake is expected to only miss about a week of practice. Injuries like this often linger, so expect Clemson's coaches to take it easy on Peake so he isn't re-injured. 

While it may be a setback for Peake, it opened the door a bit for some of the younger receivers on the roster like Trevion Thompson. Thompson looks like Bryant and appears to be in good enough shape to push for playing time this fall. 


Battle at Weak-Side Linebacker

Yes, the starting spot at weak-side linebacker belongs to senior Tony Steward. A former top recruit, Steward has battled injuries throughout his Clemson career.

Enter sophomore Ben Boulware.

Coaches have continually praised Boulware, and he will be in the mix for playing time this fall, even if Steward holds down the starting gig. 

To Steward's credit, he has looked good thus far in limited practice time. For the first time in awhile, he doesn't appear to have anything holding him back—and it couldn't have come at a better time. Steward is poised for a big senior season.

What has impressed coaches so much about Boulware is his knowledge of the defense. As a freshman last season, Boulware played in 11 games for a total of 73 snaps. In that limited duty, Boulware made an impact-registering 25 tackles and one interception. 

Throughout the spring, Boulware pushed Steward, and while Steward was listed atop the first post-spring depth chart, it remains fluid.