Guest columnist Morgan Thomas of The Morgan Thomas Show gives us his five takeaways from Dabo Swinney’s initial media session of 2019 at the Reeves Complex
It’s official! The college football season is finally here. This week, players and coaches from across the country will get in front of the camera to answer questions from the media. We have waited seven months to get back to college football talk and we’ve finally made it. This week, Alan and I discussed our top five takeaways from Clemon’s Media Day on my show. Jason has been kind enough to allow me to share my notes from our segment and you can check out the full segment at the end of the article.
1. It’s a stretch, but Amari Rogers could be back by September.
Amari Rogers suffered a torn ACL back on March 26th during spring practice. Reports were that he was going up for a jump ball and came down awkwardly. We received word the next morning that the coaches feared Amari had torn his ACL.
We fast forward to July and are hearing Dabo Swinney and Jeff Scott say that Amari could return as soon as September! Currently, he is four months post-surgery and to hear that he could be back at six months is amazing. Surprising and amazing. I have torn my ACL playing basketball and I understand the long road to get back. It’s not just physical but there’s the mental aspect as well. Amari will have to learn to trust his body again. Perhaps September is a stretching it as far as a goal goes. Most online sources seem to say the earliest recommended return to sports activities is nine months. I remember it took me a full twelve months before I felt confident to return to sports. Amari is an elite level athlete with a superior training staff and superior equipment. If anyone can return early, it’s Amari. However, the slot position requires more cuts and turns than the straight line “go deep” routes. I trust this coaching staff and Amari to make the right decision and in my mind, there is no need to rush it.
2. Dabo is saying that James Skalski will be an All-Conference guy.
Dabo is very confident that James Skalski will be a household name before the season is over. Word at practice is that he has the fire of a Ben Boulware with a little more athleticism. Ben was a respected leader for the defense during his time on campus. What he lacked in pass coverage ability, he made up for in stopping the run. Can James become a respected and reliable leader in the middle of the defense? Brent Venables is known for his ability to develop linebackers and as Dabo said, the talent is there, but the experience is not. James will be asked to replace a player who registered over 700 snaps last season. Clemson is known for playing a high amount of players on average each game. However, the linebacker position is the workhorse area of Brent Venables defense and I don’t expect any starter to be on the sideline for very long.
3. 80 of the 120 players on the roster are Freshmen or Sophomores.
Clemson has six positions with no Senior representation. That’s right, SIX! Those positions are Quarterback, Running Back, Tight End, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, and Cornerback. Saying this is a young team is a major understatement. If an injury occurs at any of these positions, it is highly likely that we will be watching a true freshman walk on the field to fill in the gaps. Even without an injury, true freshman Tyler Davis is currently listed as the #2 DT behind Jordan Williams. I have to admit, I was originally skeptical of Tyler Davis when I saw him in person. He is a very young-looking man. He is a “Baby Dex” with a babyface. Smooth skin doesn’t matter when you are as talented as Tyler is at his position. During the Spring Game, he showed us that he is a mature player who knows how to properly use his body to slip out of blocks and get into the backfield. This list of names we will have to learn is long but I expect to hear their names called a lot early on this season. With the number of freshmen and sophomores on the roster, Dabo can’t afford to keep any of his talented young guys on the sidelines.
4. Tight End is hurting at depth, but it’s been lacking depth for a while.
Dabo says it’s time for JC Chalk to have his moment. The Tight End position is one that many have worried about all offseason. What if Garrett Williams and Braden Galloway do not play in 2019? Well, we are about to find out. Dabo confirmed that Garret is not returning for his senior season. Braden Galloway will be serving his suspension and is ineligible to play. True freshman Jaelyn Lay didn’t have a great Spring Game and Danny Pearman is working with him on ways to focus on the next play and not dwells on his mistakes. The three areas of focus in coaching are the player’s effort, learning, and overcoming mistakes. A player can bring 110% effort and study all night, however, a player has to learn to overcome their mistakes and move onto the next play. However, Dabo didn’t seem too worried about the position. In his mind, if it’s a clear passing down, the worst-case scenario is to put a wide receiver on the field instead of a tight end.
5. Clemson currently has 10 offensive linemen that can be rotated.
Saying this is almost too good to be true. As a kid, I grew up hearing my dad say, “next year we’ll recruit some guys who can block better.” It seemed like building that elite offensive line was always out of reach. At times it felt as if we’d never have a line that could hold it’s own against the Florida State’s of the world.
Those days are gone now. Dabo and company have done a great job recruiting elite talent along the offensive line and developing them into a very cohesive unit. This unit may be one of the best all-around as far as depth is concerned. Take a look at the summer depth chart and you’ll clearly see two respectable players at each position on the offensive line. Dabo mentioned that he feels confident that he can take a player from the right side of the line and insert them into the left side if the need arises. This is no easy task, even for an experienced player.
Are there concerns about the offensive line? Some experts will point to Jackson Carmen having issues keeping his weight under control. However, when asked about this, offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell acted as if this was a non-issue and he believes Jackson Carmen is doing everything he needs to be doing to be ready for the season.
I hope you enjoyed my show notes from this week’s Top 5 segment on The Morgan Thomas Show. If you’d like to see the entire segment with Alan’s list, check out the link to our YouTube video below.
Morgan and Alan discuss their five takeaways from Dabo’s media session at the Reeves Complex