Defense Ahead of Offense as Clemson Scrimmages Inside Death Valley

The Clemson Tigers held their second scrimmage of the spring on Wednesday inside Death Valley, and head coach Dabo Swinney said it was a day in which his defense really set the tone.

In total, 15 players were out. Some are out still recovering from injuries sustained last season, some are out with minor injuries sustained this spring, and some were even out sick, as Swinney noted he has some players dealing with mono.

Sheridan Jones was one of those players, as the senior corner is dealing with a groin injury. However, all in all, Swinney loved what he saw from the backend of his defense.

“Defense set the tone today,” Swinney said. “They got their hands on the ball. We haven’t really intercepted the ball all spring, but today they had two picks. That was good to see. What I’ve seen in the secondary is really good.”

The head coach also made note of the linebackers.

“I saw us make some great hustle plays, defensively,” Swinney said. “We have a group of linebackers that standout. They really, really standout. I think we all know what we got up front. Those guys are as advertised.”

The most talked about position, though, has been quarterback. After DJ Uiagalelei failed to live up to lofty expectations in 2021, all eyes have been on the rising junior this spring.

While Swinney did say the quarterback started off slow, he was happy with how he finished.

“DJ has had an excellent spring,” Swinney said. “I think he started a little slow in the first series today and then he kind of picked it up. He was like 12 of 20 or something like that, but he had a couple of balls we should have made. But he manages things well. He really understands.”

“He has great ownership of what he is doing. It is well documented on where he is physically and all that stuff. Again, he has had a very good spring. He has had a couple of great, great days.”

As for freshman Cade Klubnik, he just keeps plugging along. He is now pushing 190-pounds, according to Swinney, and soaks up every bit of knowledge thrown his way.

“He is just a sponge,” Swinney said. “He loves every bit of it. He is 188 (pounds), right at 190 now. He is heading in the right direction there, so I am just proud of him.” 

There have also been questions surrounding the center position. With Hunter Rayburn no longer playing and Mason Trotter out for the regular season, Will Putnam was moved over from guard, and so far Swinney has been happy with the transition.

“Has had about one bad snap a day,” the head coach said. “He had one today. But he has really done a good job for a guy that has not snapped and all of the sudden, it’s live bullets. He’s not perfect yet. But by the time we get to August, I think he’s going to be polished and ready to go.”

Swinney was also happy with his offensive line, despite Walker Parks being one of the players out sick and Jordan McFadden playing just ten snaps.

“All that group of offensive linemen who have been talked bad about and had bad articles written about them, ‘they’re awful’ and all that stuff, I think that whole little group is progressing. That group is making some strides.”

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