7 at 7: A way-too-early peek at the depth chart, plus more observations from Friday’s practice

Zac Brooks takes a handoff from Tajh Boyd during Clemson's first fall camp practice. The Tigers are wearing 'guardian caps' over their helmets whether there's contact drills or not, to help prevent concussion-like symptoms in August practices. (Rex Brown/ClemsonTigers.com)

Zac Brooks takes a handoff from Tajh Boyd during Clemson’s first fall camp practice. The Tigers are wearing ‘guardian caps’ over their helmets whether there’s contact drills or not, to help prevent concussion-like symptoms in August practices. (Rex Brown/ClemsonTigers.com)

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – This will be the first ‘7 at 7’ feature I’ve produced since my first day on the job.

That’s a two-month span. In the next two months, my hope is you can expect about, oh, 20 more or so. Then another 20 in the two months after that.

What I love about writing 7 at 7 – and in my experience, what readers have loved about reading it – is not just the catchy name, but the flexibility it provides to dish out notes on just about anything in a super-presentable fashion.

One day, you’ll see me empty the notebook from practice; the next, you’ll see me throw out a mish-mash of YouTube clips of John L. Smith’s greatest meltdowns caught on camera. (Don’t rule this out.)

In Saturday’s Post & Courier: Clemson seniors ‘cherish every moment’

So let’s get to it. Let’s have some fun.

1) For the love of all that is good and pure, take this for what it’s worth.

In the 45 minutes or so of practice we got to watch Friday evening – that’s credentialed media, officials, player families and a few recruits – we saw a morsel of lineups mixed in with stretching and routine positional drills.

For the love of all that is good and pure, take this for what it’s worth. This was the “first-string” unit in their assorted exercises.

Offense: QB Tajh Boyd, RB Roderick McDowell, FB Darrell Smith, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Charone Peake, LT Brandon Thomas, LG David Beasley, C Ryan Norton, RG Tyler Shatley, RT Gifford Timothy.

What does this tell us? That McDowell will open camp as the top back, that we know who the wide receiver targets are, and that Norton is expected to succeed Dalton Freeman and the guards and tackles will keep their continuity. For now.

Defense: DE Corey Crawford, DE Vic Beasley, NG Carlos Watkins/Josh Watson, LB Quandon Christian, LB Spencer Shuey, LB Stephone Anthony, LB T.J. Burrell, CB Garry Peters, CB Martin Jenkins, S Travis Blanks, S Robert Smith

What does this tell us? Well, this was a 3-4 drill, which would be unique, and Watkins is making a move in the trenches. Obviously, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams will be involved. Also, interesting to see Burrell running with the ones in a four-LB set, instead of, say, Oklahoma transfer Kellen Jones. The ends and defensive backs have held on to their jobs, with Jenkins maybe getting the nod ahead of Robinson for the time being.

One more time, because it can’t be stressed enough: for the love of all that is good and pure, take this for what it’s worth.

2) Getting some run on the punt returns: Watkins, receivers Daniel Rodriguez and Germone Hopper, and true freshman athlete T.J. Green. In his first practice in a Clemson uniform, Green was coaxed by receivers coach Jeff Scott to maintain a “stronger base” underneath the ball when he hauls it in.

3) New defensive backs coach Mike Reed seems to really favor press defense. An aggressive style which places high trust in the cornerbacks not to let slippery receivers get behind them.

4) So, no, the public wasn’t allowed into Clemson’s spiffy (albeit overheated) indoor practice facility to view practice. Didn’t stop a decent chunk of fanatics from waiting outside the gates to cheer their heroes on their way out of practice.

Clemson shuttles dozens of players at a time in tour guide-like carts from the practice fields to the locker room. The last two players to leave, getting a cart all to themselves after fulfilling media requests: quarterback Tajh Boyd and left tackle Brandon Thomas, both fresh off first-team all-ACC nods last year.

They got their own personal hurrahs from the remaining folks. It’s just too bad a guy like Boyd isn’t used to this rock star treatment.

5) Tight ends/special teams coach Danny Pearman carries around a boxing glove affixed to a yardstick, and will poke at players cradling a football. Ball security.

6) Quarterback Chad Kelly’s got the brace on his right knee, but not much movement or contact. He’s holding out hope to return this season from a torn ACL.

7) Hey, check out a couple of the new freshman walk-ons officially on the camp roster. (And no, we don’t call them preferred walk-ons. In this term, ‘preferred’ is the type of make-believe euphemism that keeps George Carlin rolling in his grave. No such thing in reality.)

No. 85, Seth Ryan, a wide receiver from Summit, N.J. That’s where his parents live: mom Michelle and dad Rex. You know, the coach of the Jets. (Say hi to Rex for Seth, @DarrylSlater.)

No. 45 Zach Riggs, a tight end from Greer, S.C. His dad, John, was a Clemson letterman from 1983-86.

No. 88 Sean Mac Lain, a tight end from Hope Mills, N.C. His bro, Eric, is a backup offensive lineman, and they’re both army brats.

You’ll be happy to know long snapper Jim Brown is back for another year as a walk-on. Now THAT’S a football name.

-AB

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