7 at 7: Chad Morris gets philosophical, Vic Beasley speaks logic, Corey Crawford preaches confidence

Corey Crawford

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON – Seven quick quotes from Monday Funday at the Clemson football complex, to get your football mind whirring this morning:

1) Offensive coordinator Chad Morris got philosophical.

“These guys have worked extremely hard to get to this point. What we talked to these guys about: some guys come in here and think they’re the only person who ever wore a Tiger Paw. What we talk about is, where you are today is because of the players who have wore the Tiger Paw before you, and don’t ever forget that. A lot of players been through blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, and they are just as much a part of where we’re at as our current players. Then you also remind our players who will wear the Paw after you leave.

“So all you are is holding a place and a seat right now. You’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Every day you step on this field. Most the players, you’re gonna get 28 opportunities on a Saturday to play here at Death Valley.”

He wasn’t done.

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Pregame Pep Talk: A report from upstate New York, plus X-Factors and Saturday Selections

Roderick McDowell

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CORINTH, N.Y. – Spending a couple days upstate. No, not South Carolina’s version. The one where New York City businesspeople escape on the weekends to get away from it all.

It rained here today for the first time in a couple weeks, which means I brought the rain with me in my back pocket … obviously, it’s still stuck on the setting from July, when it rained 562 days in a row. (All figures approximate.) That means it could be muggy tomorrow, but don’t necessarily expect a heat stroke inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

By the way, if you’re less interested in reading and more into listening, I did hop on ESPN Radio Central New York yesterday for a segment.

Names to Know: Three X-Factors when the Tigers have the ball

#25 Roderick McDowell, 5-10, 200, sr., RB, Clemson. As mentioned in tomorrow’s Inside the Game: Clemson has three rushes of 20-plus yards, in 177 tries. It’s hard to pick out McDowell, but if he could break one and be more than just a four-yards-at-a-time type of runner, this offense would be close to unstoppable.

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7 at 7: Tajh Boyd’s swagger, Vic Beasley’s sack pace, and an Office Space reference

Tajh Boyd

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON – I haven’t done nearly enough of these. To the blog readers: please, please hit me with your input. You can reach me at any link above: e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

1) Tajh Boyd is one part philosopher, one part optimist.

The guy knows how to work a room; both when it’s time to drop some wisdom, and when it’s time to express some confidence.

“Being so much involved in the offense and being here for a while, we have expectations of what the offense is supposed to look like,” Boyd said.

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HIT THE LINKS: The past week’s coverage leading up to S.C. State-Clemson

Tiger WalkBY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON — It’s not GameDay … but it’s gameday.

Since Dabo Swinney insists the Tigers play to a certain standard regardless of the opponent, and the Clemson fans have sold out Death Valley thus rooting to a certain standard, I will hold up my end of the bargain and write to a certain standard.

From your sweet sixteen options below, the blog barista recommends the Roderick McDowell and Stanton Seckinger pieces. Both guys really opened up about their road to this year, and those are the best types of stories.

If you’re into the juicy stuff, the Chad Morris and Mark Richt exchanges about faking injuries to slow the tempo is kind of interesting.

Here are your week links leading up to South Carolina State’s visit to face No. 4 Clemson:

Today’s PreviewClemson backups ready for action against S.C. State

Inside the Game | South Carolina State at Clemson, 12:30 p.m. kickoff

Pregame Pep TalkClemson should roll over SC State, Week 2 picks (Gamecocks or Georgia?)

From @Sapakoff | Top 5 ACC storylines: Clemson depth, Jameis Winston, N.C. State’s QB injury

Personality feature | A persistent underdog, “Hot Rod” McDowell motivated by grandpa’s loss, brother’s love

Behind Enemy LinesThomas Grant, The Times and Democrat

ACC teleconference | Victories over SEC are statement for Clemson, not ACC pride

Tuesday notebook | Tajh talks Heisman, injury updates

Climb up the polls | Clemson’s No. 4 ranking its highest in 25 years, plus a first-place vote

First Take | Scouting South Carolina State

Press UpdateNo. 4-ranked Clemson a staggering 52-point favorite over SC State; updated injury list

7 at 7 | Dabo Swinney’s “tired of that storyline” of Clemson’s inconsistency

Personality feature | Stanton Seckinger’s clutch catch beat his dad’s beloved Bulldogs

Recapping Georgia | Chad Morris on fake-injury tactics: “I think we all see the same thing”

Recapping Georgia | Replays show Bulldog defender embellished injury, Richt sidesteps talk of gamesmanship

Beat column | Brenner: Georgia-Clemson worth the wait in every sense

-AB

7 at 7: Notes from Saturday’s scrimmage, including the starting running back and the most important Tiger besides Tajh Boyd

Roderick McDowell

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – See what I did there? We can go 7 at 7 p.m. as well as in the a.m.

1) Since the quarterback position has been settled without a shadow of a doubt, the most intriguing positional battle in Clemson football camp on offense focuses on the starting tailback.

Of course, it won’t be just one featured runner. For now, at least, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney favors senior Roderick McDowell, who leads all Tigers tailbacks with 674 career rushing yards – which are actually nearly 100 fewer than quarterback Tajh Boyd’s career total.

“Rod’s our starter. He’s clearly earned the right to be the starter,” Swinney said Saturday, two weeks before the opener vs. Georgia. “But he can’t do it by himself. We’re going to be a running back by committee, and that’s fine. When you do what we do and you play as many snaps as we play, we’ve got to be able to have a good crop of guys.”

The other big name to watch is true sophomore Zac Brooks, who averaged 4.6 yards a carry in limited duty last year and has produced a consistently solid camp.

“He’s obviously a little bit bigger,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “Moving the chains right now, doing some good things in pass protection, catches the ball really well.”

Brooks is listed as 6-foot-1, 190 pounds after pre-camp weigh-ins. McDowell is 5-10, 200, while D.J. Howard is 6-0, 195, so whatever Morris is seeing, Brooks might simply be playing bigger than his measureables.

“D.J. and Hot Rod do the same too, but he’s just a bigger body,” Morris said. “He’s got more of a tendency to be a punishing-style runner.”

Freshmen Tyshon Dye (5-11, 215), who’s missed the past week with a bad back, and Wayne Gallman (6-1, 200) are redshirt candidates. Walk-on C.J. Davison is also in the mix for carries.

2) While the baby-faced secondary goes through growing pains, Clemson’s defense will hinge early on its experienced front seven.

“I don’t think we’re dominant yet, but we are much, much improved in the defensive line and linebacker position from where we were last year at this time,” Swinney said. “Now will they make the same type of improvement? We will see. And we better be. Because we’ve got a really tough challenge right out of the gate.”

Darrell Smith3) In 37 career games, fifth-year senior Darrell Smith has one recorded one stat besides his 25 special-teams tackles: one catch, one yard, last year.

With the tight end position ravaged by injuries to Sam Cooper and Jordan Leggett, the listed fullback Smith is working at tight end.

“Darrell Smith has been awesome. Probably as important as Tajh right now to our offense,” Swinney said. “We’ve got to keep Darrell healthy and ready to go. He is that important to what we do in everything. He brings that toughness that we have to have.”

Added Boyd: “Darrell Smith is a big part of this offense right now. He’s a fifth-year senior who’s a selfless guy when he steps on that field. He’s going to have a big impact on us this season.”

Smith is referred to by teammates as a soft-spoken leader, but his role might be increasing very soon.

“I’m working on my craft,” Smith said. “Working on my pass routes, trying to catch the ball better, and improve my blocking every day.”

4) Upon discussing the knee injury to freshman athlete T.J. Green on Aug. 7, Swinney said ominously, “it doesn’t look good.”

Yet Green escaped a torn ACL prognosis, and returned to drills this week. On Saturday, he caught three passes during the scrimmage and was tackled without issue, a highly encouraging sign.

“He’s practiced well the last few days,” Swinney said. “Ran the ball after the catch well, returned kicks. He feels good.”

5) Swinney gathered his players and told them not to buy into the hype surrounding the program this season.

Once. And then, that was the end of it.

It hasn’t been a recurring topic in team meetings, even after the Associated Press poll released Saturday matched the coaches’ poll rating of No. 8 for the Tigers.

“I really don’t pay attention to it,” defensive end Corey Crawford said. “I don’t know how to comment on it, because we have to play regardless of whether we’re No. 1 or the last one. It really doesn’t matter until the end.”

6) Even though he’s just 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds – usually a body type fit for an outside linebacker – defensive end Vic Beasley has a chance to terrorize many a quarterback trying to pick apart Clemson’s defense.

“He plays like he’s 270. He can get into some mismatch situations, but his skill set allows him to overcome a lot of those things,” Swinney said. “His strength, his length, his speed, and his motor. He can be on the field on any down.”

7) This is probably the best way anybody could sum up a skilled yet raw group of freshmen going through their first fall camp, hoping to produce as early as 2013:

“The consistency is the thing,” Swinney said, “but they are flashy from time to time.”

Look for Leggett, Green, cornerback Mackensie Alexander, defensive end Shaq Lawson and defensive backs Jayron Kearse and Korrin Wiggins to definitely play early in their careers. The rest of the pack is still hoping to contribute this season, but many will redshirt and prepare for 2014.