The Clemson Tigers have hit the fall camp practice field with media to watch in the best capacity since pre-COVID-19, with loads of storylines and position groups to watch. Defensive names like Bryan Bresee have been added to award watchlists when a name like Andrew Booth Jr. needs to prove himself a true No. 1 cornerback. Day one is often full of rust, but Friday is just the beginning of a grind that will carry the team and its coaching staff through the new year.
After an availability from head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson media were allowed to view practice that consisted mostly of positional and individual drills.
Some observations from the defensive side of the ball as Clemson begins camp:
- Xavier Thomas has dropped 30 pounds since January when he decided to return to Clemson. Swinney mentioned he weighed in at the turn of the year at 294 while heading into camp at 264.
- Fred Davis II was in practice on day one and a full participant in drills with the five other cornerbacks and coach Mike Reed.
- Bresee towered in height and size over almost every defensive lineman, even without pads on. He has the best get-off of the group to match his size. Swinney's spring hype is only growing to grow as fall camp rolls on.
- Bresee went through a period where he was the only defensive lineman without a single flinch when provoked, sitting as still as a rock (tunnel drills). Consistently the fastest off of the line and to the finish line. Added early in practice to his teammates: "Ya'll can't mess with me!"
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- Defensive tackles Etinosa Reuben and Payton Page were in green jerseys (no contact) to kick off fall camp.
- Linebacker James Skalski is the coach on the field Swinney proclaims him to be. Not only vocal within his position group and linebackers/defensive coordinator Brent Venables, but helps lead stretches to start practice while leading the "Tiger Jacks" workout tradition before a team huddle-up. Looks even better than last season.
- Justin Mascoll, not K.J. Henry or Xavier Thomas, seemed to share the "first team" (impossible to say this early) defensive line reps with Bresee, Tyler Davis, and Myles Murphy.
- According to Swinney, defensive tackle DeMonte Capehart is out for the "immediate future," but has optimism about return sooner rather than later.
- Lannden Zanders and Andrew Mukuba's speed immediately stood out amongst the safeties. Not only was Zanders consistently quicker than Joseph Charleston in foot races, but has definitely added size. Weighed in at 217 Thursday.
- Andrew Booth Jr. had a tough first day of practice, tripping once over pads in positional group drills and topped it off with multiple one vs. one losses, including the first matchup of the drill against Joseph Ngata deep. Cornerbacks also wear boxing gloves during one vs. one matchups as ball security help for receivers.
- Nolan Turner may not be as vocal as Skalski outwardly but is noticeably personable with each player. Spent time with each safety that made a mistake in drills even after making mistakes of his own.
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