Sunday Morning Quarterback

New CUTigers contributor Daniel Shirley says this was anything but a normal start to preseason camp in Tigertown.

Each Sunday through the football season we will use this space to discuss that week's happenings with the Clemson program. Once the season begins, we'll take a look back at the previous day's game and how the team performed. But until then, we'll focus on the news of the week, and there certainly has been plenty of news coming out of the preseason practices.

Usually it takes some time to build up to the news, but that hasn't been the case for the Tigers just two days into their workouts.

SAMMY WATKINS: The biggest story of the weekend obviously was the two-game suspension of Watkins, which came down Friday night. There have been a lot of complaints about how head coach Dabo Swinney handled the situation after Watkins' arrest during the offseason. Most of those doing the complaining were just looking for something to discuss and keep themselves busy during the offseason.

But they're way off base with their thoughts on this matter. Swinney handled this situation perfectly all the way around.

One of the main themes was that it took too long to announce the suspension. But as Swinney pointed out several times, he was giving Watkins time to set the suspension by his own actions. Swinney also said repeatedly that he would hand down the punishment early in the preseason, and he did just that.

Now the complaint is that the suspension is too severe. The announcement of two games as the suspension was a bit surprising, but Watkins did something wrong and had to pay the price for it. Two games might seem like a steep price, but it's appropriate. Swinney had to show his players and fan base that he won't look the other way when his players do something wrong, even when that player is as talented and important to the team as Watkins. And in the grand scheme of things, two games missed won't be that much in Watkins' career, and he will learn from this situation and move on.

JUSTIN PARKER'S INJURY: Swinney said Friday that Parker will redshirt this season because of a groin injury.


LB Justin Parker could greatly benefit from redshirting this coming season.
That has to be a tough for Parker, who continues to try to live up to the hype that accompanied him onto the Clemson campus as a freshman. But, really, this might be the best thing for Parker. The time off from the injury will give him a chance to get fully healthy instead of trying to compete for playing time in a suddenly deep linebacker corps while he's injured.

There's a difference between playing hurt and being injured, and it doesn't do anyone any good for Parker to be less than 100 percent and still trying to make his way on to the field.

So what is in the future for Parker? A position change when he returns could help, maybe to a rush-end spot, ala Andre Branch. The coaching staff could just set him loose and let him go after the quarterback and be a terror for offenses to deal with.

Or, he could simply develop his skills under Brent Venables' new scheme, which sounds like is happening despite the injury. For now Parker has time to get healthy, and that will be a big plus for him because he has all the tools to be a terrific player.

TAJH'S BIG YEAR: Boyd had a terrific first season as a starter at quarterback for the Tigers, and I contend he will leave the program as one if its all-time greats at the position. But there were still some things he can improve upon, most notably his decision-making and ball control. Those aspects of a quarterback's play both come down to focus, and there were times at the end of last season that Boyd lost some focus and was trying to do too much.

Those things shouldn't be a problem this year. Boyd reported to preseason practice in shape, much better shape than he was in during the team's tough second half last year, and he is focused. Boyd has proven to be a terrific leader for this program since taking over as the starter, and that will continue this season. The junior also should be driven by being a bit overlooked. He was the first-team All-ACC quarterback last year, but most of the focus in the preseason has been on the quarterbacks at Florida State and Virginia Tech. That will change quickly once the season begins.

PRESEASON RANKINGS: Is there anything more useless in the game than the release of preseason rankings? We saw that last year with the Tigers, who weren't ranked in the preseason but moved all the way into the top 10 by the middle of the season.

This year, Clemson has been ranked 14th in the USA Today coaches' poll and by Phil Steele, 15th by Lindy's and The Sporting News and 13th by Athlon's.

That seems about right. Had Clemson won the Orange Bowl, or at least not given up 70 points that night, it likely would be ranked higher going into this season.

That probably would not have been the best thing for this year's team, which again is young. And Clemson seems to do better when it starts the season under the radar. While being ranked in the mid-teens isn't exactly under the radar, it's close, and things won't get too out of hand with preseason hype because of that. And that's a positive.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM.

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