Only the beginning

CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney will need more than the first day of practice before he starts to get too excited about his team.

That's not to say the always optimistic Swinney isn't expecting good things in 2013, because he is.

"Really like the looks of the team. I tell you what, our strength and conditioning staff and our nutrition staff, man, what a great job they did this summer," Swinney said. "We look good. I like the look in their eye. I like the looks of our young guys. We've got a lot of athleticism that just jumps out at you.

"We all know you don't play the game in shorts."

Clemson, like every other team in the country, has to go through an acclimatization period before putting on the pads. The first workout in full pads isn't until next Wednesday, the fifth practice of preseason camp.

If summer workouts are an indication of how things will go this month, it should be a solid next couple of weeks.

"From what they did this summer, I'm very pleased," Swinney said. "They paid a price."

Summer leaders

Tajh Boyd led the way during summer workouts. That's to be expected from a third-year starting quarterback.

But he wasn't the only one to play a big leadership role during May, June and July.

"Our offensive line guys, I thought, really came together as a group," Swinney said. "Brandon Thomas and [Tyler] Shatley were great. Ryan Norton, [Eric] MacLain, those guys did a great job of trying to lead."

Several skill guys on that side of the ball were mentioned, too.

"The receiver group, Sammy [Watkins] was awesome. Charone [Peake], Adam Humphries, Martavis [Bryant] -- Martavis was awesome this summer," Swinney said.

He added, "Rod McDowell did a great job leading our backs."

On the defensive side of the ball, several linebackers were mentioned by name.

"The whole group of linebackers, Stephone [Anthony], Tony [Steward], [Spencer] Shuey, Quandon [Christian], those four are what you're looking for," Swinney said.

Along with Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins, two safeties were called out for their solid leadership effort over the summer.

"In particular, [Travis] Blanks and Robert Smith were strong leaders for us in the secondary," Swinney said.

New headgear

With the exception of the quarterbacks and specialists, every player was outfitted with extra padding on the outside of their helmets for Friday's practice.

The big, goofy looking headgear is called The Guardian Cap.

Over the summer, Clemson director of sports medicine Danny Poole presented the idea of adding The Guardian Cap to the practice uniform. The plan, for now, is to have players wear The Guardian Cap everyday during camp.

"The majority of injuries happen in practice," Swinney said. "You do a lot of competitive work, especially in camp. We're just trying it out. Studies show that it's like 33 percent less impact…We're going to try them out in practice. If it means getting one more guy to game day, it will have been worth it."

The freshmen DBs

It's no secret. The Clemson defensive backfield got beat up in 2012. With that in mind, plus the fact that several starters graduated, eight defensive backs were signed in February.

There are high expectations for the group, specifically with Mackenzie Alexander and Jayron Kearse.

As many as four of the freshmen defensive backs could play this fall.

"It's night and day looking at them on the hoof," Swinney said, comparing this year's secondary to last year's. "We've got good numbers. We've got really good athleticism, great feet. They can all run. I really, really like, just the presence that we have.

"We've got a lot of teaching and a lot of coaching to do. We're definitely a better looking group in the secondary."

While there were several freshmen that stood out to the few media onlookers, Swinney declined to mention any of his first-year players by name. Top Stories