Nowhere to hide in PAW drill

CLEMSON - It doesn't matter where it is or what level it's on, the Oklahoma Drill always ratchets practice up another level.

The version of it in Clemson is called the PAW Drill. That's where the Tigers kicked things off for Wednesday's practice, the first day in full pads.

Standing right in the thick of it was Dabo Swinney. He certainly was fired up.

"That's just the PAW Drill. That's what we do. We try to set the practice tempo right out of the gate with that," Swinney said. "You're trying to create the right mentality, because that's how we've got to start our season."

Fifth-ranked Georgia and its power run game led by Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall head to Tigertown on Aug. 31.

"You've got to be ready when the whistle blows on day one. We've got a huge challenge in our first opponent," Swinney said. "We have to create that type of environment in practice, to create the mentality we need."

It was apparent to everyone observing the first period in Wednesday's practice. The offense had the upper-hand during the PAW Drill.

Swinney thought the offense "kind of set the tempo" for the fifth practice of preseason camp.

"It's a great drill. It's a toughness drill. There's nowhere to hide," he said. "It's great for both sides and it's great for the backs. They've got to run through the smoke. There's nowhere to go. Put their head down and they've got to hit it.

"It's a very, very good drill, a lot of enthusiasm and energy from that drill. It's one of those ways to grow them up a little bit."

Short-yardage was an emphasis throughout the afternoon.

"Had some wins on both sides, some losses on both sides, had some consequences today for when they lost," Swinney said. "I thought they competed hard, got better as the day went. I thought they finished really strong.

"We had some live work in the short-yardage area today. Some third-and-2-and-less, so it was some really good work, from that standpoint."

Turning heads

Before going down with a groin injury on Saturday, freshman wide receiver Mike Williams was already making a serious push for playing time this season.

"Mike, I think, is on his way to earning an opportunity…he's on track for that," Swinney said. "He's got to get back to work. If he can pick up where he left off, he's pushing."

A former four-star recruit, Williams is working at the 9-position.

"We don't have good numbers at wide-out. We've got some great players, but we don't have good numbers. We've got really good talent there. A couple of those young guys will have to step up for us," Swinney said.

And it looks like Williams could be one of those young players to do that.

Young OL making moves

Depth along the offensive line has been an issue at Clemson for a while, long before Swinney took over as head coach. But, as he enters his fifth season on the job, they may no longer be an issue.

Four out of five starters from 2012 are back. So is every backup and every backup's backup.

"We just didn't have the competition that you'd like to have with our backups [last season]," Swinney said.

In jus the span of eight months, it's a "whole different deal" with the offensive line depth.

"Those guys are competing really, really hard," Swinney said. "Those guys that returned from last year are working and doing a good job…when you've got that type of competition you can't help but get better."

The fourth starter

Tony Steward may be listed on the depth chart as the No. 2 WILL linebacker, but he's viewed in a different light.

"Between him, Stephone [Anthony], [Spencer] Shuey and Quandon [Christian], we feel like we have four guys that we look at as starters," Swinney said, "Four guys that we know exactly what we've got.

"Then, you throw in there Kellen Jones, who's going to be outstanding, B.J. Goodson, [T.J.] Burrell, we've got a really good group of guys."

Steward played sparingly last season after having ACL surgery during his freshman year.

The former five-star linebacker also had ACL surgery on his other knee the year before.

He figures to see significantly more playing this season.

CUTigers.com Top Stories