WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Deacs convened for one final spring practice Tuesday afternoon — a chance to revisit trouble areas from the annual spring game and get the team together one last time before putting them in charge of their own progress for the next several months.
Clawson told the team after practice that phrase three of their growth this season is now fully on them. (phase one was pre-camp conditioning, with phase two being camp itself)
There was no let-up for Clawson and his team, as they went the full two hours Tuesday before adjourning until late July or early August.
Clawson spoke with the media after practice.
On if he saw what he wanted in spring camp
Clawson: “We could always use 15 more (practices). I think we accomplished a lot of our goals. I wouldn’t say we stayed healthy during the spring. At the end broke down, but nobody got hurt that will affect us during spring camp. We had lost Tyler Bell and Keegan Good before. Those are the two guys that got hurt during the preseason program. You get two guys hurt in the non-contact conditioning program, then you go through spring practices clean. This is phase three. The next three-and-a-half months they have to do a good job. We have to come out at a different level than we left. We’ll have 28 new guys in the program.”
On what he found out most about his team during spring camp
Clawson: “It’s two-fold. You look at both sides of the ball, and the offense is starting to grow. The kids are older, they know what they’re doing and they’re playing faster. And we had some challenges with the new defense. That is still gelling. At the end, the kids started playing faster with it. You have three new coaches and somewhat of a new system. The reactions aren’t as quick as you’d like in the beginning. You just have to keep repping them and repping them.”
On if there’s anything to address those issues in the next three months
Clawson: “That’s where the player practices come in. The players lead practices and that’s where they have to steal reps.”
On positions where incoming freshmen could make an impact
Clawson: “Corner is wide open. Linebacker — those four guys will all play. It’s (Justin) Strnad and (Nate) Mays are probably 3 and 4. How much they play is the battle. I think all four of those guys (along with Jaboree Williams and Grant Dawson) will play, but is it 90 percent of the game like Marquel Lee a year ago or more of a 60-40 or 70-30 split. How much they play is up in the air. I think that’s a position a freshman could come in and impact us. With losing the defensive tackle (Chris Stewart), we’re a little thin there. But hopefully we’ll get Zeek (Rodney) back. He’s supposed to be in school at the end of May, and that will help us. We’re going to have five guys battling there.
“I think who the third, fourth and fifth safety, who’s the second rover, who’s the starting offensive line and whose five, six and seven there. At tight end, I think (Brandon) Chapman and Thomas Cole are coming on. Jack Freudenthal had a great spring, and he’s a little more settled in what we’re doing.
“At running back, can we get Arkeem (Byrd) healthy? Can Christian Beal play as a freshman? I think the receiver position is competitive across the board. We have six guys and a freshman could come in and impact it too. We’ll have a lot better depth than in the spring.”
On Christian Beal’s enthusiasm in blocking drills
Clawson: “He’s a willing blocker, but that’s why we have weight rooms. The good thing is that he is willing. He doesn’t lack toughness or aggressiveness. He’s got to get stronger and learn technique. He doesn’t back down.”