Tavaris Barnes and Jordan Leggett are two Clemson players taking a more enlightened approach to preparing for the season.
Built like an oil rig with a well of untapped talent, Barnes considered leaving for the NFL after his junior season despite rarely being a starter. Tired of playing a secondary role on the defensive line, Barnes said Wednesday he recommitted himself this spring to take the next step.
“I know if I’d left last year, I’d been hurting myself,” said Barnes, whose confidence eroded as he watched others around him succeed. “So I prayed about it and talked to my family about it also.
“I’m getting my confidence back.”
Self-confidence hasn’t been Leggett’s problem.
As a freshman year tight end a year ago, he played like a veteran during the spring but didn’t handle the success well. His teammates began called him “Lazy Leggett,” and he missed time on the field as a result of his less-than-stellar commitment.
A series of inspirational videos and a conversation with Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, another former Clemson player who took a while to learn humility, helped Leggett understand the need for nurturing a serious work ethic.
“I just got a realization and knew what I had to do to play more often,” he said. “Just listening to him, I’m just trying to get myself together.” He shed the nickname, “now they just call me ‘Jay Leggs.’ ”
Both said they look at the competition around them and understand entitlement doesn’t come with tenure. Coach Dabo Swinney has talked extensively about the steady progress due to the competition at every position.
“We got a lot of good things going on,” Swinney said. The first full scrimmage is scheduled for Monday in Death Valley. “Next week will be a big week from a personnel standpoint in making some decisions and seeing where we are going into the last few days of spring ball.”
Leggett continues to face serious challenges from senior Sam Cooper, junior Stanton Seckinger and sophomore Jay Jay McCullough. Barnes finds himself in the mix at the deepest and most experienced are of the team.
Then there are the quarterbacks, the running backs and both lines.
“I like what I see in our offensive line,” Swinney said. “I think the guys are growing up. They’re getting thrown into the grease pit every day.
“They’ve got tons of depth on that defensive side, so it’s a battle every day. When you have great competition on your practice field, that makes Saturday a little better.”
A hand fracture had limited running back C.J. Davidson, but he’ll have an opportunity to cut loose the final two weeks and push D.J. Howard. … Hoping to accelerate his recovery from knee surgery after spring break, Charone Peake was in shorts after practice … Swinney said it’s probably good that quarterback Chad Kelly is immersed in a competition for the starting job. His uncle, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, will undergo radiation and chemotherapy for jaw cancer after it was deemed inoperable. Swinney said he spoke to Jim Kelly last week. “It’s a tough situation,” Swinney said.