Apparently stricken with a case of summertime blues – for which, the song tells us “there ain’t no cure” – the Clemson football team received a 45-minute dose of coach Dabo Swinney’s vinegar and fire after a scrimmage Wednesday in Death Valley.
Displaying an uncharacteristically pessimistic side of his personality, Swinney told reporters 17 days before Clemson opens the season that he was “disappointed” in the team, the coaching staff and himself.
“I thought we hit the wall today,” Swinney said. “I’m more disappointed in myself than anybody.”
Swinney was not specific enough to paint any word pictures, though in comparison to his satisfaction with the masterpiece last Saturday, in which there were no fumbles, no interceptions, no dropped passes and no egregious penalties, this was a symphony of errors with a string of penalties, three fumbles (two recovered) and an interception by corner Ryan Carter returned for a touchdown. Two more potential picks were dropped.
In broad strokes, he said, “way too many mistakes,” and “really poor football in all areas.”
“If we’d played today, we’d have had our butts handed to us,” Swinney said. “No question, it wouldn’t have been close.”
“Just things that just weren’t smart,” he said. “And I didn’t think our coaches were smart today, either. (It’s) hard for me to expect more from the players.”
Players interviewed after practice – before Swinney spoke to reporters – didn’t provide any hint that the coach was unhappy with them, though his voice could be heard through the empty stadium.
“I’m disappointed in our coaching, which is a reflection of (me). It starts with me, stops with me,” he said, later adding, “I think, from a coaching standpoint, that we coached with the discipline that we expect our players to have.
“That’s a reflection of us, and the team is a reflection of me. So, it’s a bad day because I did a poor job in having everybody ready to go today.”
What this likely means going forward remains open for interpretation. Swinney didn’t hint at changes and eventually conceded there were “some good things, though not enough good things to win a ball game.”
Isaiah Battle returned to offensive left tackle after nursing a lower leg/ankle injury. “When he’s in there, we’re a different group,” Swinney said. With him out, Joe Gore began to emerge as a viable starter at tackle.
With one week remaining after this one, then game week, there remain enough questions about this team to create a sense of urgency, which might partly explain Swinney’s anxiety.
The chorus line along the offensive front might begin to settle. Returning starter Ryan Norton said he worked only at center, with Reid Webster and Eric Mac Lane at left guard, and Kalon Davis at right guard.
Running back remains a curiosity, particularly with the ball security issue rearing its ugly head. Wayne Gallman had the day’s long play on a touchdown run. Tight end Jordan Leggett, who caught seven passes and scored a couple of touchdowns, said freshman Adam Choice received a good bit of work in goal line situations.
“Tell you this,” Swinney said, “I’m going to find a back who can hold onto the ball.”
Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward seem solid at linebacker, and the depth continues to solidify. In the secondary, Jayron Kearse and Jadar Johnson are in a battle at strong safety that might remain day-to-day into the season.
After a light practice Wednesday night, today should be a break from the grind with meetings, video and teaching.
A few players are nursing injuries. A shoulder injury Tuesday sidelined receiver Mike Williams, an ankle sprain on Monday shelved Daniel Rodriguez. Travis Blanks, Sam Cooper, B.J. Goodson, Kellen Jones, Charone Peake and Stanton Seckinger did not practice. And the clock was stopped on running back Tyshon Dye’s rehab from Achilles surgery. He’ll be in a boot for about a week, Swinney said.
The team returns to the practice field Friday to prepare for another stadium session on Saturday.
“Hopefully, we can have a more focused scrimmage,” Swinney said. “The things we did today, we wouldn’t have beaten nobody; too many bad things to overcome.”
“We’re in a good spot overall,” he said. “I know the type of team that we are, but today’s practice didn’t reflect that.”