Jobs are at a premium two weeks before Clemson opens the season, and coach Dabo Swinney said freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson’s role was not as a situational player or “package guy.”
With 30 scholarship seniors, Swinney hinted it would not be easy whittling the roster for travel and deciding which freshmen must be redshirted. The staff huddled Thursday to create a plan, and another stadium scrimmage on Saturday should bring additional clarity.
“We’re at that point to where we’re getting settled in, personnel-wise,” Swinney said after Friday’s practice at Jervey Meadows.
“We’ve made a few decisions,” he said, choosing not to discuss specific players. “We’ll sort all that out the next few days.”
Highly regarded junior Travis Blanks could join the redshirts. Projected as a hybrid nickel back/strong side linebacker Blanks reportedly asked Swinney for the chance to step back. Blanks required surgery after tearing a knee ligament in November’s game against The Citadel.
“He’s struggling, because he doesn’t feel like he’s paid the price,” Swinney said. “He wasn’t able to go through spring. He wasn’t able to grind like the other guys through summer. It bothers him.”
The emergence of redshirt freshman Dorian O’Daniel and sophomores T.J. Burrell and Korrin Wiggins makes it palatable. Swinney said Blanks approached him this week with the suggestion. “That’s 100 percent him.”
“The way we left it, we’re going to try to hold him initially, maybe re-evaluate in five or six weeks,” Swinney said. “We’ve got three good players at that position, and Travis knows that. He sees an opportunity to maybe redshirt.
“We’re not saying we’re redshirting him, but we’re going into it trying to hold him,” he said. “He wants to take a year to really pay the price, mentally and physically.”
Players were not available for interviews after practice.
At quarterback, senior Cole Stoudt replaces record setter Tajh Boyd. Preparing for the next transition begins in the season opener at Athens, Ga., with the first look at Watson, who enrolled in January.
“We know he’s going to play,” Swinney said. “He’ll play whenever. He’s not a guy that’s going to be a situational guy. When he plays, we can call anything. There’s really nothing we feel he can’t do.”
Stoudt, who won the job during the spring after three seasons as Boyd’s backup, “has been phenomenal.”
“But so has Deshaun, and we’ve got to get him some experience,” Swinney said. “He’s not a package guy. We’re not going to bring him in on short yardage. He’s not only playing on (one) side of the field.
“He has performed great,” he said. “When he goes in there, it’s going to be (an) open playbook.”