Clemson football is spending Christmas in Orlando, Fla., and already a practice into game-week preparation for Oklahoma (8-4).
The Tigers won’t break for the holiday Thursday, practicing from 1:30 to 3:30.
On Wednesday, Clemson (9-3) got a taste of the Citrus Bowl to open bowl-week, which received a $207 million renovation in the prior 10 months. The Tigers escaped overcast and cool temps in the Upstate for highs in lows 80s in Orlando this week.
Clemson suffered no academic casualties, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said after practice, although sophomore tight end Jay Jay McCullough still is suspended. Clemson already is missing Stanton Seckinger (knee), and Jordan Leggett took Wednesday off recovering from a minor knee injury, per the (Charleston) Post and Courier. New Clemson co-coordinator Tony Elliott said they hope to have Leggett back for Monday’s game but have contingencies in place.
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Production from that position has been inconsistent all season, injuries playing a factor from the warmups at Georgia (Sam Cooper) on. Swinney’s still positive about the future there.
“We’re going to be great at tight end,” Swinney told reporters after practice. “Hopefully get Jay Jay back, and he can do what he needs to do. (D.J.) Greenlee was making a lot of progress for us and is physically developing. He’s out. Got to get him healthy. Got to get Seckinger healthy. The biggest thing in fixing is getting guys healthy. It’s been that way all year.
“We’ve got two outstanding prospects in Milan Richard and Cannon Smith. They’ll be coming off redshirts, and that will be a shot in the arm for us.”
A smooth start to the bowl week began with players reporting individually after the break from last Saturday to Tuesday in central Florida.
“I’m proud of our guys because they all showed up,” said Swinney. “Had a team meeting at 7:45, and every one of them was early and on time except (linebacker) Kellen Jones, who had a plane cancellation out of Texas. He got here a little later. I was really pleased with that.”
Speaking of linebacker, the Tigers’ coach said he’s leaning towards starting T.L. Hanna product Ben Boulware at middle linebacker. In the season finale versus South Carolina, senior middle linebacker Stephone Anthony was flagged for targeting and suspended for the first half of the bowl by the SEC officiating crew.
It would be Boulware’s second start in a second position, filling in at weakside linebacker for an injured Tony Steward against Louisville in October. He’s totaled 52 tackles in 279 snaps, averaging a solo tackle for every 8.7 times on the field. Boulware put up double-digit tackle efforts in that start (12) and against Georgia State (10).
The bowl festivities off the field begin Friday morning as Tigers and Sooners will participate in a “Day for Kids” at the Give Kids the World Village, which houses children with life-threatening illnesses.
On Saturday, they are set take advantage of one of their bowl gifts, a shopping excursion with one $447 Best Buy gift card per player.
Clemson hits the practice field again Friday and Saturday before using Sunday as their typical prep day and walkthrough the gameplan.
Early Sunday, the opposing coaches take the stage to talk football for the last time publicly before game-action.
For the fans, starting at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, the Orlando Bowl Week Fan headquarters on International Drive will host a Clemson pep rally. At 11 a.m. gameday morning, the Clemson and Oklahoma marching bands will play at the Park Avenue and Central Park in Winter Park, Fla., just north of Orlando.