On the clock from the moment they stepped on the field Friday, the Clemson Tigers turned it up a notch or two for the first practice of the 2013 season.
“We had a great summer,” quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “This is only the first practice, but I can guarantee they’re going to go out and go hard every day.”
The team looked lean and stronger, the result of a new regimen of nutrition and diet, coach Dabo Swinney said.
“The players have bought in to every edge we need to compete,” he said.
Entering his fifth season as head coach, Swinney said that, with the level and quantity of experience on the roster, the team was best prepared to begin practice. With 10 seniors returning from his first recruiting class, the majority of players are sophomores and juniors.
“One of the things we’ve done from an installation standpoint, especially offensively, is we’re going to put a whole bunch in these first three days, probably more than we would put in the first three days,” he said. “Then we’ll probably back off and start reviewing some things.
“I think they can handle more than they could have last year and the year before.”
Said Boyd, “These guys are having to catch on a little faster, but I’m very encouraged by what I saw.”
Swinney said the freshman class easily passed the eye test, particularly the group in the defensive secondary.
“It’s like night and day looking at them on the hoof. We’ve got good numbers, really great athleticism, they can all run,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of teaching and coaching to do. We’re a better looking group in the secondary.”
Freshmen could provide critical depth at receiver and running back. Mike Williams from Lake Marion High in Santee caught the eye of several people, including Boyd, who envisions him as a red zone weapon.
Among the returning players of note during conversations with Swinney and Boyd were tight end Stanton Seckinger, who reported at 236 pounds, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, whom the coach said looked like a professional wrestler.
“They’ve really paid a price physically and nutritionally,” Swinney said.
Swinney reiterated his pride in Boyd’s role of helping shepherd the team through the offseason and encourage their preparation.
“Tajh is the leader of the team,” he said. “He’s grown way beyond the leader of the offense.
“I’ve never had a third-year starter at quarterback. This was fun,” he said. “He’s one of those guys we hope will make others around him better. That’s what the great ones do.”
For Boyd, it was good to be back on the field with his final season rolled out before him, starting Aug. 31 against Georgia.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every day and embrace every day, so just getting a chance to go out there and lead the stretch lines today, to know that this is a beginning of, hopefully, a great senior season, it was exciting,” he said.
“It’s a blessing, it’s an honor to go out and play with these guys, guys that I sweated with and cried with.”
Boyd said he believes the team has developed a swagger after an 11-2 record and the bowl win against LSU, and that there’s no additional pressure to live up to others’ expectations.
“Everything is attention to detail. Today we went out and had a little fun out there,” he said.
“We know that, if we’re going to be great, it’s a lifestyle.”