By Johnny Falduto
Clemson took the field at Memorial Stadium for their final team scrimmage ahead of next weekend’s Spring Game on Wednesday afternoon and head coach Dabo Swinney had plenty to say to the media afterward.
Harris Sewell is “ready” to make an immediate impact
It’s not often that injuries are a “blessing in disguise,” as Coach Swinney described it, but for true freshman Harris Sewell, the absence of both Marcus Tate and Walker Parks as they recover from offseason surgeries has given the freshman plenty of opportunities to step in and get valuable first-team reps so far this spring.
Sewell, a 6-4, 300 LB Odessa, Texas product, was a 4-star recruit who signed with the Tigers last December. Swinney commended how well he can move for his size and described him as “nasty,” and noted how he has experience playing three different positions along the offensive line.
“He is as tough as they come, he’s nasty. He’s got the mentality,” Swinney said Wednesday. “He’s a rare guy where physically and mentally, it just matches up. From those standpoints, he’s just ready- and he’ll help this football team, no doubt.”
Update on the QB Room
Swinney said that second-year quarterback Cade Klubnik has been “amazing” this spring and noted that it’s been fun to watch him “pull it all together” with Garrett Riley’s quarterback-friendly offense.
“He has a lot of flexibility within this offense and he has to show he can handle it, and he’s shown he can. It’s been fun to see,” said Swinney. “He’s been awesome all spring.”
On true freshman 5-star freshman quarterback Christopher Vizzina, Swinney said he isn’t challenging Klubnik for the starting job and that the two are just “out here competing against themselves and just trying to be the best version of themselves.”
“C.V. is special, it’s easy to see. The guy’s gifted- he’s only 17 years old- and it’s already starting to slow down for him. He’s got a bright, bright future ahead of him.”
Swinney said that Hunter Helms is having his best spring since he arrived at Clemson in 2020, calling him “the best version of Hunter Helms we’ve seen.” He referenced how the quarterback transformed his body and got into “great” shape to help with his mobility, and said that he’s been a really good decision-maker out on the field the last few weeks.
Paul Tyson, a redshirt senior who transferred to Clemson after brief stints at Alabama and Arizona State, has just started to get going in practice within the last week or so after missing early spring sessions recovering from an offseason thumb surgery. Swinney said that he’s looked sharp throwing the ball and that he’s processing things well.
Swinney also said that former Daniel High School star Trent Pearman has been getting a ton of reps after serving as the scout team quarterback while redshirting for the 2022 season.
Continued Praise for DL Peter Woods
Freshman Peter Woods has been one of the biggest stories all spring, with everyone from Dabo Swinney, to the assistant coaches, to the players themselves talking about how the Alabaster, Alabama native has been “tossing guys around” all spring.
Swinney continued his praise of Woods on Wednesday when talking about deficiencies he’s shown on the field this spring.
“Nope, he ain’t got none. None other than he’s just a freshman,” he said with a slight grin. “He’s smart, tough, strong, loves to play, high character… he just needs to get game experience, and that’s why we need to fill this place up (for the spring game). Let’s get Peter Woods ready to go.”
He continued, “He gets it fundamentally, he gets it technically. He’s got the aptitude for it. He’s played multiple spots and he’s not been overwhelmed. If we were playing today, he’d be playing.”
Swinney also said that Woods has taken reps with the 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s and has taken ownership and accountability at every level.
Playing Other Teams in the Spring?
Several head coaches within the college football landscape, most recently Auburn’s Hugh Freeze, have come out in support of scrimmaging against another school in the spring game as opposed to teams scrimmaging among themselves.
The idea stems from the fact that at every other level of football, there are some kind of preseason exhibition games. High schools compete in 7-7s against other schools, and joint-team practices are common in NFL training camps.
Swinney thinks the idea of going up against another school in the spring game would be interesting, but he’d prefer a similar type of scrimmage or joint practice in Fall camp.
“The spring game would be interesting- but me, I’d rather have it in Fall camp, even if it’s just being able to practice against somebody or do 1-1 or 7-7 drills or something. We’re the only level of football that doesn’t get to compete against somebody.
Wade Woodaz Impressing in Camp
Sophomore Wade Woodaz is another player who has shown great progress this spring, and Swinney expressed high hopes for what the versatile linebacker can become under Wes Goodwin’s defense after an impressive showing his freshman season.
“He’s going to be a special player. He’s learning both the Mike and Sam positions this Spring, so he can play a lot of positions. He has a background of playing quarterback and safety- he just understands the game. He’s really coming into his own, and he has a lot of respect from his teammates that he’s earned.”
Woodaz totaled 20 tackles (5.5 TFL’s), 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt over 14 games in 2022.