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CLEMSON - Wednesday provided an opportunity for the Clemson football team to undergo workouts in full gear for the first time this spring. It was just the third practice of March drills for the Tigers. Clemson will not practice again until March 23.
"It was good and bad. It's exciting to get the pads on," head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters afterwards. "I called (Middle Tennessee head) coach Rick Stockstill to see if we could play the game in shorts on September 5 and he wasn't for it."
Swinney said he again challenged his players to work with a higher level of toughness.
"I told the guys that you've got to learn to play in pads the way you're supposed to play the game," he said.
The 39-year old head coach noted that there was sort of a state-of-the-union address to his team prior to Wednesday's practice. In that message Swinney reiterated that working with a greater physicality would continue to be a priority.
"There's just no substitute for great effort and toughness. If we can get that out of every player, we'll get enough guys knowing what they're supposed to do," he said. "And we had good, full-speed drills today."
Swinney said the afternoon session was somewhat frustrating because it's his team stopping momentum as soon as it acquires it.
"You're just getting going and then you have to break and come back. I wish we could practice tomorrow," he said. "We'll have three good weeks of continuity and hopefully build off these days of installation from the start."
One player in particular who stood out in Wednesday's workout was red-shirt freshman running back, Andre Ellington.
"Andre is a lot like C.J. (Spiller) in a lot of ways. He's very versatile and can play inside, outside and can play in the slot. He's a strong kid, a strong runner and has had a really good three days," Swinney said. "He would be one guy who has stood out."
Asked about talented sophomore offensive lineman, Antoine McClain, like Ellington, another member of the Tigers' highly touted 2008 recruiting class, Swinney said the 6-foot-6, 315-pounder has gotten off to a fast start in his effort to seize an opportunity to win the starting job at right guard.
"He's just a different guy. Antoine was in high school this time last year," Swinney said. "He's had a good first three days. He's a physical kid and his body is great. He looks really good and has shown a tremendous amount of quickness. He played kind of slow last fall, but is having a good spring."
*** Senior defensive end Kevin Alexander also drew praise from the head coach for his good works Wednesday.
"If there would be one guy on defense that has stood out, it would be Kevin. He's doing everything right," said Swinney. "He seems to have really made the transition."
*** Sophomore backer Brandon Maye has been called upon by the coaching staff to emerge as a leader, as has senior WILL backer Kavell Conner.
*** Swinney said powerful sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Thompson had a big day Wednesday.
"He showed how to handle the line of scrimmage today in our drill," the head coach noted. "he stoned them at the point of attack. That's what you have to do inside."
*** Swniney said junior wideout Xavier Dye has "shown some signs" the first three days that would indicate he may be ready to "be the guy."
*** And sophomore receiver Brandon Clear had a big catch in Wednesday's session. Swinney said it's an important off-season for the former US Army All-American.
"He's a guy that needs to start having success. I was happy to see that from him today," Swinney said.
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