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Clemson Holds First Practice in Pads

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks to Deshaun Watson during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Clemson held its fifth practice of the preseason, its first in full pads, on Tuesday afternoon on the practice fields behind the Reeves Football Complex. The Tigers are preparing for the season opener against Kent State at Clemson on September 2.

The Tigers worked for two-and-a-half hours and made the most of the full contact opportunity. The first two periods featured the PAW Drill, a physical drill where running backs run behind a truncated offensive line in a confined area against the defense.

“We don’t get a lot of opportunities in the preseason to cut it loose, so when we do it is physical,” said Head Coach Dabo Swinney. “We put in a lot of work today, but we have a ways to go. We had some players dinged up today so we had some players out, but it was an opportunity for others to step up.”

Among the players who missed practice due to injury were Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, Clelin Ferrell, Tyrone Crowder and Shadell Bell. None of the injuries are serious.

Swinney commented about the quarterback situation where Clemson must replace two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, who is slated to see his first professional action Wednesday night just up the road in Charlotte as his Houston Texans take on the Carolina Panthers.

Kelly Bryant is first in line to replace Watson, but will be challenged through the preseason by Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper. Swinney also threw a fourth quarterback in to the mix when he spoke with the media after Tuesday’s practice.

“Kelly Bryant is the starter just as he was at the end of spring practice. He has had five really good days of practice and has been the most consistent. Hunter and Zerrick have been excellent, but right now Kelly is the most consistent. Chase Brice has played well also and has surprised me how well he has picked things up. I thought he would be farther behind at this point. We are currently ‘repping’ four quarterbacks.

“Kelly is still the starter. It is his job to stay there.”

Ray-Ray McCloud has continued to get a few reps at cornerback. After suffering a hand injury, he was back at practice full go on Tuesday. He still sees most of his time at wide receiver, but there is the possibility he could play on both sides of the ball this year.

“We did recruit him originally as a defensive back,” said Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. “He is a talented athlete and if he can help us from time to time on defense in special situations that would be great. But it is still very early. It is something we are looking at.”

McCloud has 78 career receptions for 723 yards and three touchdowns in two years as a wide receiver. The all-around athlete will also return punts for the Tigers this year.

Clemson will continue practice on Wednesday in the late afternoon. All practices are closed to the public. Clemson will have its first scrimmage of the year on Saturday.

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