--New defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who was lured away from Oklahoma in January after 13 seasons with the Sooners, made his debut with the Tigers this spring and made quite a first impression. "He's high energy," linebacker Corico Hawkins said. "He's all about 'bringing the juice.' That's what he likes to say, and that's how he coaches." Venables is charged with repairing a defense that surrendered a multitude of big plays last season and gave up 70 points in an Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia, but he likes what he's seen this spring. "We've got players with good size, strength, explosiveness, intelligence and athletic ability -- we don't have a bunch of ham-and-eggers," Venables said. "We've got guys who can play and are tough-minded and seem willing to invest and commit to it."
--Clemson recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 80,000-square-foot indoor practice facility for football. The building will be located adjacent to the current football practice fields and the indoor track facility and will house a full-size synthetic turf football field. It also will feature a coaches' tower, training room, video recording platforms, lighting and sound systems and large, garage-style doors that may be raised to create an open-air space. The estimated cost of the project is $10 million, and Clemson is hopeful that the facility will be ready to use by November.
OL Tyler Shatley -- Shatley has been a big spring mover, literally. A 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle last season, Shatley is now competing for a starting post at offensive guard. "He's been the hit of the spring," All-ACC C Dalton Freeman said. Shatley appears to be grasping offensive line techniques quickly and brings a built-in "mean streak" that offensive coordinator Chad Morris repeatedly said was missing last season. So far, Shatley's position change looks like the best move of the spring.
TE Brandon Ford -- Ford may have the biggest burden as he attempts to replace All-American and Mackey Award winner Dwayne Allen, but he's been up to the task in spring. Ford came to Clemson as a 210-pound receiver, but is now a 240-pound senior tight end who last season had 14 catches for 166 yards and two scores. "I think this is his year," coach Dabo Swinney said. "When this thing's over, if he does what he's capable of doing, he's another guy who has a chance to go play on the next level."
WR DeAndre Hopkins -- Hopkins was supplanted as the Tigers' top receiver by rookie sensation Sammy Watkins last season, but that hasn't diminished his worth in the coaches' eyes. Hopkins also has been a standout this spring, thanks in part to his decision not to play basketball for Clemson last winter. "This is the first time in my life that I've been a one-sport athlete," Hopkins said. With no basketball commitment, Hopkins focused on football in the offseason, adding muscle and beefing up to 212 pounds. He's also been more adept at shedding press coverage and catching the ball in traffic this spring. "He's making some unbelievable plays on the field," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's like running through a San Francisco fog for them right now. They can hardly see a step in front of them because things are happening so fast, but I keep telling them to just keep running because it will clear up. You may hit something along the way, but just bounce off of it and keep going." -- Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris on the four freshmen offensive linemen who are participating in spring drills.
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