Coach knows value of walk-ons
CLEMSON -- Hopeful walk-ons began arriving at the Clemson practice facility when classes began last week, chasing a dream much like Dabo Swinney did more than 20 years earlier in the SEC.
Does a walk-on have a better chance under the Clemson head coach, who walked on as a receiver at Alabama?
It certainly doesn't hurt.
"I treat them all fairly," Swinney said. "I give them all an opportunity. The best guys play. I'm not afraid because we recruited somebody (to have) a walk-on beat out a recruited guy.
"Players all develop differently."
If aspiring walk-ons need further motivation, they need look no further than reserve tackle Phillip Price, who is one of eight original walk-ons on scholarship at Clemson.
At tiny Dillon Christian School, Price helped the football team to a Class A title as a tight end, defensive end and linebacker. Price walked on at Clemson in 2007, redshirted, and appeared in two games as a tight end in 2008.
But it wasn't until last season Price became a real threat to join the two-deep depth chart when he was converted to an offensive tackle.
A year later, Price had bulked up to nearly 300 pounds and is one of the top eight linemen, according to Swinney, who said Price will play this season.
"He's a big kid who has just grown, matured, learned and hung in there," Swinney said. "(Price) is going to help our football team."
Not worried about Bowers
There is some public concern about whether Da'Quan Bowers' play will be affected by the death of his father.
Swinney is not among them.
"I think Da'Quan is going to handle this the right way," Swinney said this weekend. "Some guys may handle it one way, but I think Da'Quan will be very focused this year. He already had a ton of focus coming into this (season)."
As evidence of Bowers' motivation for a breakout season, Swinney noted how the junior has cut his weight from 290 pounds to 272.
"He's worked on his body and he's taken some criticism in a positive way," Swinney said. "He's been a good player but he hasn't been a dominant player. Hopefully he can have the kind of season he is capable of. I'm not worried about where he is. I think he is on solid ground and has a real peace about the whole situation."
Swinney said wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and linebacker Justin Parker will be the first two true freshmen to play this fall. Swinney said it's likely defensive back Martin Jenkins also will avoid a redshirt. Swinney said offensive lineman Kalon Davis (6-5, 340 pounds) is on the redshirt bubble.
Clemson president James Barker was in attendance for Tuesday's practice and spoke to the team. ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge was also at the practice field to observe the Tigers and will be part of the broadcast team for Clemson's game at Auburn on Sept. 18. … Running back Roderick McDowell sprained an ankle Tuesday, his second injury in two weeks.