Tyler Shatley's move already paying off
CLEMSON -- Saturday marked only the third spring practice and first in pads for Clemson football, but coach Dabo Swinney sounded as if he had already found his starting right guard, one of three line positions where Clemson must replace a starter from last season.
Former defensive tackle Tyler Shatley was asked by Swinney during Christmas break to move from his role as a backup defensive lineman to compete on the offensive line, and Shatley sounds like the early favorite to start at right guard against Auburn in September.
"That's been a great move for us," Swinney said. "He looks natural. He's powerful. He's a guy who is going to solidify us on the offensive side. … He has as a chance to be a 70-, 80-play (per game) guy."
Clemson center Dalton Freeman, the only returning lineman to have double-digit career starts, has been impressed with Shatley's grasp of the offensive blocking schemes.
"Tyler Shatley has been the story of camp so far," Freeman said. "There is so much carryover from defense. When I was trying to teach him our inside zone (scheme), he's like 'I know, I'm used to defending that.' During blitz pickup, he was a natural picking it up."
Said Shatley: "It's been a pretty smooth move. … Instead of (shedding) double teams, you're trying to track down linebackers and get on them."
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said he's also been impressed with Kalon Davis at left guard, which has shifted Brandon Thomas to work more at left tackle.
Hopkins draws notice
Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins has bulked up to 212 pounds and has been the star of the early practices. Hopkins has been running sharper routes and appears to be more explosive.
"Hopkins has been unbelievable," Swinney said. "Ain't nobody covered him yet."
Hopkins, lost in the shadow of Sammy Watkins last year, is coming off a season in which he had 978 yards on 72 catches.
Defense gaining fans
New defensive coordinator Brent Venables' system is more player-friendly, said linebacker Stephone Anthony.
"It's not as complex as coach (Kevin) Steele's defense," Anthony said. "It's just real simple but not too simple."
When seeking a new coordinator, Swinney wanted a coach who could help improve Clemson's linebacker play.
"We're just not asking as much from some of those guys as far as checks and things like that," Swinney said. "We are still going to have man coverage, but we are going to have some zone principles mixed in. They can use their eyes a little more, their instincts."
Speaking of Anthony, Swinney believes the rising sophomore is an "All-American" in the making. Anthony said he has gained five pounds and is playing at 230 pounds this spring. The former five-star prospect said he has been working mostly as the first-team middle linebacker.
"You're starting to see that gear, the instincts," Swinney said. "He has been impressive."