CLEMSON — Tailback Tyshon Dye and cornerback Mackensie Alexander were safe bets to be the top true freshman contributors on offense and defense, respectively, when fall camp opened Aug. 2.
Neither rookie will suit up for their first career game due to injury.
It was announced Monday in the team’s game notes, but head coach Dabo Swinney gave more details as to what’s holding up the talented young players’ progress.
Dye started camp strong, but has had lower back pain the past two weeks, and team doctors have injected multiple epidurals trying to heal the burly running back, who remains out of practice indefinitely.
“Hopefully that works for him. If it doesn’t, then you’ve got to go to the next step and evaluate him further,” Swinney said. “A shame he’s not well, because what a great player he’s going to be. He’s very different from some of the guys we have.”
Alexander has been hampered by a pulled groin the entire month, and is hoping to return for the week two game vs. South Carolina State.
Meanwhile, freshman Jordan Leggett, thought to be out for at least three weeks once he sprained his MCL two weeks ago, is healing nicely and practicing in a green no-contact jersey. He’d add much-needed depth at tight end if available.
“I think there’s a strong chance that he’ll be available Saturday night,” Swinney said. “It’s a day-to-day deal. 8:22 on Saturday night is forever from right now. So we’ll see how he is.”
Remarkable recovery: Third-string quarterbacks don’t usually play. Chad Kelly won’t care if he’s 10th-string on Saturday night; he’s content to shock modern medicine with the news he plans to dress and be available as an emergency backup just 20 weeks after tearing his ACL in Clemson’s spring game.
“Yeah, he’s ready. It’s amazing. Never seen anything like it,” Swinney said. “Honestly, in my mind, I was thinking late October and November, getting him back.”
When Swinney went to counsel Kelly, the devastated redshirt freshman swore he’d be back for the Georgia opener, which seemed preposterous since it was four and a half months away. Typically, rehab from ACL reconstructive surgery requires six to nine months, and sometimes longer.
Yet there’s Kelly, mimicking Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on the scout team this week and “looking great,” according to Swinney.
“He has just been relentless in his rehab, and they cleared him the other day. He’s going in, he’s our third guy,” Swinney said. “If we need him, he’s going to play. That was my question: I’m not going to rep him this week if he can’t play. You’ve never seen a guy more happy than Chad Kelly.”
Starter Tajh Boyd will play the whole game if he stays upright, but as a guy who played through a torn ACL his senior year of high school, he’s got mad props for Kelly and tight end Sam Cooper, who’s not far behind in his own recovery.
“Unbelievable. Experiencing that injury, the way that him and Sam Cooper are fighting to get back, you can tell how competitive they are,” Boyd said. “We’re expecting these guys back to play, and they’re doing a great job rehabbing, doing a great job in the meeting rooms. It’s good to have Chad in the room, and on the field as well.”
Welcome to the club: In early August, offensive lineman Tra Thomas transferred out of the program and wide receiver Kyrin Priester headed to military school to improve his grades.
That gave the Tigers two scholarships to hand off to walk-ons, and they were awarded to tailback C.J. Davidson and safety Taylor Watson. Davidson has been named the No. 3 running back, and could get carries behind Roderick McDowell and Zac Brooks.
Long snapper Michael Sobeski will remain on scholarship. All three players are on one-year offers, though the intent is to keep them on scholarship through their careers.
Festive for Ford: Danny Ford and Bill Wilhelm will be inducted to the Ring of Honor in a pregame ceremony Saturday night, with about 10 minutes left on the clock.