PINEHURST, N.C. — Unless they rehearsed or staged it some way, Clemson’s two player representatives at the ACC Football Kickoff were in agreement over a fairly interesting question.
Independently, defensive tackle D.J. Reader and offensive guard Eric Mac Lain were asked who’s improved the most this offseason. First Reader, then Mac Lain, gave the same answer. Both named the same two players: safety T.J. Green, a converted receiver, and defensive end Kevin Dodd, a longtime backup and one of the oldest players on the team.
“T.J. Green and Kevin Dodd have really impressed me in the way they work,” Reader said. “Kevin Dodd has worked on his body. He’s been sitting behind, waiting to get his opportunity. T.J. Green’s back there among a great group of safeties and gotten better as a player.”
Moments later, Mac Lain made it sound as though an echo wafted through the Pinehurst Resort ballroom.
“T.J. Green has taken numerous strides at safety. He’s looked very good on the field, off the field. In the classroom, he’s taken care of his business,” Mac Lain said. “And then I really think Kevin Dodd has transformed his body. He looks great. He’s going to pick up where Corey Crawford left off.”
Green had 24 tackles in 11 games last year — including one start, vs. Georgia Tech — and Dodd has 21 tackles in 24 career games. Both players are currently listed as starters or co-starters on the summer depth chart.
Although most players and coaches have moved on from ex-offensive coordinator Chad Morris, he hasn’t been forgotten by one rival ACC passer.
Michael Brewer, entering his second year as Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback, played for Morris at Lake Travis High School. Brewer went to Texas Tech for three season (including a redshirt year) before transferring to Virginia Tech, and knows SMU’s new head coach intimately.
“We stay in touch quite a bit. We’re really good family friends with them, his wife and my mom are really good friends,” Brewer said. “He’s excited. I’m wishing the best for him. He’s got a lot of work to do over there, but if anybody can do it down there, he’s definitely the guy.”
Morris was in the Lone Star State’s high school system for 16 years.
“He’s a Texas high school coaching legend. Everybody respects him in that community,” Brewer said. “He’s going to recruit the heck out of Texas for SMU better than anybody could.”
Turns out Wake Forest’s defense was expecting Deshaun Watson, and not Cole Stoudt, on that Thursday night last November when Watson was trying to return from a broken finger.
“So we had one of our cornerbacks simulate the running that Deshaun does,” Wake Forest linebacker Brandon Chubb said. “We got to the game, it was Cole Stoudt. But besides the running plays, they kept the same offense in with the jet sweeps.
“Cole Stoudt wasn’t as versatile in the pocket as Deshaun, so we got our hands on him a little more. That helped.”
Although Stoudt played more capably than he had in prior weeks, Clemson was knotted with Wake Forest at 20-all entering the final 15 minutes. The Demon Deacons went on to lose 34-20, as part of a 3-9 campaign.
“Winning teams know how to finish fourth quarters, and we need to get ourselves to that position,” Chubb said. “We did have Clemson on the ropes, and I think that’s a game we should have walked away with a W.”