CLEMSON — It happens every spring, college coaches go back and forth criticizing their offense one day and their defense the next.
But maybe it was a bit surprising that Clemson’s rebuilt defense — seven new starters — got the best of a high-powered offense widely considered the nation’s best when the Tigers on Wednesday held their first full scrimmage of spring practice. It was also the last workout before a spring break hiatus until the next practice on March 25.
“I thought defensively they just had a really good energy and I thought they won the day,” head coach Dabo Swinney said after the Death Valley clash. “Good to see some guys with just a little different mindset than what I’ve seen in some of the past competitive situations. So that was very encouraging.
“The flip side of it, offensively I just didn’t think they had great energy. I think some of them were already at Cabo or Cancun or whatever cruise boat they’re going on.”
Swinney was irked by missed throws, bad snaps and penalties.
“Just a sloppy day offensively,” he said of the national champs.
Swinney also was miffed with inconsistency from B.T. Potter and other kickers.
Standouts on defense:
• Rising sophomore Derion Kendrick, plugged in at cornerback Monday after catching 15 passes and serving as a kick returner as a freshman.
• Junior cornerback A.J. Terrell, the guy who returned an interception for a touchdown in Clemson’s 44-16 national championship game victory over Alabama. Terrell had an interception Wednesday.
• Just about all of the interior defensive linemen, including just-arrived freshman Tyler Davis.
Offensively, Swinney said running backs Lynn-J Dixon and Tavien Feaster and backup quarterback Chase Brice stood out.
Saban pays off
The Swinney family is off to their Boca Grande, Fla., beach house for spring break. And they will eat well, thanks to Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who also owns a Boca Grande retreat.
In what has become an annual wager tied to the top College Football Playoff rivalry, Saban has paid off with a gift certificate to Temptations restaurant.
By the way, Swinney plans to order blackened grouper, lobster bisque and a twice-baked potato. Plus dessert, for sure.
“I’m going big,” Swinney said.
It’s a snap for Pollard
Sean Pollard, a rising senior who was played guard and tackle, is getting a long look at center and playing well. Gage Cervenka and Cade Stewart are also in the mix at center.
“He’s just a natural leader in there,” Swinney said of the 6-5, 315-pound Pollard. “He can play all three spots if we need him to but it’s been good.”
Clemson Pro Day
All 32 NFL teams will be represented Thursday at Clemson’s annual Pro Day.
A seven-man Pittsburgh Steelers contingent, including head coach Mike Tomlin, watched some of the Clemson scrimmage Wednesday.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff