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No. 1 Clemson, Swinney worried about COVID during bye week

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has few worries about his football team on the field. Off it? That’s another story.

Swinney is concerned that the top-ranked Tigers’ bye week – especially with players getting Friday and Saturday off – could result in the team having more contact with people and increase players’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“Probably the same primary concern of every coach out there,” Swinney said.

So far, so good.

The Tigers (2-0), like all Atlantic Coast Conference teams, are getting tested three times a week and have had no positives through the first two games.

“Our protocol’s been really, really good,” Swinney said Tuesday. “I trust them. It’s not like we get them all day, every day. We get them for about four hours max. So the other 20 hours comes down to trust, discipline and sacrifice.”

Clemson will practice three days this week and have a team function Tuesday in place of its usual community service day during a week off. The team will reconvene after its break Sunday to get tested and start preparing to face Virginia on Oct. 3.

The Tigers are motivated to do everything the right way as they pursue championship goals they missed out on last year by falling to LSU in the national title game, cornerback Sheridan Jones said.

“It’s having faith over fear,” Jones said. “Faith that we are going to have a season. Moving at that pace with that mindset has helped us to work day in, day out and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Clemson has looked like a team on a mission. The Tigers have had easy wins over Wake Forest and The Citadel, beating the Bulldogs 49-0 this past Saturday for their first shutout in four years.

Their play has been so efficient and effective, Swinney is having difficulty picking it apart.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence, has blitzed both opponents while the first-team defense has played at a championship level. Swinney and his staff have been able to play backups for significant stretches.

“We played 13 linebackers (against The Citadel) and about every D-lineman we had,” Swinney said.

On special teams, B.T. Potter has made all three of his field goals and had touchbacks on his nine kickoffs. Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers are helping Clemson average nearly 18 yards on punt returns.

Defensive tackle Jordan Williams said as well as the team has performed, it’s time for a break. The long summer camp with all the questions about whether Clemson would even play football was draining and stressful.

“It’s definitely something we all need,” Williams said. “It’s something that’s going to help us grow.”

The team had a spike in COVID-19 cases when it returned for summer workouts in June (37 of 43 positive tests among Clemson athletes were football players). Since then, Williams said players have bought into doing what it takes to continue the season.

“That’s what’s pushed us,” Williams said.

Clemson has had some issues related to COVID-19. Expected starting defensive end Xaiver Thomas took a redshirt season because he caught the virus in the spring and it took a toll on his conditioning. Swinney said Thomas is getting his fitness back and is preparing to play later this season.

Swinney said the program has planned for nearly every virus-related health scenario, including what it would do if Swinney tested positive.

He not sharing, though.

“It’s top secret. I’ve got it tucked away in a drawer in a glass case that says, `Break only if needed,”‘ he said.

FSU coach Norvell tests positive for virus before Miami

Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat
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Florida State coach Mike Norvell has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not coach the Seminoles in-person this week as they prepare for Miami.

Norvell released a statement Saturday saying he tested positive a day earlier but is feeling fine. He said his wife and daughter tested negative Saturday.

Florida State athletic director David Coburn said Norvell is isolating, which lasts a minimum of 10 days.

“We will continue to test staff and student-athletes as we have been,” Coburn said in a statement. “We have communicated with Commissioner John Swofford and Miami athletic director Blake James. At this point, based on our testing this week, we have no reason to believe that the Miami game is in jeopardy.”

While that game is still on, COVID-19 complications caused more schedule rearrangement Saturday.

Memphis announced that it needed another week off to get through its issues and canceled its nonconference game against Texas-San Antonio that was scheduled for Friday. The Tigers were supposed to play Houston this weekend but that game was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak among Memphis’ players.

“While we project our quarantine and isolation numbers to improve next week, we felt it was in the best interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes to make this decision now,” Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch said in a statement.

Memphis announced it added FCS Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 21 and UTSA said instead of the Tigers it will play Middle Tennessee in a Conference USA game on Friday.

In Tallahassee, Florida, deputy head coach Chris Thomsen is taking over Norvell’s duties, but the first-year Florida State head coach said he still intends to contribute.

“I will remain involved remotely as much as possible to help our team continue to prepare,” Norvell said. “I’m grateful to the administration, players and staff for their commitment to the protocols we have in place, which have helped us limit contact with others and allowed us to continue moving forward.”

Thomsen has 24 years of college coaching experience and was head coach at Division II Abilene Christian from 2005-11, where he went 51-21.

Florida State lost its season opener at home to Georgia Tech last week and was off Saturday. The Seminoles play at the rival Hurricanes next Saturday.

Norvell, who came to Florida State from Memphis after last regular season, is the first major college football coach known to have tested positive for the coronavirus in season.

Toledo coach Jason Candle and UCLA coach Chip Kelly tested positive earlier this year.

NC State parents able to attend home game

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sport
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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University said Friday it has received permission from the state to allow up to 350 fans to attend its Saturday home football game against Wake Forest University.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the gathering limit to The Associated Press on Friday morning.

“We received word that we can have 350 in attendance tomorrow rather than 50,” said Fred Demarest, spokesman for N.C. State’s athletics department. “We will be giving 250 to our player parents and providing 100 for Wake Forest.”

An executive order from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper presently limits outdoor gatherings to 50 people. The public health department said it would allow two family members per player to attend live football games up to 350 people as long as the college follows certain health protocols.

“We understand that parents and close family members are accustomed to, and look forward to seeing their athletes play games and that not being there is incredibly difficult,” the health department told the AP.

Wake Forest’s football coach, Dave Clawson, thanked the health department and N.C. State for allowing his team’s parents to attend.

“Our program is grateful for the decision from the department of North Carolina Health and Human Services to allow 350 fans at the game tomorrow night and next week,” Clawson said in a statement. “We are appreciative of NC State sharing that allotment with us so that we can allocate tickets to our student-athletes families.”

The updated guidance from North Carolina’s public health department requires fans to wear masks and practice social distancing. It also prohibits schools from offering alcohol and concession sales.

“If the above criteria is met, DHHS supports NC colleges and universities including 2 family member spectators per athlete for up to 350 total per event,” the department said.

Other colleges look forward to having fans in person.

North Carolina team spokesman Jeremy Sharpe said the school has informed its players that “moving forward, they will all have access to a minimum of two tickets for their families.”

UNC was scheduled to host UNC-Charlotte on Saturday, but the game was canceled after a number of Charlotte players were placed in quarantine. North Carolina’s next home game is scheduled for Oct. 10 against Virginia Tech.

East Carolina, which will host the Central Florida on Sept. 26, said in a statement it plans to utilize “all that is permitted” for families to attend the football games.

But not all schools are planning to allow fans into the games.

Duke won’t allow parents to attend Saturday’s home game against Boston College. Art Chase, a spokesman for Duke athletics, said the school would go forward with no fans in attendance.