CLEMSON — Deon Cain is officially out of Dabo Swinney’s doghouse and back on the depth chart.
The rising sophomore burst onto the scene in his freshman year as one of the Tigers’ biggest downfield threats, leading the Tigers in yards per reception at 17.1 yards per catch. Cain finished the 2015 with 34 catches for 582 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games played — two less than his teammates.
Those two games missed were the biggest two games in the history of the Clemson program: the College Football Playoff Semifinal Orange Bowl, and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. All because of a failed drug test.
That mistake not only cost Cain the opportunity to compete then, it also kept him out of the Tigers’ spring practices and with a laundry list of things that Cain would have to do before being allowed back onto the team.
Now, with spring practice in the rearview mirror, Cain is back with the team full-time after serving his time according to Swinney.
“He’s a great kid — not a bad kid at all,” Swinney said to reporters at the ACC’s spring meetings at Amelia Island, Florida. “He just made some bad decisions. Just being held accountable for those things. He’s come back and done everything that we asked him to do. I’m really proud of what he’s done.
“He’s served his time. (I) sat him for two games — big ones. I just felt like I needed to get his attention. I felt like I needed to draw a line in the sand to get this kid to see the big picture and understand the consequences of his actions. And to his credit, he could have left. But, I laid out what was going to happen this spring, and he chose to stay. That says a lot about Deon.”
During his “time off,” Cain continued to work to make sure that once his penance had been served he would be ready to jump back in where he left off. That meant attending all team and postion meetings as well as conitnuing to study film.
In fact, it was a common occurrence to see Heisman Trophy frontrunner Deshaun Watson spending extra time after practice had ended for the team throwing passes to Cain to make sure he was staying sharp.
Now, listed as the backup to Mike Williams on the Tigers’ post-spring depth chart, Swinney hopes to see the kind of growth that he saw out of Tigers’ center Jay Guillermo last season.
Guillermo left the Tigers team Feb. 27, 2015, with a medical issue that would keep him out until late June. That medical issue was depression.
After returning home and receiving treatment, and working out in his hometown of Shelby, N.C., Guillermo returned to the Tigers with a renewed purpose, winning the starting job and leading the Tigers’ offensive line to great success.
“He (Guillermo) had some real problems, and I didn’t think I’d ever see Jay Guillermo again,” Swinney said. “He was second on the team in leadership votes this spring just a year later. It’s a shame that those things have to take place in a public forum for young people, but it comes with the territory. I’m hopeful that Deon will have that same type of success ... But he doesn’t have any room for error.”
It was announced Tuesday morning that the Clemson Sept. 3 game against Auburn at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium will be the final game of the first Saturday of college football kicking, off at 9 p.m. Eastern.