Monday, January 16, 2017

The Best Day Ever

I meant to write this all out after rewatching the game a few times this weekend, but thanks to Charter I couldn't until today.

I bought tickets to Tampa back in the summer, knowing that we had the talent and the depth to get back. Along the way, I wavered a little in my belief that we would, especially after NC State and Pitt, but I knew Ohio State would be a favorable matchup for us, and I have felt all along that we were the only team with a QB good enough to beat Alabama straight up. Now that we have, its just such a great time to be a Tiger fan, its been a long road.

I was so giddy after we shut out Ohio State that I was 100% confident that we were going to Tampa last week to win a national title. I had my worries about what could go wrong, but never believed we would lose the game. A good QB can beat Alabama straight up, any others would depend on them making mistakes.

I drove the 10 hours from Huntsville to Tampa and met FF and another friend of ours and of course we stayed out drinking all night. After about 4 hours of sleep we got up and started to tailgate outside the stadium, pretty close to the huge Buccaneers flag (Clemson needs one, we should build a mountain and just put it on top, I dont care what it costs). Random Texas and Florida fans showed up with jager and mezcal, and we had a great time. After we finally got into the stadium - thanks CFP for having only a couple gates in/out - I saw it was about 60-65% Clemson. We were in the upper deck but they were good seats, hell any seat aside from the endzone is good enough, and the upper deck at Raymond James doesn't feel like a skyscraper like DV does.

The only real worry I had going into this game was whether the OL could give DW enough time to get rid of the ball. Bama can be exposed in M2M coverage but you have to have the time to do it. I knew Wayne wasnt going to get much. I wasn't terribly worried about turnovers or Special Teams. I knew we could get plenty of pressure on Hurts and make him throw to win. If we did that and they beat us, well then they deserve it.

In the beginning, we really didn't give DW that time. I thought the plan was a little conservative, as if we were feeling them out, at first. Wayne didnt have room but was effective early on, but they were so good at secondary support in the alley that nothing was going anywhere outside. Bama strangely seemed to be doing the same thing on defense. They were playing mostly Robber coverage in the 1st Q and into the 2nd, they always had a Robber (or spy) on DW. I think that Saban switched to C2 once he was confident that he was going to stop the run. He actually switched before we started having success throwing downfield.

At several moments I felt like we were a hairs breadth away from getting killed, not from DW or the skill guys playing bad, but moreso because the OL was so inconsistent inside and that would cause negative plays and mistakes made out of trying too hard. Alabama disguises so well, and some linemen just did not pick up the stunts and twists well. They just outblocked us on the first Counter Trey TD and the 2nd stretch play, but Hurts wasnt going to beat us unless we had a huge bust in coverage. Once we scored our first TD I knew we'd be fine.

In the stadium, they continually give you the game stats, and you can see the play count rising. I noticed at the end of the 1st half that we were way up on TOP and that we'd run north of 40 plays. It really didn't feel like it at all. We at times played bad enough inside that we could've been down by 2 scores but to hold it to 14-7 was key.

I did see on replay how much Desmond Howard was saying the plays were there downfield, yeah, DW didn't see a couple, but there weren't that many. Our guys got "NFL open", which is about 1 step. Thats not "college open". They were sticking with us as long as they needed to do so.

At about a minute into the 4th, I counted up the plays again and saw we were pushing 80. I leaned over to FF and pointed it out that if we have 80 now, thats basically a full game for the Alabama D. Most pro-style teams can't break 75 plays per game on average, and fewer still get over 50-60 against Alabama. Here we were with 80 already. 100 plays is like playing an extra Q. We can wear their asses out if we get a first down and push the tempo to full speed.

And that is exactly what ScElliott did. Alabama was having issues in matching patterns with criss-crossing receivers the further along we got. The DBs weren't switching off the coverage as they're supposed to do in pattern match. When we got man coverage it really messed them up. The more tired they got, the less penetration we saw from the DL, and the DBs were going the wrong way and running into each other. Alabama was keeping a safety over MW at all times, even with short routes they would always have one defender with outside leverage and another with inside. Renfrow usually sits in the 5 position in the slot, inside of MW many times. They were so worried about Mike that Renfrow had no one on his inside and the outside guy was trying to watch MW while playing Hunter.

When we had the first go ahead score the crowd went bonkers and I didn't think the D would give them anything. It was loud even in the upper deck. But they made some plays, especially the WR Pass downfield, and we quieted down when Hurts went into the endzone to make it 31-28. I saw they had left us too much time though. I knew we were going to win.

The last drive was just a thing of beauty. Their DL was worn out, and the defensive backs had hands on hips too. DW just cut them up. He's the coolest under pressure college QB ever.

When he hit Renfrow I started crying, a national title is all I ever wanted for Clemson. I cry when I watch the replay of it, hell I could cry just thinking about it. I probably would've cried harder if FF wasnt jumping all over me and about to knock me down. A lot of folks around us were crying too.

We watched replays all night afterward and I drove back the 10 hours fueled only on caffeine and chocolate. I've watched the replays all week long and will continue to watch them until September.

Reaction from Bammers here in Huntsville has been muted, to say the least, but they have generally been very complimentary of how we played. A lot of excuse making on sports talk radio, but they are breaking things down just as we would and realize that DW is exceptional. Finebaum is another story altogether and attracts a different crowd. Auburn fans have thanked me every day. I'm wearing orange every damn day until I run out. I'm buying every piece of 2016 title memorabilia I can get my hands on. I don't care what it costs.

FF and I grew up when Clemson was good, and Max Lennon taking it away really crushed me personally. I know I'm not the only one that feels cheated. If we had gotten beaten down it would've been different, but our own people took greatness away from us, and we had to spend 20 years in the wilderness, and wait on some people to retire or die, before Dabo got everyone on the same page again. He and the players deserve all the credit for where we are now. If we were running STS still today, I'd quit. To get here is all I ever wanted. I don't care if we go 7-5 next year. I'm sure we'll be here as long as Dabo stays at Clemson, which I believe will be forever now.

But we started this all as a place to vent, and no one else was really talking about football without being shouted down as a coot. Far too many Clemson fans were happy with 8-4 seasons. They thought we'd never have the money or be able to recruit at this level consistently. They didn't want to spend anything on facilities because they were not convinced that having nice things really improved anything else. We however, had seen us when we were up there with the best, and can't stand not being the best, and wrote about it. I went to LSU and saw all the things Saban had done and saw no reason why Clemson couldn't have upgrades to the Stadium, an IPF, the huge support staff, or anything else. I didn't see any beat writers harping on any of it. They just fed their readers whatever Clemson fed them. I bet not many people will admit that they were wrong about spending the money that we've spent over the last decade. Hell, Dabs had to take some of his own salary and pay extra staff -- basically taking the Sikes/McFadden Hall along kicking and screaming until they've now created those positions permanently.

It took the 6-7 season to get enough people riled up and spamming BOT members for real momentum to get started. It turns out that terrible year was the kickstarter to where we are today. Do I take back anything I said? Nope. I stand behind every opinion I have ever written as being what the facts, and especially the film, led me to at the time. I was wrong about his potential as a coach but he has grown into a great one. I treated several hires with healthy skepticism but they have proven me wrong. That is all I ever wanted them to do. You folks who want to look back at something we wrote 7 years ago and saying that I pull for us to fail can go right ahead and do whatever makes you feel better. I'm incapable of pulling against Clemson in anything.

But we've said all along that if he wins one national title, he gets carte blanche. He can do whatever he likes now. Pay him and his assistants whatever he wants. If he wants a swimming pool shaped like a tiger paw and it be half the size of Lake Hartwell and costs $2billion, then give it to him.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is this the team that can do it?

I really think it might be the one.

This 2015 Clemson team has its problems, which I'll get to, but I just wanted to state that I believe this team is different. I feel something special about the team. They are playing above their experience level should suggest. I really felt 2016 was a year to make a run. The defense has stepped up in a way no one expected them to play after what we lost. I was thinking we'd finish around Top 25-30, but we may finish out in the Top 10. I really believe that this team won't lose before the playoffs. Theres something here that you don't see on film or on paper.

I waited until after we played NC State for the simple reason that we rarely play great in Raleigh. If it was a night game it could've been worse today. I knew we'd have a fight on our hands and we'd learn something, even though I felt the wolfies would have no shot beating us if you'd watched them this year. They brought an intensity today we looked surprised by and some of our guys couldn't match it that well. We needed to win a game like this because it'll shake up the team a little so they take lesser opponents seriously, but also to show them where they still need to work on things.

Because Special Teams is definitely what we need to get fixed. Several coaches do coach up guys during the ST periods in practice. Venables and Hobby oversee our atrocious Kickoff unit, while Pearman is basically the ST coordinator. We kicked deep, got whipped because we couldn't stay in our lanes and get of blocks, and then we kicked short and the same thing happened. Our kicks got blocked, partly because they were a little low, but also because we got blown backwards by NCSU. Our punt teams have been mediocre at best for years along with the KO teams.

And theres really no excuse for a team with as many gamebreaking weapons on offense to return a kick/punt as poorly as we typically do.

I was never a big Andre Powell fan, and we called for his (and others) firing when it happened, but he coached our STs up way way better than Pearman has.

Clemson will not win a national title with ST play like what we saw tonight. We let them flip the momentum and kept them in the game with the terrible coverage. Try it against a team with greater athletes on the offensive side and you'll give up serious field position in a close game and lose. I was worried about the kicking game back in Spring, and Teasdall and Heugel have done a good job themselves, but the other guys are screwing up too often.

A problem today was that our DL didn't play well and NC State blocked the hell out of them all day long. That is the only reason NC State really hung with us. FSU can block us as well, but I'm not sure they will, and other than them I don't see this as a big issue to worry about.  They're good enough, they'll be fine.

NC State tried something new in that their patterns were set up to take the checkdowns quickly, and they kind of exposed something I was worrying about. Our LBs are the glue of this defense, and we have no depth there. Have you checked the participation charts? I like O'Daniel but I'm not convinced he's ready for primetime. Lose either Boulware or Goodson and you'll see a big dropoff. State made them move laterally quite a bit, attacking the H/C and Flat zones in coverage, and busted us on it. Other teams will try the same.  They can't beat Mac, and Kearse is fantastic, but beating Blanks/Baker and the LBs in the middle zones is very possible.

Something else that concerns me going forward is the TE play, specifically their blocking. Leggett is taking fewer plays off, that is true, but watch him when the ball is definitely not coming to him, and watch his effort blocking. I'm happier with the WR blocking than him (especially Renfrow, who busts his ass). We have to have TEs that block. This offense won't work without that. Seckinger can't do it. Williams can block but doesn't know enough yet. Richard has disappointed me because I felt he'd be better, and I don't think Jay Jay will ever do much here. Leggett has so much talent and fluidity in his routes, he could be a 2nd/3rd rounder, but he won't until he starts busting his ass every play. I wish he'd realize that. If you gave Leggett the heart of Ben Boulware, he's a 1st round TE.

Clemson's OL is probably the best unit we've put out there since 2006, which is a huge surprise given we lost a guy who could've been a 1st rd LT (if he could go to class, or stop smoking weed) and replaced him with a true freshman. Losing Norton was a benefit because it made them finally start Guillermo and he's the best run blocking center we've had in 10 years. Hyatt really is as good as he looked when he committed, and hasn't put on Batson-weight, which I remind you we brought up when he committed. He and MacLain have played really well, Crowder has played well, and Gore/Fruhmorgen both raised their play. In short, this group is playing above what we felt their level was going to be, and I'm happy as hell about it. I've been bitching about our sorry OL for most of the last 20 years, and finally we get another good group.

But if we can slow down Dalvin Cook next week and beat FSU, you better plan on taking extra vacation in January. I am.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The new season begins

I watched the Wofford game this past weekend and came away fairly impressed with the overall effort and ability level of some new guys to the starting groups, but its important to keep it in perspective too. Its Wofford, and we won't learn much more from playing App State this weekend either. After Louisville I might get my hopes up for more than 9-3, but I worry about the depth.

When I saw this team in Spring I figured, "This looks like a 7-5 team without Watson, there is just not enough depth for a full season to go upwards." I haven't changed my mind on that one. If we have to start Schuess, it'll be ugly. We don't have the depth on Defense to pull the offense out of a big mess like last season.

Watson looked good but a little off on his throws. Too many behind the receivers, or not thrown to proper spots. Its probably just rust but worth watching. Schuess looked good enough only because he was playing Wofford. I would only play Bryant because of Schuess's lack of ability to execute this system, and I think thats what you are seeing Dabo do. He knows if Watson gets hurt we're screwed and he better give KB playing time so he can learn something to help us if that happens. If we had a capable backup I think they'd RS Bryant, because he does need it.

I was pleasantly surprised with the effort and blocking ability of the starting 5 guys. Some issues remain, such as Norton getting blown up a couple times by a 1-AA level 0-technique, but Hyatt looked great after replacing Battle, who got himself kicked off the team for his 3rd strike with weed and skipping classes and 'voluntary' workouts. They said he wanted to go pro, and hid it all, but we know whats up.

Scott Pagano got most of my attention when the defense was on the field. He should blow up Wofford's front, and he did. If he keeps his pads down he can get even better. If Wilkins is really that close to Pagano he'll be great in a year or two as well. Maybe McGlockton-level.

But honestly Wofford didn't challenge us at all in the back end, so you can't say anything about the back 7. Venables stayed vanilla and didn't show anything. We blew up the Dive, and that kills any option team, thats it.

Punt team, not so good. Not enough blocking, not enough awareness. Too many Wofford jerseys getting down there too soon. I could only recall one kick that should've been fielded. The rest should've just been allowed to roll. I'm still very worried about our special teams situation.

Some have asked what we are doing this year, and the answer is we're not doing anything more than last year for now. We met some guys this offseason about a new website, or even guest-writing for another, and we just don't have the drive right now. We don't feel like getting into it unless the right opportunity comes up. Theres too much work and time invested for too little return, and we are already quite occupied with our normal day jobs. So while you shouldn't be shocked to see a guest appearance somewhere, or an article here or maybe another site if the offer is right, its unlikely we'll be as involved with Clemson for the time being. I have backed away considerably from Twitter and other sites over the last few months, but I'll be around for football and baseball season if my interest rises.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Firing Jack, hiring Lee

I'm still so happy that they finally fired Jack that I couldn't find much fault with anyone they hired to replace him, but I figured I'd write down much of what happened before I forgot it all.

First, there are two points of view in the information I've been given. One set of news comes from Jack's side and then theres another side, so keep that in mind. This is why I stated on twitter that I found out that some of what Aaron Fitt said was true, but I don't think it came from TCI, I think TCI and Fitt had similar sources.

Jack felt that he would be retained as HC. I have heard that the first meeting between him in Radakovich was very cordial and DRad mentioned how his supplemental contract had to be restructured around the changes with Easton (The baseball coach gets a base salary in the 250K range plus various extras, Jack made 190K in extras). I heard similar information early in the process, saying that there were contract changes on the table and that Jack could stay with a succession plan in place and staff changes (no more Pep), which ticked me off quite a bit. It shouldn't have even been up for discussion.

But when he came in for a follow up a day or two later, he felt blindsided when he was told he was out. Now if this kind of thing really did happen, whether I wanted Jack Leggett out or not, its a shitty way to do somebody who works for you and I don't support it. This information is what led to the newspaper ad by Jon Wilken and much of the comments you hear from people who were diehard Jack supporters saying he deserved better.

Then Jack followed up by calling everyone in his cellphone and warning them away from the job as best he could.

Whether he convinced guys like Schlossnagle, Corbin, or Kevin O to stay away is another question. Would they have come anyway? I doubt it. Sully was probably the only chance at a true Home Run hire, but I wouldn't leave fertile recruiting grounds in Florida unless you made me go. Larry Williams suggested that Sully felt it was not the right time, and maybe it would be someday. Some said he sent out feelers to Clemson and Jack convinced him to stay away. Clemson mentioned about 650K to Sully (about 200K more than JL made), but it didn't work out. Sully will eventually win a CWS in Gainesville and likely would never leave.

You can decide how much to believe. I find it difficult to believe Jack was told he'd be back, its more likely Jack's ego heard what he wanted to hear in that meeting and felt that DRad didn't have the balls do fire him. He tried that with TDP a few years ago, about the time I raised hell about our downturn, and Terry Don didn't do anything at all.

The other side of the coin was that DRad really wanted Jack Leggett out, and had a free hand from the Clements and Wilkins, but Leggett had many diehard supporters in IPTAY and around the AD that there was pressure to keep him. When Jack refused to make a change again this year, he could justify firing him to anyone who made  a stink about it.

Radakovich interviewed several guys, which is all I needed to hear. We tried Sully, who was the only HR hire I felt, and that didn't work. Lee is a fine choice, as were some others we interviewed. DRad pushed keeping LeCroy as part of the deal, and he is staying, which I'm fine with. My opinion that a house cleaning of this staff stands, since LeCroy was technically hitting coach, but with Lee having a strong hitting background, we'll look for improvement in the other areas.

It looks like Lee got 5 years at 350K or so per year, nearly double what CofC was paying him. LeCroy is staying, and Duke's Andrew See was hired as pitching coach, over Britt Reames (Citadel) and Matt Williams (UNC-W). Matt Heath, Lee's PC at CofC, who I wanted here, got the head job there.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hit the Road Jack

I was at Clemson during our last baseball "heyday", the years where CWS were expected and 50 wins was the real goal. I got to see some serious juggernaut teams until 2003, when graduation/MLB losses knocked us down a notch. Hiring Tom Riginos to replace Corbin was his first bad move.  Sully had enough talent coming in that we got back up the ladder by 2006, which I still believe was one of the best all-around teams Clemson baseball has ever had.

But after Sully left in '08 and Riginos was given the full recruiting reigns, Clemson has steadily marched downhill with the 2010 run being the aberration that I originally thought it was at the time. I jumped off the Jackwagon after watching those teams struggle with basic fundamental baseball, as well as the lack of talent. Losing in 2010 was the final straw for me, because that team was a microcosm of Jack's own issues: when the heat is on, their sphincters tighten so much that they can't do anything right. Anyone who has met Jack in person will agree with me, that man is so tightly wound that you'd think he could snap in a split second if something goes awry. It has taken 5 years for more of the fanbase to agree with me and see it, but it is pretty clear at this time that Jack should be fired.

As I've said before, Brad LeCroy has done an admirable job trying to restock our talent level back to where it once was. He's tried to rebuild the bridges that Jack and Riginos burned down, particularly in-state. His title does contain "hitting coach" though, and he's Jack's top non-pitching assistant, so I'm afraid that he needs to go as well, since we need an overall house cleaning at Tiger Field. I won't be mad if he's retained somehow, and I hope that he resurfaces somewhere, but I think a complete flush is required here.

I called for Leggett to be fired again last year and fleshed out these thoughts for my readership. I had hoped that we had an AD who had enough leadership and I was sorely disappointed. Nobody else had the balls to call for firing anyone, I haven't seen any outlet do it yet this season. This scathing article probably set in motion the events that helped Galbraith and Radakovich get us moved off of STS. If I were still there I'd investigate just how much our Supreme Fundraiser AD is actually raising compared to previous numbers, but I digress. The only thing I can point to that he has done well is spend money.

Everybody always asks "Well who do you want to replace him?", as if their ability to shoot down each candidate I'd bring up would be a convincing argument to retain Jack Leggett. Well I have thought about who I'd call, but its just a list of people I think are good assistants or coaches elsewhere. My opinion of the Clemson program level in 2010 is not what it may be now, so maybe we can't go out and get any coach we want like we could at one time. The Common Market problem and scholarship money remains as a negative against us hiring anyone we would want.

The only two criteria I can have for a successor is that he be a good recruiter in his own right -- good recruiters hire good recruiters and we have a talent problem -- and that he show me that his players have good fundamentals. In a perfect world I'd call each of these guys: Brian O'Connor at UVA, Kevin O at Florida, Corbin, Monte Lee at CofC, Jim Toman at Liberty, and Jerry Meyers. My dream pick would be O'Connor, since his teams are the most fundamentally sound that I have seen in person for several years. They don't beat themselves like ours. Will he come here? No way. Nor will Sully or Corbin, especially not Corbin now. Those ships have sailed, but I'd due the diligence and call them anyway. Toman is a damn good coach and recruiter, but I doubt he gets a sniff. I don't see DRad calling Meyers either. That leaves Lee, who I think is a fair choice and realistically would take it. He is not leaps & bounds better at CofC than Pawlowski was, but he's done well.

Then again it might be someone completely outside of the local area. There are plenty of great assistants out there. So long as he shows me he can coach fundamentals and place recruiting emphasis on Georgia and SC, I think he'll be a step up from the current stale regime.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Evaluating the 2010 Recruiting Class

We are evaluating how close the recruiting services were with their ratings of the 2010 incoming class, Swinney's 2nd class. This includes all the guys signed by Clemson in 2010.  We've decided to review the class to see whether Rivals and Scout got their ratings right in the first place. I have my own thoughts about what I take star ratings to really mean, and it always becomes a point of contention between people who live by the ratings and those who trust the staff to make evaluations regardless of rating.

For those who do not recall, Swinney took a small class in 2009, the "Dandy Dozen", following his short stint as interim HC. He then pocketed the remaining scholarships, leading us to have 11 former walk-ons on scholarship in 2010. Therefore, I clamored for them to oversign and fill with the necessary greyshirts to get us to a full roster by 2011, but they did not do so, and its only been the last 2 years that we've sufficiently oversigned so as to not be stuck with so many, though we still keep the "fat" on the team and don't show enough of them the door when they fail to pan out.

Going back to this class, the real headliners at the time were LB Justin Parker, WR Nuke Hopkins, WR Tay Bryant, DE Corey Crawford, Tavaris Barnes, and OG David Beasley. Parker, who we had to fight hard for with SC, carried his recruitment late into the process. Crawford and Beasley were battles with UGA, who we were very worried about poaching one or both of them.

Of note, RB Coach Andre Powell had a choice to make that winter, pursue RB James White or RB D.J. Howard. Powell chose Howard, who was being recruited by Auburn as a DB, as his preferred take. Auburn responded by pulling Howard's offer after DJ took a secret visit to CU. White went to Wisconsin, and finished with just over 4,000 yards in his career there.

Also in this class, a young TE/RB playing for Billy Napier's father in Adairsville GA named Vic Beasley.

Scout named this the #23 class overall. Rivals had it at #19.

2010 Signees
Player Rivals Scout
OLB Justin Parker 4 3
Played as a true freshman and should not have. Later quit football due to injuries.
RB D.J. Howard 3 3
Howard never fulfilled his potential, and never greatly improved as a RB.
CB Garry Peters 4 3
Peters had some poor moments his first years at CU, by his Sr year he had locked down one CB spot and did sign a UFA deal. 3-stars is accurate.
OG David Beasley 3 3
When we landed DB I thought we had the first of a next-level group of Linemen, not so. Beasley could never push himself to his full ability. 4-star talent with 2-star work ethic.
CB Martin Jenkins 3 3
Martin was taken as a bit of a favor to his father, who was friends with Steele. Became the best cover man on the roster his 2nd year, but disappeared thereafter. Solid and dependable player who did sign a UFA deal.
LB Jake Nicolopulos 3 3
Suffered a stroke in senior year of HS, received hardship waiver, never played.
CB Darius Robinson 4 3
Darius showed real flashes in the beginning of his term at CU, but fell off the map and became a serious liability in coverage in years 2-3. By his senior year he had improved enough to lock down his starting job from Peters. Will probably be successful in other areas of life away from FB.
DE Tavaris Barnes 4 3
Clemson took Barnes away from FSU, but Barnes was stuck in that tweener spot between the 3-tech and 5-tech. In his junior year he became a very dependable player. 3-stars is accurate.
OG Kalon Davis 3 3
Kalon somehow started, though we do not see him starting anywhere else with motivated Guards. Too big and slow to be useful as a puller but played anyway. Clemson never got him into proper shape.
DT Josh Watson 4 4
Watson was from Hargrave, and reported light, then bulked up very quickly. Very dependable solid guy at DT, a real backbone of the top defense. 4-stars is accurate.
TE Vic Beasley 3 3
Languished at TE, and the offense gave him to Steele, who put him at OLB. Never worked well there either, no instincts. When they moved him to WDE for the Spring game of his Jr year, the light came on. As a athlete, where he was rated, 3 stars might have been right. As a DE, 5-stars. 1st round pick by the Falcons.
FS Bashaud Breeland 3 4
4th rd pick by Redskins. Breeland really only had one bad year at Clemson during the transition from Steele to BV. After that he became almost lockdown, and in his senior year became a seriously good tackler on the boundary. 4-stars would be accurate.
WR Martavis Bryant 4 4
4th rd pick by Steelers. 10 star talent with 1-star work ethic. Seriously as much speed and raw ability as anyone who has ever played WR at Clemson, but until halfway through his Sr year did not care about blocking or anything else besides catching 40 yard bombs from T. Boyd. Being in the pros has helped him change that.
RB Demont Buice 3 3
Absolutely terrible RB. Transferred in 2011. Deserved no star rating at all.
WR Joe Craig 3 3
Craig was originally a 4-star by Rivals. Kicked off the team, then to Copiah-Lincoln C.C.,wound up at Memphis. Did sign a UFA deal with Bengals. Speedy player who played QB/CB more than WR in HS, and had few WR skills here to start with, so he never really showed any of his potential. Also needed muscle, which Batson couldn't get on him. In terms of speed, 3 stars would be accurate. In terms of WR skill, 2-stars.
TE Sam Cooper 2 2
Cooper became a dependable blocking TE. 2-stars is low for him, 3-stars is more accurate.
SS Rickey Chaney 3 3
Never qualified for enrollment at Clemson.
DE Corey Crawford 4 4
4-stars would be a little high for this player, who followed M. Goodman at SDE. Crawford was a fine anchor on the strong side, good vs the run, but no flash and no real pass rush ability.
WR DeAndre Hopkins 4 4
1st rd pick by Texans. From the moment he stepped on the field, we marked him as the future. Did all the little things, and never dropped passes. Great work ethic. 4-stars is low for Nuke.
DT Tra Thomas 3 2
One of the laziest players I have ever witnessed. 2-stars is accurate.
OT Gifford Timothy 3 2
Quit football due to knee injury. Was fine against weak competition and slow DEs, but otherwise a liability at RT. 2-stars would be accurate.
OG Reid Webster 3 3
Backup and role player until his senior season, when he split time at Guard. 2-stars would be accurate.
DB Desmond Brown 4 3
Kicked off team in 2011. Transferred to Pitt. 4-stars was far too high for him.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Observations from the Spring Game

Since sEcSPN decided not to televise it, we are out of luck for a second glance at a film review of any kind, but I went to the game, as I usually do. This year seemed even more vanilla from a schematic viewpoint than in the previous 2-3 seasons, so there really is not a ton of things you could take away from the game. We also stuck with intermediate and shorter passes, so none of the QBs took a really deep shot downfield. However, I took away some major concerns and am looking for a few things to get fixed.

First I want to point out that I recognize that the teams are split unevenly, and that many backups play who may not all play during the season. I will point out to you though that backups on defense most definitely do play, and they play a lot, especially up front. While a starter might get 600-700+ snaps, the backups will generally get into the 200-300 range barring injury.

Our starting QB was out, but I don't see that as a major negative, these backups do need the reps.

QB - I thought Schuessler did admirably with the offense they gave him to run. It was more like what Stoudt was given in the bowl game: simple, short and intermediate routes that are meant to get the ball out quickly. He must have been really really bad last year in practice to not get game reps.

Now, do I think he's going to be a success against a Louisville? That is an different question. He really didn't have to read our defense at all. They were playing the same basic few coverages packages.

The next two will have a battle for the 3rd team spot this fall. If neither ever gets to play, they both get redshirted. I think they'll plan to redshirt one, and play the other only if an emergency occurs. Right now, they each have their strengths. Israel looks completely out of his element in our running plays. He does not seem to have the instinctive feel for the read options. His passes were fine, and he's a little ahead in that department. You would expect that given his HS offense.

Bryant looks like the more athletically talented player, but early on he was just going through the motions when he was asked to throw. He seemed to firm that up later on in the game. In the option, you can see why they took him, he's got enough speed and talent to do a lot with the ball in his hands and he has the feel for the read option.

I get the feeling that Bryant is just a little ahead in the battle for 3rd QB after the game. He'd be more useful in a game allowing us to use our option and be able to throw it. Israel right now is more one-dimensional and you'd throw out the option when he's in there. But, its early, and the real hitting doesn't start til August.

Run fits - I was saddened at how poorly we maintained gap integrity up front. We overran our lanes, the DL didn't plug up holes great, and the LBs did a poor job of filling -- particularly from the B-gap outwards (which brings in secondary support). Our offense did too well a job of running the ball.

Individual battles show one player vs. another, and perhaps that is what you should take from the game, but the overall integrity is very important and showed me that some backups are not quite ready for primetime games. I would say our first 11 will be OK, but after about 14 I think we will have problems in depth show up on the scoreboard. The good ones are still good: Lawson, Mac, Pagano will be great, Yeargin and Register can be good players, etc. Watkins showed some flashes, but needs to be more consistent. Reader needs to raise his game back up.

In the first half I did not see Skeletor losing his mind as much as I thought he would, but you could see him chewing out a few guys in the 2nd.

RB - the flip side is that I thought our RBs all did well, they all ran hard, though I saw a few run with their pads too high. I would not call their yardage so much a function of how the OL played, with a few exceptions, as I would their hard running and the defensive integrity.

WR - our WRs are some of the best out there, no worries here.

DB - We had some failures with the safety spots in run fits in the alley and some coverage busts. The first TD was basically all on Jefferie Gibson, who let Mike Williams get behind him when he came up, and then 2 plays later fell down when Williams cut inside on the post for 6. Similar issues showed themselves all day. Right now, I think only one side of the defense is vulnerable, and that's whichever side Mac is not playing. His side is complete lockdown. FSU would be wise not to test him.

But my major concern from the game? Kicking. I was not happy with the punting or kickoffs. Lakip is fine as a kicker, I think. But we couldn't get the kickoff inside the 10 most of the time. We didn't get enough hang on punts. I'm quite scared that we will drop a game based on this kicking situation this season.

It would be nice if we had a coach specialized in Special Teams....oh wait.