Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dabo/Spence Elaboration

After reading the Dabo vs. Spence philosophy article then the good Dr.'s blog earlier in the week, I felt this topic should be elaborated upon. Let me preface this with the fact that all items discussed within this individual post are based solely on perceptions and opinions that have evolved over watching years of football, particularly Clemson football. This opinion does not criticize Dabo/Napier to the extent that Spence is questioned simply because we have not seen enough of their true schemes with hand-chosen coaches in game situations.

The topic of Spence is one commonly discussed over water coolers all over the state of South Carolina. This "mad scientist" is known for extensive offensive knowledge and creativity. This creativity can be focused specifically what I would consider "non-traditional" collegiate offensive strategies. Furthermore, all reports (I have never met the man, only seen his product on the field and read extensively about his service at Toledo) regarding Spence's philosophy indicate the guy is an intelligent man who utilizes extremely complex schemes with his players. We all have heard about the size of his playbook. We will get into the specifics below, but initially I wish to describe his coaching style as "finesse" football.

Swinney (and by default, Napier) has taken a different approach to the offensive philosophy. The Swinney plan will utilize many of the same concepts that in Spence's playbook, but will not be as complex. Thus, the strategy will involve becoming more physical and focusing on a more narrow choice of plays, but plays that you can successfully run. We will call this the "Hedgehog" approach (see Jim Collins' work Good to Great, which I highly recommend).

As professed throughout previous blogs, Spence's ideas for running a college football offense are not popular here. His complex offense has wrinkles on top of wrinkles. While I am fine with the old Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared," this seems to be a little extreme when you couple this extensive playbook with the time limitations placed on student athletes. Further, practice time was used weekly to implement this extensive playbook, thus running many plays with few repetitions over the course of a week's practice. This strategy may be effective for professional athletes who focus only on Sunday games and nothing else. NFL stars also have no restrictions on time spent and do not have to concern themselves with the studies/NCAA rules. Long story short, I believe that Spence misused collegiate practice time by overwhelming the players with too many ideas without devoting enough focus to core plays that will definitely be run during game situations.

The complexity does not end with shear numbers of plays. The blocking schemes implemented here are also extremely difficult for young players to digest. Zone blocking requires an initial covered/uncovered read followed by combination blocking by uncovered linemen. While I will not get into this scheme at this time, I will say that zone blocking is more difficult to understand and implement than basic man blocking. This style coupled with misdirection and trapping requires a cohesive group of linemen who are aware of their surroundings and able to work with their peers. When the stars line up, this style works extremely well and is almost like watching a choreographed performance on the football field (see late '90's Denver Broncos). With an inexperienced group of players, this is a nightmare (see 2008 Clemson offensive line). It should also be noted that typical zone blocking techniques require a more agile (and typically smaller) offensive line. Because of this last statement, Spence's offensive linemen were less effective in short yard scenarios. Also, Spence utilized a strategy of linemen in a two-point stance, no matter the situation. The last two statements (IMO) create a finesse line that must work together for many years in order to create the cohesion needed to work as one unit. If this unit has not put in the time, there will be no holes for the backs. This was evident in '08.

I believe that the Clemson offense of the past few years lacked the toughness needed to win close ballgames. This was evident with the difficulties the Tiger's had getting tough yards when they counted. Often I thought that play calling was intended to "outsmart" the defense instead of running a base package that emphasized the best situational plays. The offense, at times appeared to get "too cute" with the play calling, often making simple play calls extremely complex and improper for the situation at hand.

The final problem that I have with Spence's offense comes from his insistence for complexity and a wide-array of possibilities on the field. If Spence indeed was the master artist, why could we only run a hand full of plays? Better yet, why the fuck were we running bubble screens every other play? If I were Spence, we would practice about 6 plays: counter, power, bubble screen, y-screen, z-screen, and combo screen simply because those 6 plays seem to compose about 80% of our offensive play calling under Rob Spence.

The combination of all factors listed above came to a head against Va. Tech in 2007. Our receivers got killed as the Hokies sat on those shitty and repetitive WR screen passes. Va Tech put as many people in the box as they could, then dared Clemson to throw the ball over them (which, by talent or by strategy, we proved that we could not do). This proved to be the blueprint for defeating a Spence offense. I was disappointed and extremely pissed off with these tactics all along, but I think that we can all agree that the Wake Forest game last season had to be the most piss poor offensive output most of us have ever seen out of a Clemson football team. Hell, Tommy West was probably laughing at us.

The above commentary coupled with dumb ass mistakes (offsides penalties, lining up improperly, what appeared to be poor effort, etc...) lead me to favor Dobo's strategy of getting a tough offensive line (see Pearman's comments in a previous Dr. B blog), becoming tougher overall as a team, and not beating ourselves. Swinney's hedgehog strategy requires that we have competency in fewer plays. In return we will be able to run these plays better because the team will get more repetition of these core plays. We will not be practicing bullshit just to see how it looks, we will be practicing plays that will actually be utilized in game situations.

Swinney will have a more experienced offensive line than last season. This line is a little heavier than before. Also, this members of this group appear to actually be giving a shit about playing football (see past articles within this blog for details). I will be interested to see the specifics of our blocking schemes in game situations, and specifically how much zone vs man blocking this team will partake in.

I will also be interested to see how much Swinney's practice philosophy will affect this team. Clemson should be sharper after focusing on fewer plays. Clemson should also be a better technical team with fewer mistakes due to the decrease in playbook size. The key here will be avoiding bonehead playcalls (i.e., reverse WR pass last season against GT). I believe this group will be able to script the first few plays, but am not as confident in gameday decisions. Will Napier be able to adjust on the fly? Can we stretch defenses vertically this season? I appologize for the lack of criticism of the Napier/Swinney plan, but do not feel that this assessment would be accurate nor fair as this is the first time either has opened a season in his current role.

Admittedly, I am much more excited about playing a more physical brand of football. I am also hopeful that we will stretch defenses with the passing game instead of relying on an endless source of screen passes. We will likely see an attitude that does not try to outsmart the opponent, but exploit our strengths and opponents' weaknesses through a core package of football plays. This should simplify preparation and hopefully we won't see as much sloppy play out of our offense. In all, I don't see how the Tigers' offense could be any worse than last season. Ridding CU of R. Spence was a step away from that debacle.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wide Receiver....what do you think?

First, the Depth Chart for MTSU:
X - Dye, Clear, B. Ford
A (slot) - Jacoby, M. Jones
Z - T. Ashe, J. Brown
Bryce McNeal will be redshirted.

Other than Ford, the receivers with experience (Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones, Terrance Ashe) have a total of 25 career catches and two starts.

Given the inexperience we have coming in this season at Wideout, I've gone through most of the articles available and picked out the most important information on each player. I really believe that if our WRs can catch whats thrown to them (and Parker throws bullets) and run better routes than last year (which I thought was awful), we're going to be just fine at WR. Jeff Scott was interviewed earlier this week about most of the receiving corps and had a few things to say, as have Dabo Swinney and Napier.

Napier had this to say regarding the up-tempo pace the offense has been subjected to in practice, and the WRs ability to process information.
"They had trouble adapting. They'd get winded, they'd drop more balls, maybe a little less focus, a little more fatigued. We're also short in numbers at receiver. But they've had the summer to get ready, and I think they've become a more consistent, productive group."

Now that Jacoby Ford is FINALLY back at full speed and taking contact, Swinney was asked this in his presser:
Question: Talk about the players who have benefited from Jacoby being out.

Swinney: "I think all those guys have benefited, all those guys who play the Z and the A, not as much Dye and Clear. They've been pretty much predominant X-guys. Marquan would be the main guy who has really, really benefited from Jacoby being limited in early camp, although Jacoby is doing everything now.

My biggest worry is just that Jacoby hasnt been taking hits in practice and basically missed all of spring ball due to track. How will that rust show on the field? Jacoby was never an awesome route-runner, or catcher, he's just so fast that he makes up for it at times and this guy really needs to catch about 70 balls this season for us (55 for 710 last year). I don't agree with Swinney's decision to let him miss spring ball for track. Track doesnt bring home the bacon.
"Coach Swinney knew we could help out a whole other program by doing another sport, so he's all for that," Ford said. "When he wanted us to practice, he would text us and tell us to come to practice this long, or come by this period and stay this long. He definitely didn't have a problem with us missing the spring."

"We don't really have a number one receiver," Jacoby said. "We just say, 'You're at this position; you're at this position; you're at this position. Now just go make a play.' That's pretty much how we look at it."

"I definitely wanted to play a lot in camp, just to go out there and be out there with those guys.I definitely didn't like sitting on the sideline and watching my receivers out there working while I'm not really working."

Swinney also challenged Ford and Spiller to become true team leaders.
"Both have that ability. And it's not even with their words, but with their body language. It's how they carry themselves, how they respond if they make a bad play," he said. "They bring out the best in all those other guys."

Marquan Jones is slated on the 2-deep behind Jacoby Ford, but also plays behind Ashe in some packages, so he will be on the field a fair bit instead of Jaron Brown, but really hasn't been talked about much this fall, though the coaches say he's been stellar. He has had issues putting on too much weight in the past, especially last year, and has worked on this during the offseason to harness his speed and not slow himself down too much with weightlifting.
"Marquan is a guy that we feel can go out and play in that first group. We feel fortunate, because we've really got three guys for those two spots – with Jaron (Brown) and the progress he's been showing. But Marquan would be the first guy at those two positions.

He has a very strong work ethic, and I think he got in the weight room and really maxed it out as hard as he could go and got a little too much weight on him. He's trimmed down and playing a lot faster. I think that's part of it, and also in processing what he's doing on his routes and playing faster without the ball."

Jones was asked about his PT, or lack thereof, last season, playing 89 snaps in 8 games. He didnt play in 4 of the last 7 games.
"A lot of people who asked me about that don't really know the inside game," Jones said. "When they look into it, they say: 'Oh, (Jones) may be the best athlete. But that's not what it's really about. It's about game feel and intelligence."

"I probably wasn't ready to play at that level," he said. "Playbook-wise, I probably wasn't in it as strong as I should've been."

"Now, it's more of me getting in there and reacting instead of thinking what I have to do," Jones said. "I know my assignments better than I did last year, and it's causing me to go out there and just play."

Swinney says his 4.38 speed just doesnt carry to the field, and that's his primary problem now.
"He hasn't played fast," he said. "Jacoby was a little like that his freshman year and then made the transition. That's what I'm looking for out of Marquan."

The X-position is one where the reciever plays on the Flank and needs to be taller and more muscular than the other two. All three players are at least 6'4", meaning that Parker should be able to throw it up and they should catch it. First, Xavier Dye
Evaluation of Xavier Dye?

Scott. "The biggest thing has just been a consistency deal. He has been doing better over the last two weeks. He can go out and make some unbelievable catches, and then at times not make the routine catches. Just getting a consistency play-in and play-out is something we've been looking for. But I'm encouraged, and I think our staff is encouraged by the progress he's made the last two weeks."

Scott went on to say that his starting job, for now, is solid despite the dropsies. I saw Dye play in HS and he basically had to sit the bench at Byrnes for part of his final season because of some transfer issues, so he never really produced there, in my opinion. He was better at Greenwood. Since coming to CU he's been in on a few plays as a backup, similar to Ashe. His biggest issue is the drops. He really didnt do much last year, but was in on a few plays.

He's backed up by Brandon Clear, a sophomore with 17 plays to his name, who has been held out of contact due to a rib injury for most of camp. He's now available to play and is back to contact. He seems to be making his most gains on Dye in the catching ability area.
"Brandon (Clear) is one where a lot of stuff just did not come natural. He's been here two going on three years now, and for some people it takes longer to develop. I've been really impressed with his hands, the consistency in his hands. That's the biggest difference I've seen. He's been catching the majority of the balls, where in the spring he wasn't as consistent as we wanted. But no question, the more he's able to get back out and do what he's doing right now, he'll be in position to push Xavier at the X position."

Clear himself:
"The game is becoming easier, I've been here going on three years. It's starting to slow down. I'm able to read the defenses. And really I'm just trying to become a better teammate. My team really needs me to step up this year. We lost some great players. We're not going to be able to fill their shoes, but I feel like we can come along as a receiving corps. We're very young, but we're very talented. And I feel like we're going to make some great strides during the season.

"I'm a little bit behind in conditioning, but other than that I've been paying attention, making sure I'm studying my playbook, and just keep picking up the plays. … It was just great getting back out there, running routes, catching balls. I was making sure I was staying in conditioning, but there's nothing that can match football conditioning."

""I'll tell you; he's a guy who has come a long way and has really worked hard. He's a high energy guy. He didn't have a great football foundation and has had a lot to learn but he has really turned the corner," noted coach Swinney. "He's playing much faster. His technique is much better. He's doing things right. He's not busting as many assignments. His technique is much better and he's finishing plays. He's playing fast and explosive."

3rd String is RS Fr. Brandon Ford (6'4 215), who has missed more time lately with a foot injury. Though he is down the chart, he is considered one of the most talented at the position, catching around 70 passes for 1500 yards and 20TDs as a senior. He has rotated with the 2nd slot (W) as well as Z position as well. Whether Brandon Ford will develop into a threat this year:
"he's got a hurt foot right now. So he's missed the past two days of practice, which has hurt him. But he showed a lot of progress this spring and earlier this fall camp. But he still has a ways to go. I expect him to continue to work, and we'll kind of see how he develops."

His primary difficulty seems to be just his quickness off the line of scrimmage and running his routes.
"Getting off the ball is still a weakness. I have a tendency to sometimes slow down. But I've worked on that every day," Ford said. "Coach (Jeff) Scott told me that I've got to work on my releasing off the ball, technique and attention to detail.

"They've told me that anybody can make a play here or there, but for me I've got to become more consistent and work on the little things. I have to know where I need to go."

"Wherever they need me, that's where they're going to use me. I'll play anywhere. If it's a deep ball they need, I'll go get it. If it's a block, I'll go do it. I'm just glad to be getting a lot of reps."

He now wears #80, Kelly's number.

Bryce McNeal was pushed by Napier and Swinney towards redshirt status, primarily because of his lack of muscle (6'2 172). Jeff Scott believes the kid can play now at A and Z, but the depth above him is good enough that he's not needed, and agrees that he needs about 10-15lbs put on his frame. He has spent considerable extra time with Scott on learning the plays, above and beyond the others.
I don't think our decision in trying to redshirt Bryce is any indication on where he is mentally or physically. There's no question he has some ability that is very, very special. He's got a quick twitch. He can put his foot in the ground and separate. He's got excellent hands. He's very knowledgeable about what he's doing."

Billy Napier:
"I think Bryce is a long way away from contributing right now, to be honest with you, not only mentally but physically," the coach said. "But the guy has talent. He's got the genetics. He's got the makeup to be a good wideout.

"I think he's really lacking in strength, and right now mentally things are a little fast. He's got to process information, and then all of a sudden Byron Maxwell walks up in his face, it's a little bit more difficult. But we're excited about him. He's going to be a good player for us."

McNeal himself:

"The tempo of practice itself is high. You're trying to keep up with everybody else. I have to try to really make that happen, considering the fact that I don't really know what's going on with the playbook yet."

"If they tell me that I'm going to red-shirt, then I'm going to use it to get better and know that it was the best decision for our team. If I have to red-shirt, I will not be lackadaisical about it. I'll try to work very hard to get better so that I'm in an even better position to help my team next year."

Jaron Brown lines up at Z, backing up T. Ashe on the other flank. He's made a few great plays in spring ball and in scrimmages, but still being a RS Freshman he isnt expected to contribute just yet.
“It's been an adjustment,” Brown said. “I'm learning the playbook, getting a lot of reps, picking up on the concepts and learning to play faster.”

Jeff Scott was asked about whether he can be counted on to produce from day one and his ball skills improvement.
“Jaron has that fast twitch that you really look for,” Scott said. “He's nowhere close to his potential. He did not play in a spread scheme in high school, so it's been new for him, but he pays attention in our meetings and every day he's learning,” Scott said. “We're excited about his potential. He has a really high ceiling.”

Obviously he's never played in a game before, so you know that. But we're preparing him, and I think as the year goes on his role will increase. He'll be given a little bit out there at the beginning, and we'll see how he responds. But he's a guy I expect as the year goes on will become a bigger and bigger factor for us.

In the spring, and in the fall of last year on the scout team, he liked to catch everything with his body. We've really been working on him getting his hands out in front of his body and framing the ball. He's done a really good job with that.

Coach Swinney compares him to Derrick Hamilton:
“That Jaron Brown is going to be some kind of dynamite football player,” Swinney said. “It's really starting to click for him.

“He was a raw kid when he came in here. He really took advantage of his redshirt,” he said. “I think (he) will be a Derrick Hamilton kind of player.

“I think he's got better ball skills than Derrick. He's got those similar traits and athleticism that Derrick had.”

Terrance Ashe played sparingly last year, but moreso than Dye or Brandon Clear and the coaches rave about his route-running ability and pass-catching skills.
"Terrence is probably our most consistent guy of the whole wide receiver group. The thing I like about Terrence is, you get full speed out of him all the time. He does not know how to slow down his motor. I believe he got four IV's in the first six days of practice. I've told some of my guys that they don't go fast enough to get themselves to that point.

"He knows all three positions. We can win with Terrence playing X, A or Z. He just gives you so many more opportunities to put him in the game. Him and Jacoby are probably the most knowledgeable guys in my room. He'll be a big factor for us this year, no question. He's been consistent all camp. I can hardly remember him dropping a ball or doing anything wrong. He's a guy you just accept in your mind that he's going to get it done, and now we've got to get the young guys to that level."

So while Ashe might've been the least heralded of all our WRs as a recruit, it seems he will end up as the most dependable.

Obviously you hear too much positives in all these quotes, some need foot quickness and some still cant catch either, and it doesnt get mentioned enough. So who do you think will be our major producer at Wideout?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MTSU Preview

Sept. 5, 6pm ESPN360

Head coach: Rick Stockstill
4th year: 17-20
Last season: 5-7, with a win over Maryland 24-14 in Week 2, and were barely beaten by Kentucky (tackled at the 1 yd line for the winning score as time expired). Stock won the Sun Belt in 2007.

Coach Stockstill is hurting in the numbers department, suffering scholarship losses because of the APR numbers years ago.
"We've really played with one hand tied behind our back, so to speak. We've been playing more as a I-AA team, in the numbers department"

But Stock believes his greatest accomplishment has been the increase in the APR performance, which has risen 43 points since they were ranked at the bottom of the NCAA scores in 03-04. Last February was the first time he's been able to sign a full class.

Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 22, ST 4. 16 starters returning along with 2007 QB Dwight Dasher (2600yds in 07) who has the speed and quickness to be lethal in a spread offense. Like Dantzler, his arm is not particularly strong, but he is quite elusive.
"Dwight (Dasher) has great natural talent and a good feel as a runner and thrower with the potential to be dynamic," said OC Tony Franklin. "Dwight is still learning to be a leader but if he continues to improve he could be a special player

from, Local MTSU preview

From the CFN preview
The receiving corps should be the best in the Sun Belt, the O-line is fantastic, the backfield is loaded with speed, the secondary will be among the league’s best, and the pass rush will be improved. It’s all there to go on the best run in the Rick Stockstill era, but that also means the program has to fight its past.

The most notable addition to the staff this offseason has been Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin, he who was fired at Auburn midseason (I strongly suggest reading this article). This team ran the spread under Stock previously, but Franklin is regarded as a spread guru (he learned under Hal Mumme and Mike Leach) and the changes wont be significant to their scheme. After a fallout with the coaches at Kentucky (Mumme) he started his own coaching clinic site. He later was hired and won at Troy, which is in the same conference as MTSU. His offense is run by Hoover High in Alabama, of the MTV show. The Hoover playbook is available for download here.

Other notable Clemson connections are Les Herrin, LB/DL coach here under Ford, Hatfield, and West, as well as former QB Willie Simmons (RB Coach) and Justin Watts (WR Coach). Roderic Blunt, son of Rodney, is expected to be in the LB rotation as a freshman.

Offensive Preview from CFN
Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Phillip Tanner (6' 211), who has had injury issues over his career, but who should be healthy and ready to go for Clemson. He ran for 714 yards with 15 TDs as well as 13 receptions for 135 and a TD. The rest of their RB corps is built of speedy scatback types, not bruisers like Tanner. All 5 starters return on the OL, and 10 starters overall on O.

Receivers for MTSU are fairly short speedy types similar to Airese Currie or Jacoby Ford, but they return E. King (51rec. 598-4TD), Honeycutt (51rec. 513-3), Beyah (33-550-5). Beyah is the gamebreaker threat to stay with. Only one receiver is 6'4" and he's the 4th man.

Defensive Preview from CFN
Best Defensive Player: Junior FS Jeremy Kellem, leader of a veteran secondary thats the best in their conference. The LB corps returns its best tackler Dan Carmichael as well. Its not expected to be the best D in the Sun Belt, particularly against the run, but has the speed and veterans to stop Clemson should our offense decide to play like the Wake Forest debacle.

The defensive front is rather light, one end is 252, the other is 228, the two tackles are 312 and 263. Only one starting End is over 6'2." The reserves are hardly any different. Clemson should not have an issue pushing this line around, their speed and quickness is the only worry.

The LB corps brings Carmichael, and little else. Freshmen are expected to contribute, they have speed but little experience. Also, while the Secondary is experienced, they are very inconsistent, and Clemson should put up 250 yards or so against them. The defense brings back 6 starters overall.

Thoughts? Predictions?

Practice Notes: Gifford Timothy commits to Clemson

-Offensive Tackle Gifford Timothy (6'6" 288) from Middletown, Delaware, and rated 3 star by Rivals, committed to Clemson last night. He is our 18th commit and was recruited by Boise State, MD, Rutgers, UVA, BYU and Utah.

August 1 through November 28 marks the NCAA-deemed Quiet Period for college coaches. Coaches are on the road from September, October and November and get a visit to a high school on one day within a 42-day period. Essentially coaches have 42 evaluation days in the fall.

-The staff has begun preparing for MTSU directly, though Swinney was extremely disappointed in practice Tuesday.

“If we played today, we’d get our butts beat,” Swinney said after the team’s practice, pausing briefly before adding, “but we don’t play today, thank goodness.”

Asked about Tony Franklin:
“He’ll probably bring more of what you saw when he was at Troy,” Swinney said. “It’ll be all four and five wides. Our guys don’t see that in practice, so that’s a drastic change.

“I was pretty disappointed in today’s practice,” he said. “I think we got beat today. If we played today, we got our butts beat. Offense, defense, special teams, we got beat.”

Although he was pleased in yesterday's practices. It also appears Benton is no longer ahead of Jackson at kicker, and Benton is out with a slight groin pull at the moment.

When asked about MTSU:

“And for us going against their defense, well, we’ve got some questions because they practice against a four- and five-wide offense all the time. So, are they an even front? Are they an odd front? Are they both? … You have to really prepare for a lot more than you’re probably going to see, but you just have no other choice. First game’s always the toughest because there’s a lot of unknowns. But they’ve got the same thing for us.”

“I promise you, Stock and them, they’ll have them ready to play,” he said. “They’ll be sky high, and they’ll have them believing they can win. Heck, they beat Maryland. Maryland beat us. That’s all they’ve got to tell them. … They won’t be intimidated

-Cory Lambert did get reps at LT in practice this week, just to remove any rust should he have to switch over immediately. Jamarcus Grant got reps at LT as well.

-Jacoby FINALLY returned to full speed practice, but then Dye tweaked his hammy too. Great. Clear seems to be recovering from his rib injury well, but Brandon Ford (foot) isnt going to be ready anytime soon it seems.

“The last four, five days he’s been doing pretty much everything, just hasn’t scrimmaged,” Swinney said. “Today he did everything. He dd all the one-on-ones, skeleton, team pass, went one-on-one against (Crezdon) Butler and all them competitively. He did a nice job, caught the ball very well"

-Justin Parker, the top LB on the board, now has Clemson ahead of USuC. This guy would be a huge get for us.

-Gene Sapakoff talks about what Dabo said in his press conference and I wrote below, pertaining to the play-calling by Rob Spence and how the offense has been tweaked and trimmed down to get better execution.

-The State has an article up on the ACC fanbase, and its good for CU.

-Butler and Chancellor are rated as the best CB duo in the ACC, and both are rated in the Top 26 nationally by Phil Steele at CB. Both are Jim Thorpe Award candidates and Greg Wallace writes about how they are working together to make this a special season, then talks about Jonathan Meeks coming in at Safety and making a contribution this year.

-Reasons why Georgia Tech might disappoint in 2009. I bet the GT fans are going nuts over this guy.

-And Dr. Saturday writes about the long, woeful decline of a former great one, Steve Spurrier.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dabo criticizes Spence's gameplanning

The Village Idiot

Dabo's first move upon his hire as interim HC was one that we all clamored for all season: firing Rob Spence. It was evident at the time that he had serious objections to how Spence applied his ideas during a game. Recently, during his press conference, he brought the idea up and disclosed the main difference between his regime and the previous one on offensive philosophy.
We've probably taken too much into games around here in the past. Good stuff, but sometimes you leave a lot on the practice field. Hopefully we can be a little bit more diligent and efficient with our time.

"It's not a knock on Spence, I just think that, in the past, with the 20-hour rule and what we operate in here in college football, sometimes it's not as much what we know. It's what those kids can do. That's kind of my philosophy in game planning.

"We didn't have a system problem. Sometimes we were just more about plays than players. And this game is about players.

"We've got a lot of flexibility, which I like. But we've been able to really marry the things that I felt were important to instill in the offense, to things that we felt were very good that we've done in the past as well. I mean, we've done some really good things around here offensively. So we've got a lot of that, too. I think we've got the best of both worlds now."

The key difference, he went on to say, was that Spence had a virtual encyclopedia of plays and a huge playbook, and routinely came to the press box with about 200 plays to call, and none were scripted. Given that we run about 60-65 a game, you can see most of it went unused.

Thats over-preparation, and the result is an offense that comes out inconsistent because they simply haven't practiced the plays they run the most, they're practicing new plays during game week they may not even use once on Saturday. Football players don't memorize the playbook so much, its too big, they tend to read it once and study it through the season, but concentrate on practice. Repetition and direct coaching is the way they really learn the plays, and if they don't get to rep plays enough, they never know what they're doing on the field. You always hear about coaches saying "we need to simplify things a little" and that is where it comes cant throw too much at an offense.

For example, Mike Leach only runs a handful of plays at Texas Tech, about 30 tops. His playbook would fit in a small notepad. The reason why they do so well with them is because they rep the exact same plays over and over in practice. He doesnt even hand out a playbook to his Quarterback, they read it off their wristband.
"There's two ways to make it more complex for the defense," Leach says. "One is to have a whole bunch of different plays, but that's no good because then the offense experiences as much complexity as the defense. Another is a small number of plays and run it out of lots of different formations. That way, you don't have to teach a guy a new thing to do. You just have to teach him new places to stand.”

Swinney says they have shrunk the playbook and retained the terminology, and that he's letting Napier run the offense, now with about 100 plays on gameday-and scripted (which is par for most OCs), but he adds that he may call a play here and there, maybe an entire series.

This is very comforting to me, what about you?

2009-2010 Basketball Schedule released

Nov. 13 Fri. PRESBYTERIAN 8:00 p.m.
Nov. 17 Tue. at Liberty TBA TBA
Nov. 20 Fri. at UNC Greensboro 7:00 p.m. FSS
Nov. 23 Mon. WINTHROP 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 26 Thu. #Texas A&M 4:30 p.m. ESPN2
Nov. 27 Fri. #West Virginia/Long Beach St. 2:30/5:00 p.m. ESPN/ESPNU
Dec. 2 Wed. ILLINOIS (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) 7:15 p.m. ESPN
Dec. 6 Sun. SOUTH CAROLINA 1:00 p.m. FSS
Dec. 13 Sun. FURMAN 4:00 p.m.
Dec. 16 Wed. at East Carolina 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 22 Tue. WESTERN CAROLINA 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 29 Tue. SC STATE 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 3 Sun. at Duke 7:45 p.m. FSN
Jan. 9 Sat. BOSTON COLLEGE 4:00 p.m. Raycom
Jan. 13 Wed. NORTH CAROLINA 9:00 p.m. ESPN
Jan. 16 Sat. at NC State 12:00/1:30 p.m. Raycom
Jan. 19 Tue. at Georgia Tech 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Jan. 23 Sat. DUKE 9:00 p.m. ESPN
Jan. 26 Tue. at Boston College 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Jan. 31 Sun. MARYLAND 5:30 p.m. FSN
Feb. 6 Sat. at Virginia Tech 4:00 p.m. Raycom split
Feb. 10 Wed. FLORIDA STATE 7:00 p.m. ESPN2
Feb. 13 Sat. MIAMI (FL) 12:00 p.m. RSN
Feb. 20 Sat. VIRGINIA 7:00 p.m. RSN
Feb. 24 Wed. at Maryland 9:00 p.m. Raycom
Feb. 28 Sun. at Florida State 5:30 p.m. FSN
Mar. 2 Tue. GEORGIA TECH 8:00 p.m. Raycom split
Mar. 7 Sun. at Wake Forest 6:00 p.m. FSN
Mar. 11-14 Thu-Sun. ACC Tournament TBA TBA

We'll save predictions for later, its football time now. I still believe we'll be barely-in the NCAAs for now.

Tuesday Linkage

Another in the long line of failures....disappointed Steve? seriously? Ron Aiken slams em again, here.

But thats where the hoochies are dude?

-An article worth reading about the NCAA and fan interaction with recruits, recall it was our boosters that got us in the most trouble in '82 and '90.

-A nice article about JD contributing in Cleveland.

-Verification that Sadat Chambers will play FS in Nickel packages, that I speculated before, as well as a hint about uniform jersey changes for next year.

-As predicted in our first post about Kevin Steele (sidebar), Brandon Maye is expected to be the real leader of this defense and feels like it is an adjustment to have such a leadership role placed on him by the coaches.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Offensive Tackle....what do you think?

With Cory Lambert edging out Landon Walker, and Price being named as 2nd-string behind Hairston, you have to wonder just what will happen against any DL with a couple of good defensive ends this year.

The issue with Lambert hasn't been his size or strength, its his doesnt run on every play (Gaines Adams had the same problem until his final year). He was slow on his feet against FSU when Hairston was out, and got mauled. Unfortunately this year Walker's motor hasn't been running as well, and the job that was locked up for Nebraska has been a toss-up since Spring practice.

Lambert said the following about his outlook going into this year:
"I've got to play more with that meanness streak going through me. Coach Pearman told me that I've got every tool I need, physically. I just have to get into a different mental mindset. He's really working with me to hone in on the mindset that I need to be the type of physical lineman we have to have.

"I think I'm just realizing that this is it. This could be the end. This could be the last season of football for me. I want to do better. I want to go out better. I think that's probably motivated me more."

Coach Swinney has this to say about the battle between the two after Friday practice:
"The last two or three days Cory Lambert has stepped up and made a little bit of a move. He had a decent scrimmage the other day and has had a couple of good practices. He had a pretty good day today. Coach Pearman seems to be really pushing him and getting a lot out of him. That's good to see. And Landon is working hard, too, but Cory has been more consistent."

"He's being more aggressive and isn't making as many busts. He seems to be more in to it. He's got as much physical ability as anyone. That's not the issue. He's a great kid and a nice guy but it's that work ethic every day that you have to have to be a great player and that's where he was inconsistent," noted the head coach. "He's being more consistent now with his motor and work ethic."

But an interview with Danny Pearman was probably the most telling of any thus far in camp. Reading this for the first time, I thought immediately of Danny Ford.
What's your evaluation of the tackles at this point?

Pearman. "So far Chris Hairston is our bell cow at left tackle. He's had a pretty good camp. He's in a little bit better shape than what he was last year, I guess. He's been solid. On the right side, it's been inconsistent and day-to-day. One guy shines, one guy's down. The next day it's a different guy shining. But the last two scrimmages, Cory Lambert has done a little better than Landon Walker.

"I feel both those guys will compete and play the right tackle position for us, and both of them deserve to play some right tackle. So it may be a week-to-week thing: If one guy starts and he doesn't perform, the next guy will play. But we've had a good camp with both of them. We just need to find a consistent player there.

"We've obviously moved Phillip Price to left tackle. He's got a lot of reps this camp. That's not to say he's ready to play at the highest level yet, but he also is over there getting a lot of work. We've also used Jamarcus Grant outside. Those are the main five guys that we've worked."

What's the issue with Landon and Cory? Is it motivation?

Pearman. "I wouldn't say it's an issue. They're just not playing up to what we consider winning football at that spot. They have to constantly be pushed. In their mind, I think a lot of times they think they're doing their job. But you've just got to make sure they do it every play."

"Cory has repped some (at LT). Jamarcus has repped some out there as a backup left tackle. But Hairston is the left tackle. And we'd spell him right now with Cory or Jamarcus if we had to play tomorrow."

How do you go about instilling toughness on the offensive line?

Pearman. "You instill toughness Monday through Friday. Saturday should be easy if you've done your job through the week. Toughness comes with reps. Toughness comes with attitude. Toughness comes with doing things that aren't easy, and in practice when it's not easy. Toughness comes with blocking the man right up over the top of you - doing it over and over and over and being confident you can do it.

"That becomes hard. You put kids in hard situations in practice so that they can be successful on Saturday."

How tough was the line when you got here last December?

Pearman. "I don't know. I just know the work we're trying to put in now. I think the worst thing you can do as a new coach is to come in and talk about the old regime. I think you serve two purposes that are wrong. It's not fair to the last guys, because you weren't here. The only thing you can do is grab the baton and do your job while you're here.

"I think what we've tried to do is build on these guys and work them hard this camp. Hopefully we can reap some benefits from it. Hopefully we will be a tougher collective body."

Has the offensive line come a long way in the area of toughness since the start of spring ball?

Pearman. "It'll be seen September 5th. I don't think you can say that yet. It'll have to be a game-type situation before we say, 'Hey, that's a tough group up front.'"

If that doesnt sound like Danny to you then I don't know what does. We might be jumping on Pearman by week 3 for his coaching ability, but he certainly sounds the part.

Weekend Links: Depth Chart released

Clemson Depth Chart released: I should point out that Alexander does not play in all packages at SAM, he's been in mostly running situations and doesnt do as well in coverage as Cooper, so its more of a co-starter role split between the two.

The only curiosity has been Gilchrist at FS, because according to himself, he's been used more at Nickel than anything to start camp. Lately though he's rolled out with the 1's. In Nickel situations I suspect Chambers will be the one at FS.

Also, should Hairston go down, don't expect Price to go right in, Lambert would likely move over to LT and Walker would be back at RT. The reason why its listed this way is because you have personnel groupings in practice and with Lambert on the 1st team, and Walker and Grant already on the 2nd, they cant very well send Lambert over in practice to rep with the 2s. That would be overworking him.

And evidently no one else is better than Grant at LG so that he would be moved over in practice. Maybe we should thank Barry Humphries for its possible Cloy wouldve been moved over to Guard had Humph taken the Center spot (ignore his 4th string status, thats BS).

The AP writes about the beginning of the Dabo Era at Clemson, with player quotes and perspectives.

The P&C does a 2-minute Drill with D. Bowers, as well as a no-brainer article about the 6 things Clemson must do to win its first ACC Championship.

Paul Strelow writes about the Clemson Secondary, regarded as one of the best in terms of depth and at CB position in the conference.

With Jaron Brown moving up the chart to 2nd-team, expect him to get considerable PT this year if Ashe doesnt pan out early.

It also seems Cory Lambert has pulled down the spot at RT over Landon Walker, God help us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More on the 4-3: Stunting

Defenses today have to be multiple; there is no true 4-3 or 3-4 set anymore that is played on every down. Last year's Alabama team played a 3-4 base, but essentially only played a 3-4 40% of the time. Saban at LSU ran primarily a 4-3, but he does so many things that you can never pigeonhole his defenses. Why would you run one over the other when you'd run a 4-3 and won a Title? The answer is simply that you have the personnel to do it. If youre hired as a head coach and have 6 LBs who can all play, and only 6 Linemen, what would you do?

This is what bothered me when Clemson fans stated Steele would run a 3-4 here when he ran one at 'Bammer. We dont have LBs here to run it, but you will still see a few 3-4 sets against certain opponents.

What is the 3-4? Its just a front. Its a 'look' you want to give the offense to confuse them, because you want to hide what you are doing on defense as long and as well as possible. So dont be surprised when you see a guy who normally plays DE stand up like a OLB. Virginia Tech, for example, might tell you they are running a 4-3 in the pregame introductions, but it is really a 4-4 (or Gap 8) system....thats why they always seem to have one great tackler in the secondary. They are reducing their fronts in passing situations with a player like DeAndre McDaniel playing a LB position that is really more like a SS, which makes them better versus the pass than you would think a 4-4 team would be normally.

In order to help run support in the 4-3, the most common adjustment is to bring the SS down to LB depth and create an overshifted front, which we've already covered. This lets you shift the LBs over to the weak side, with the SS being (usually) the cover man for the TE or slot WR.

But in preparation to explain other defenses we'll see this year, we think its necessary to look into the other defensive fronts besides the simple over/under reductions. Specifically, the defensive line play.

The first thing to remember is that when coaches use the term 'technique' they don't always mean how to do something, they also mean the player's alignment, this is explained in the article above.

There are various other techniques to teach in combinations on one side of the line or the other, or inside DTs vs what the DEs are doing. For example, there may be a call where you want both DTs to run to the inside hip of the OG opposing them, towards the center. You would call that a "Tim". If its outside, towards the outside hip and to the OT, a "Tom". This is called a stunt, and it just means that you are having someone attack a gap they are not normally responsible for covering. You want to do this to upset the rhythm and blocking schemes of the offense, to create penetration on run and pass plays. One point to remember is that you will only want to stunt when youre penetrating, otherwise your defense is giving up ground. The stunts you use also change based on the type of blocking you're up against: man or zone. (you'll have to click the pic, sorry)

(obviously there is more info on the stunt in the images, but i'm leaving that out for now)

If the DE is told to run a '6' technique, lined up directly across from the OT, he's usually taught to charge inside. So if I called a defensive front "26 Tim" from the sideline, I'm telling my DTs to line up in a 2, my DE to line up in a 6, and the DTs to charge to the inside. If I play a 2 or 4 technique often with my DTs, then they are usually the bigger guys like William Perry or Terrance Cody, who can muscle through blocks. In that case you usually end up using them as a Nose.

Thats just a name, and other coaches may use other stunts with the same name. Against a stunting defense an offense may widen their splits to force the defense to change their gap responsibilties and adjust the front (this is partly why Texas Tech's offense has such success, they have very wide splits).

A 3-technique tackle, like Jamie Cumbie or Jarvis Jenkins, will be more likely to be the 290-300lb guy who can immediately shoot the gap, and more likely to stunt.

A common stunt is to slant your weakside DT into the A gap on his side, and then loop the Strong DT around behind him and into the weak OG's face. More explicitly, one DT charges into the A-gap, the other DT runs around his backside and into the Guard, effectlvely double-teaming that Guard. You could expect that to happen to Thomas Austin this year. The only difference in the figure below and what I'm explaining is that the figure depicts the DT attacking the inside of the opposing guard, instead of his outside.

Usually a FB has to pick up the stunting DT, and coaches dont like their FB picking up tackles. A similar stunt is the Spike:

Opposing teams would then be smart to run an isolation play to the strong side, by doubling the DT, singling out the DE, and isolating the MIKE on a Fullback blocker. MIKE has to take him on with a shoulder, not head-up, and force the RB to run towards the DE. That seems to me to be the easiest way to handle such a situation.

A "3-game" or Pirate stunt is with both Tackles and the weakside End ("3" comes from "30" or weakside/oddside, not that 3 guys are involved). Its the same as the above stunt, except that the DT runs outside around the weakside End instead of the weakside tackle. Both the End and the weak DT are taught to charge inside on the hip of their opposing blocker. The only problem here, as with any penetration, is the Trap.

To eliminate that problem, along with cutbacks and isolation, you can run a "4-game" stunt, which is essentially the opposite except that the Weakside DT isnt stunting upfield to the QB, he's waiting to read the blocks and play the Trap.

The next variation on the 4-game is the Storm, which adds the SAM on a run blitz and the DT runs around his backside towards the TE. Obviously, you need athletic DTs to make such a play worthwhile, and you would preferably want to do this to the short side of the field.

An "open" or Jam stunt involves the Strongside End and the tackle. The End charges inside towards the Guard, while the tackle loops around him into the OT-TE C gap.

Against triple-option teams like Georgia Tech, the stunts are used to change the rhythm of the offense and break their timing. The option has to be finely tuned and practiced to be effective and stunts are best used to break their patterns. Usually, the best point to attack is the QB decision area: the space behind the OT/TE where the QB must decide to pitch or keep it. The only problem for a coach here is that a player CANNOT miss on his responsibilities; a huge play will result. This is why many teams refuse to stunt against the option.

A common stunt against the option is the End Slant, where your Strongside DE charges into the OGs outside hip, or a pinching stunt where the End charges in with the OLB cheating up to do the same towards the TE's outside hip.

So there is a few of the stunts you'll see by essentially every team that runs a 4-3 defense, all of which will be useful in explaining defenses later on. Tomahawk Nation did a similar post including more on stunts here.

End of Camp...Still Some Questions

With camp closed, the most glaring question for this team (starting QB) has been answered. There are several other big questions that I still have regarding this team.

We have all heard good things out of the secondary. Will the loss of Michael Hamlin play a big part in the secondary? Chris Chancellor has openly declared this group (and specifically the corner positions that include he and C Butler) as a lock-down group. This seems to be a reasonable statement with the experience that both have in their Clemson careers. I have concerns over experienced depth for this unit, specifically in the safety positions. After McDaniel and Chambers, there are nothing but RS Freshmen to fill the strong and free safety positions.

I really do not know how I could have confidence in the OL this season until I actually see it. We have not played well up front in quite a while, and were particularly poor up front last season. Hopefully some cohesion will exist between the group as it is a young group and has been together for a while now. Thomas Austin is definitely the leader...I am eager to see how the younger guys (Walker, McClain, Page, etc...) react this season. It is encouraging to hear Fat Brad say some positive things (see Dr. B's post from earlier) about this group coming together.

Some concern can be seen with the group of LB's we have here. I am big on Brandon Maye and like Scotty Cooper. The rest of the folks I really cannot give a fair opinion on. Stanley Hunter's loss was particularly disappointing, as he was hyped pretty well by the in-state media when he came to Clemson from Byrnes. I am concerned about toughness and depth with this group. One thing to watch will be whether the staff gives this group an extra athlete with Alexander or Sapp giving support to the linebacking corps during normal defensive sets, and C Diehl as a possible goal-line D participant.

WR: I think as the season progresses, we will be fine here...but this is dictated by the play calling. If we let Ford run vertically, he will be effective. I have high hopes for Xavier Dye. He is a big target who should have enough experience to step in and make some big plays this year. There have been some concerns throughout camp, and these are a little concerning. Inconsistency and the inability to avoid critical drops has plagued the Tigers over the past few years, so I hope that the receiving corps will gel (this should be aided by Kyle Parker getting the majority of the first team reps from here on out).

QB: No experience, plenty of talent. It has been well documented that both Korn and Parker have tons of talent. However, talent alone will not win football games. I do like both of these guys as leaders and I think that both will have the full attention of their teammates when on the field.

DL: Obvious strength of the defense. We are so loaded there the C. Brown will redshirt. I am particularly excited to see the progress Bowers has made over the off-season and hopefully a healthy Ricky Sapp for the entire year.

TE: I don't know how Swinney plans to use this group, but any use would be better than Tom and his staff.

RB: Spiller has received enough hype--everyone knows he is the real deal and ran extremely hard last year. Ellington is supposed to be a Spiller-type back. Everything that I have heard about him leads me to expect a lot of excitement. Jamie Harper has had a good camp and had a lot of positives coming into fall practice. You should see a steady dose of Spiller/Harper all season long (if you don't, we are in deep shit). I think everyone is eager to see R. Taylor in some short yardage situations. This guy is HUGE and we all hope he stays healthy and has a good senior campaign. As of this blog, Taylor was held out of practice Tuesday with a pulled hamstring.

The kicking game may be the biggest wildcard on this list. Richard Jackson has yet to live up to the 65 yard hype he had coming out of high school. His ineligibility for the bowl game further questions whether he wants to be a football player or not. Both he and Spencer Benton have struggled in the spring and in camp, causing Swinney to describe his confidence level in the kicking game as "Not very confident".

If you don't have a defense and a kicker, you aren't worth a shit. The kicker issues are definitely troubling.

There is a "Salute to Stanley". I think this is a nice gesture to
Stanley Hunter. His health issues have been documented here earlier

Swinney said several players have asked to alternate wearing Stanley Hunter's No. 17 jersey throughout the season. Hunter was a reserve linebacker last season, but was forced to quit football this summer due to
epilepsy. Swinney said Brandon Maye will wear the jersey the first game,
Willy Korn has asked to wear it for the second game at Georgia Tech.

CJ Spiller was named to the Maxwell Award watch list. If he can remain healthy, we should see a special season out of this guy.

Finally, the Clemson basketball team is making some noise on the national scene, even before the season starts (I can rarely remember a national media--or local media for that matter--outlet giving the Tigers this much talk in August). Clemson will host College (basketball) Gameday prior to the Clemson-Duke matchup on January 23. This just shows you what a tremendous job OP has done in his time at Clemson. I would have laughed a few years ago if anyone would have told me CU would be this good at basketball. Great job OP!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Status of the Offense as camp breaks

Offensive Line
Although 4 of the starting 5 seem to be set, Brad Scott was interviewed recently and gave his impressions on the interior linemen he's responsible for.

What's your assessment of the offensive line thus far?

Scott: "We're beginning to develop a little continuity, I think, with the group that's working in there in the first line. I can speak of the inside people. Right now, that's Austin and Cloy and McClain. There's still some good competition at some positions, but that seems to be our best group with calls and communication, identifying the fronts, execution. They're improving."
Question: So you can't talk about the tackles?

Are you doing any cross-training from guard to tackle with guys like David Smith, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman?

Scott: "No. We do a little bit sometimes in pass rush at all positions, so they will have played a little tackle. And we've let some other guys play center. But as far as scrimmage plays and all, we haven't done that."

Are Kenneth Page and Matt Sanders capable of becoming legitimate two-deep guys this year?

Scott: "Sanders is getting better. Both of them are getting better. Sanders is a little further ahead than Page. It's a developmental position. It takes a lot of guys three years before they're ready to go. Sometimes guys get pushed into it a little earlier, as in last year. But I would say Sanders is making real good progress, and Page is improving."

How about at center. Is Dalton giving Mason a serious challenge there?

Scott: "He is. Not quite as comfortable right now with our communication with him in there. I think he knows what he's doing, but last scrimmage he wasn't as loud, as sure of his calls, being the quarterback of the offensive line. And let me add this: Our defense is giving us multiple looks. And I mean multiple with a capital M. So that's not easy for the centers. But Freeman is right there battling. Cloy had a bad day earlier in the week, and Freeman stepped up and did a pretty good job. Cloy has kind of come back. Cloy has had a good camp. I'm going to play them both. I think Freeman has got a chance to be an outstanding player. He might be one of our top five. If that's the case, then we'd have to find a place for him. Right now, we're not doing that. We're still battling at center. We're still in camp right now."

Although as fall camp ends, it seems Cloy is really starting to put things together at Center because he communicates the calls better. You would think that anybody would only have to be told once to scream the call to the other linemen however.

How much more comfortable do you feel with this line as opposed to a year ago, when you had so little experience?

Scott: "Much more comfortable. We're not having many MA's in practice against a good defense with many fronts. We're not spending as much time having to coach assignments as we are now techniques. We've got guys who are a year old, they've played together – again, the whole communication thing. A lot happens just before the snap that can't be verbalized, and experience takes over. It says, 'Hey, I know when a guy goes from here to here that my scheme changes and I've got to do this.' That's what I mean by missed assignments. I think our standards are a little bit better in there because the kids are a little more confident. When you don't have MA's, you're not out there thinking and you have confidence and you can play harder and a little faster."

When asked about recruiting, he mentioned that they generally hope to hit on 3 of 5 recruits they bring in at OL and that some of the difficulties of the Linemen the last decade have been just adjusting to new offenses being given to them (RR, Scott, O'Cain, Spence).

Lambert seems to really be pushing Walker for the RT job, and NONE of the coaches are really committal on Walker getting the spot.
"Landon had a better scrimmage Saturday," Dabo Swinney said. "And Cory (Lambert) is beginning to battle a little bit. I feel a little better there. We didn't make as many mistakes as we made the first scrimmage. I thought Landon played with a little better pad level."

Cloy I think will cement the Center job, and has been running out with the 1s for the most part.

Napier had this to say regarding the OL:
Is there any movement with any of your second-team on the line, as you work to build some depth there? Is Wilson Norris, for example, getting some work at right guard?

Napier. "I think really the position that's up for battle is the right tackle position. You've got Lambert and Walker really battling it out over there at right tackle. The rest of it is pretty well grooved in. Freeman is going to earn his opportunity to be the next inside guy. We're looking forward to seeing how that starting job at right tackle will sort out. Lambert has had the better of that the last two days. We're looking for that consistency and a physical nature from Lambert and Walker. Lambert is extremely talented, physically. We're looking for that light bulb to come on with him, and it has the last two days. So you've got two formidable guys over there battling it out."

Running Back
Jamie Harper has shown considerable ability so far in camp, and Dabo had this to say about his progress this fall:
"He has just matured. He understands what it's about now. He has worked. He came in here last year and was the third guy and knew he was the third guy. I think he just got fat and happy and settled into his role. I didn't think he had that hunger."

A little snippet from his comments is that he is not sure how much of a role he will have this year, as the coaches have told him they plan to ride CJ as much as they can (hallelujah!).
"Really and truly, they haven't really set in stone yet as far as what they have in mind for me," he said. "But whatever they have, I'm ready to roll."

Rendrick Taylor, whose official position is called "J-back" (for Joker) in the offense has been lining up pretty much everywhere: TE, FB, and RB. He's gained yards rushing in every scrimmage, usually similar yardage to Harper, and for the most part says he's lined up at RB. I think we're going to see him more as a runner, because he just doesnt have the first step that the other TEs do, they say. He'll be in there as a blocker beside CJ in a two-back shotgun, a la Dantzler days. Swinney says he's had his best camp ever, now lets see it on the field Rendrick.

Just to scare everyone, he did have a slight pull of his hamstring.

Jacoby Ford, was back at practice Monday night, a stadium workout, but did not participate in Tuesday's scrimmage. He's expected to be fine by MTSU. LW asked Ford if these injuries were frustrating and not getting better.
"Nah. It's encouraging, because it's getting a lot better. Now, if it was the same state as it was last week, then I'd probably be a little worried. But it's gotten a lot better, and I'm starting to run a lot faster on it. So I think I'll be ready by the game."

Its pretty much locked down that Xavier Dye will take A. Kelly's position, with Terrance Ashe taking the slot, but Ashe is being pushed hard by Jaron Brown. The final 4th position is still up in the air.
Dabo: "I'm telling you what, Jaron Brown is going to be some type of dynamite football player at Clemson. It's starting to click for him. He has made a bunch of plays in camp. He's a long way away from where he was as a freshman. He took advantage of his red-shirt. I think he will be a Derrick Hamilton kind of player, just watching him. He's got better ball skills than Derrick."

But, drops have been a major problem.

Tight End

By all accounts, the TE position is really being used more this fall. Palmer, Barry, and D. Allen have all been catching passes. It seems that we're actually going to throw to a TE more than once per game.

Billy Napier had a few comments to the Media after the scrimmage:
Dabo said you're about to start pairing down (personnel) and hone in on who you're going to go with.

Napier. "Today we played with four scholarship wide receivers. We've got some guys who have been injured and some green jersey guys. That position wouldn't be one that I'd say we've had a chance to pair down. It's already paired down. We've got who we've got. Our front guys, we've done some experimental things with that second group, trying to find our best lineup. As that has unfolded, that has really helped us put ourselves in a position to make some decisions. Today we played pretty much the lineup with the first and second group. Still, we're just looking for that third best inside guy, that third tackle, those seven or eight guys that you can depend on who are accountable and will sell out for their teammates. And I think we've got that. We're just looking at who will start at right tackle. We've got a really talented tight end bunch. We've got several guys there who could play. And our running back position is really talented. For us, it's about getting these green receivers and a green quarterback ready to go, and honing in on who that right tackle is going to be."

You said at the start of spring drills you wanted to make a commitment to a more up-tempo practice day in and day out. Talk about how your offense has adjusted to that and the advantages you get from that.

Napier. "Yes. Today I won't say where we were snapping the ball in reference to the 40-second clock, but it was where we wanted it to be. It has an effect on the defense. Our defensive guys will tell you. If we can stay in the same personnel grouping and force the issue, snap the ball in that range we want to get it snapped, then that limits substitution on their part and it keeps their front guys on the field. That's really an emphasis there, just creating a competitive advantage, dictating the tempo to the defense."

You're watching film of practices every night. As you evaluate where you are now, why is your offense better today than August 4, the start of fall camp?

Napier. "I think we're probably a more physical team. We're practicing against a really good front and a really well-coached defense. Our guys are playing with good fundamentals. We've seen consistent improvement from our front guys. And the thing that I see is the work from the summer with our skill guys has carried over into the camp. We still have some guys who may have a bad day after a string of good days. And that comes with camp and from being a little bit leg-tired. But for the most part I think it has just been the competitive atmosphere and the snaps and the situations we've put our players in."

Notes on offense
-Brandon Thomas (RT) is still headed for a RS. Its the best for him because of his knee. Bryce McNeal, Tajh Boyd, Rod McDowell, Darrell Smith all will RS as well.
-Hairston suffered a slight muscle pull (neck) but is fine. Swinney calls him the "CJ Spiller of the front."
-Ellington, M. Palmer, and Jacoby are still nursing minor injuries.

Big News in TigerTown

As everyone knows, there was some big news in Clemson yesterday...the return of the large Paw on the helmet.

(thanks to for the pic

See below for a quick comparison.

(thanks to to

Now T-Net can resume the great debate over whether the world will end if Korn doesn't play exactly half the game all games, etc...

On to real shit, in addition to naming a season opener starter at the QB position, Swinney (as well expected) has declared his intentions to redshirt five-star freshman Tajih Boyd. Good move; I also cannot wait to see more footage of him as he seems to have gained a lot of attention in the small amount of time he has been on the practice field.

The final, and most disappointing news comes out of New York, as now I will have to hear even more out of Greg Paulus. As if the flopping wasn't enough, he now is the starting QB for an extremely shitty football team. This year is already starting out strange.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kyle Parker named the starter.

TNet was also heard to be imploding on itself after having so many members sucked off Korn in the last 2 years.

Swinney added that Willy Korn will play "because he deserves to play." Korn is not taking it poorly as the quotes below suggest, because he suspected it and knew he had lost ground in the race, and knows he will play either way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Napier hints that Kyle Parker leads for the job

Napier had a press conference following the scrimmage in which the Defense continued to handle the Offense extremely well, and hinted at the QB position, but when asked specifically deferred to Coach Swinney:

Q. Are you now closer to naming a starter at quarterback?

Napier. "I think we've got a pretty good handle on that situation. Kyle got the most reps out of the last two scrimmages, just trying to get him up to speed from an experience standpoint. That's what I told those guys today, no matter who's in the game, it's important that each one of them go back and look at the film, get the most of each play, get as much from this situation. They're all rookies to some degree. Willy has played somewhat, but not anything major. These are important days for that position."

Q. So can we deduce from that, that Kyle will be the starter on snap one against Middle Tennessee?

Napier. "I think coach Swinney will address the media about that over the next week, not just the quarterback position, but the whole team. We're really honing in on all that. We're trying to give as many guys as we can work and give them a chance to go compete and see who will respond in this situation. I think the personnel decisions made will be reflected in coach Swinney's talks over the next couple of weeks."

Q. Talk about Willy's progress this off-season.

Napier. "It's important to know that Willy Korn has really, really improved and he's a guy that will get to play. It's not something where it will be black and white. Willy has battled his butt off and has worked as hard as anyone. He deserves to play.

This appears to me as a loose endorsement of Kyle Parker, though he did praise Korn.

The rest of his presser discusses the fumble-itis that happened today with Taylor and Harper at the RB spot, and the glaring inconsistency of the offense in most of the practices so far this August.
"It's the lack of consistent play in and out. A lot of good possessions with the ball moving, progressing down the field. And then a mistake here or there -- most of the times things we can control. We're a little bit thin up front with that second group. I think that stands out for the most part."

Napier mentioned that Swinney would likely name the starter within a week.

Korn has a great attitude about it so far, which kind of surprises me. He said he wouldn't be surprised if Parker was named the starter, and knows that he will play either way it goes down.
"I've shown what I can do and I've played to the best of my ability. Whatever decision they make, that's fine with me. I just think it in the end it's going to be mixed with two quarterbacks playing, regardless of who's playing the best."

All signs look postive going into fall

There appears to be no extreme concern going into the fall, as the team (at least from all reports I have read/received) is on schedule and the guys look competitive. One blurb that I particularly enjoyed was the concept of bringing Coach Ford and a host of former players to the Saturday scrimmage the Saturday. The article also reveals that Dabo is pleased enough with the Tigers to cancel the afternoon practice on Friday to take the players bowling. Coach Swinney is also confident that we will see a more close-knit group this season.

The team worked for nearly three hours this morning, then after lunch went
bowling rather than return for a second practice. Swinney said it was a further
opportunity for bonding.“What pleases me the most is I really believe this is a
close football team,” he said. “This is a group of guys that has each other's
back, that really care about one another and appreciate each other.“If you've
got that plus talent … as a coaching staff we can harness that, we've got a
chance when you go out there on Saturdays.”

Other apparent good news from Tigertown, out offensive line is, as expected, finally gelling. After blowing cock all last year, hopefully we will be able to blow people off the line of scrimmage. This OL is still fairly young (obvious exception is Thomas Austin), so I am still a little skeptical of what to expect in September.

The university also self reported four secondary violations this big deal or anything out of the ordinary here.

Wouldn't you just love to be Dave Cutcliff? This guy goes from getting royally screwed at Ole Miss to fending off Fat Phil in the buffet line to coaching the worst team in college football. On top of these issues, his team is being attacked by the pig-flu? Get Coach K to pull some strings to get the good stuff to Durham.

Further, I am all for a playoff system, but doesn't Congress have better things to do than debate this issue now? As mentioned in this article, a playoff would be extremely entertaining (every year, it seems that someone says, "this would be a perfect year for a playoff..."), but the guaranteed money for the bigger conferences (with schools located in more populated and larger states) is too great to risk mucking up the current system (I differ from this opinion, as I believe that everyone involved would make boatloads more money with a hybrid bowl/playoff--including payoffs to the larger conferences).

Who is ready for some football???

Friday, August 14, 2009

Victor Beasley commits to Clemson

Victor Beasley (6'4 215) committed to the staff in his school library this morning, over Alabama and Auburn (where his father played). He's a friend of Demont Buice, who committed earlier to us, and is rated the nation's #30 Athlete overall. Clemson's incoming class is now ranked #13 by Rivals overall.

Speaking of Clemson:
"I had more faith there than anywhere else and it felt like home for me. The facilities are great and it's hard to explain just how much I liked it there."

Although Alabama had him pegged as OLB, he has been recruited by Billy Napier to play H-back/TE for us, giving us 2 TEs in the class. Napier's dad is Beasley's HS Offensive coordinator.

Practice Report-
-The SID tells us that Kourtnei Brown, who was rated the last DE on the chart after this Spring, has been slated for a RS season. Recently Chris Rumph was praising him, saying he had really come on strong and had a chance to be a great player, so I suppose with the depth at DE this was a reasonable choice. It just seems like they should've RS'd him sooner than now. He is a Jr this year, so he'll sit out and play 2 more.
Swinney also announced after practice that he hopes to red-shirt defensive end Kourtnei Brown this season. Brown is a junior from Charlotte, NC. He has played 24 games and 404 plays at defensive end over the last two years and has 33 career tackles.

"We are going to try to red-shirt Kourtnei Brown if we can this year. If there is an injury that could certainly change.

"Kourtnei has a chance to be a great player and we would like to have him for two more years (after this year) instead of just one."

-Chad Diehl, who played LB at Byrnes before being switched to Fullback at CU, has been getting some reps back at LB again in goal line defense.
"We experimented with that some in the spring and we tried it today. Chad is a train wreck waiting to happen. He gives us some size in there in that short yardage situation."

-JK Jay's back surgery went well, and he will take his Medical.

-Some newspapers are trying to say that the idea of Alexander to OLB has been shelved, but direct comments from Steele say it has not. What the writers are reporting is that they've never seen him standing up, but thats because the portion of the package has not yet been installed. Going by Saban's defensive playbook, which should be similar or identical to Steele's, each day of practice is used to install a new defensive front, or coverage, or blitz package....thats A LOT to cover in a month and they may only get one extra day to really practice it before the season starts.

-An article about Scotty Cooper and a recent trip to Africa, who is now unchallenged for the SAM LB spot with Hunter gone.

-Richard Jackson, who was so highly rated out of HS, has done the best of the kickers so far, and seeks to lock down the starting job.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The QB situation from their own perspective.

So if you've looked at the various articles about the QB situation following the interviews with Napier and Swinney, you see neither of them have tipped their hand really, and this of course forces guys like Strelow and LW to interview the guys themselves to get some information.

Lets look at the facts first. Dabo has stated that BOTH will play, practice is NOT like a live game. Practice can be harder, and in Ford's days it was, but its still not showtime. ONE will win the job in practice, but he has to perform. Even if he does, the other guy will still see the field. I wouldnt be surprised, assuming we get a lead early, to see them play as much as a half each.

Both are going to make freshman-like mistakes. I don't care if you tell me theyre not true freshmen, they still will. Game experience is a different thing.

You heard last year, at this time, how our OL needed time to "gel" and half of TNet said it was retarded to say that. Well, you saw how smart that half of Tardnet was in the end. They didnt gel til after GT, injuries and coaching changes notwithstanding. We're bringing back the starters for the most part in the same places, so that will (HOPEFULLY) be ok.

The thing is, the QB and the WRs have to do the same thing. Timing is built between them, and a WR may not be able to catch a bullet from Parker but have no problem catching a lob touch-pass from Korn. Dye, Ford, and Ashe need to know who their #1 QB will be and form some rhythm together. They aren't getting that now. This is why a starter should be named soon. I'm all for giving each guy the shot, but you should name one for the sake of naming him, and then if things change during a game situation or game-week practice, then just change it. But you should at least give them a shot to form some rhythm on day 1 against MTSU.

Coach Swinney said this about it.
I think it’s best for the team and everyone involved to know who’s going to be starting against Middle Tennessee. You want to have the opportunity to really prepare as the starter. And that way, whoever has to prepare as the backup, prepares as the backup. At some point, that will have to work itself out. After one scrimmage, (I’m) just not ready to say this guy is a little bit ahead.

Willy Korn and Kyle Parker have also talked about it in interviews. Korn came into camp worried about mechanics and by Day 3 decided to change his outlook:
"I was like, 'Screw that,'" Korn said. "If I'm going to make mistakes, they're going to be mistakes from being aggressive."

"I'm not a guy to toot my own horn, but I've been practicing really well," he said. "I've just got to stay consistent and keep that aggressive mindset."

"It's just mindset and attitude, and trying to have that gunslinger mindset," he said. "I'm taking care of the ball, but I'm not afraid to make mistakes."

"The ball is coming out really well right now," he said. "I'm throwing really tight spirals. I feel like I've got a lot more pop on it these past few practices. I'm locating everything really well. I'm really happy with where I am right now. I've just got to keep it going."

"It's kind of difficult when you're kind of going with a different set of receivers every time we line up out there, different tight ends," he said after the spring game. "Because everybody has their strengths and weaknesses as far as running routes and how they run it.

"So it'd be nice to start jelling with a group of receivers you know you're going to be with. … I guess we'll see how it plays out. I'd like for a decision to be made sooner rather than later, just so you can work on your timing with the guys you're going to be playing with and not have to play musical chairs with centers so much."

Remember Dabo's comment about the botched snaps? This is why. The coaches are also screwing with the rotation to give all 4 QBs equal reps if possible.
"We've been battling back and forth," he said. "And it's not just me and Kyle. Mike (Wade) is throwing the crap out of the ball. Tajh (Boyd) is throwing the crap out of the ball. We've got a really, really talented unit at the quarterback position.

"We're all competing, and we're all playing well. If it takes me and Kyle both playing to win an ACC championship, me and Kyle both want that. We want what's best for the team. We both want to play and contribute, but the main goal is to win ballgames."

"Sometimes I'll get into a bind," he said. "Most of the times there's a pass broken up, it's because I'll throw a ball a fraction of a second late and it'll get broken up. I just want to make sure I've got perfect footwork and I'm throwing everything on time."

"I knew I had put the time in, and I knew I had been throwing really well the second half of the summer," he said. "I felt confident going into it; I was just trying to be a little too fine, a little too perfect, instead of just gripping it and ripping it and letting the chips fall."

Now Parker:
"I would like for a decision to be made, but I don't see one coming pretty soon," he said.

"The biggest thing is just getting reps with a different group of guys every time, and you don't really get to settle down," he said. "You don't know which lineman is going to be where, which receiver is going to be where. It's kind of different, but it's something we have to deal with. And Willy has to deal with it, too. The better we handle it, the better we'll be."

Parker says his rhythm is disrupted when he's "just going out and then having to come back in every time."

"It's not like you know you're going to be in with the same group for eight plays," he said. "It's kind of hard to get in a rhythm and get used to the speed of the game when you're getting thrown back and forth. That's probably the toughest thing.

Parker commented that he doesnt believe a starter will be named until MTSU game-week.
"Of course we're both wanting to start, and we both need to know the decision (soon), ideally," he said. "But if they can't make their decisions, then we can't press them to make them. We're just going to have to go in and handle what they throw at us. … It's pretty tough coming home and not knowing: 'Man, what's going to happen tomorrow? How many reps am I going to get with this group and that group?'

"But it's something I'm not really worried about. I'm just going to worry about the little things that I can do to make myself better. I guess as long as I focus on that, I feel like I'm on a good route."

Parker completed eight of 18 passes for 97 yards and a TD Tuesday. Korn went 4-of-9 for 41 yards with an INT, and Tajh Boyd drew praise from Billy Napier after passing for 70 yards on a 7-of-10 clip with an interception.