Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Clemben's Top Five Skarelina Videos: #4

Ahh...Steve Spurrier--if only recruits would learn that any talk of South Carolina greatness is just flapping of the lips. Cant wait until Spurrier hangs it up, and then we get to take all the best in-state recruits. Well we almost already do...
Maybe in a strange way I will somehow miss the ol' ball and coach...nah, probably not...He has been a more worthy opponent than Lou but not by much. Add it to Clemson's list of accomplishments though, three hall of fame coaches have their careers ended by the Tigers--Lou, Stevo, and Woody...

Clemben's Top Five Skarelina Videos: #5

This is just classic...(sorry no embedding) I was laughing at him until about 1:23, and then I was laughing with him--shaking my head thinking, he is so right about the bubble screens. More to come so enjoy...

Also check out some of the Clemson responses to the video...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

More Quick Thoughts on Noel Johnson

  • Wooooooooooooooo!
  • Clemben is more of the recruiting guru 'round these parts, but I'm just going to say it: Best. recruiting. class. ever.
  • While I stand by my earlier statement that the team was actually slightly better without TOgglesby, before the news about Johnson I had been mulling over the loss of height resulting from his departure. As we talked about ad nauseum here during the season, Clemson really struggled against tall teams, particularly with delivering entry passes into the post. The thought of losing another 5 inches with the 5'9" Andre Young (relative to the 6'2" Oglesby) on the court had me concerned to say the least, although I would argue Young has the potential to be the better passer despite his height. But with the 6'7" Johnson on board as well as the 6'4" Donte Hill, we suddenly could be causing some match-up difficulties of our own next season.
  • Notice I didn't mention Tanner Smith. While I love his grit and he's got a great story, after watching him fade with the tougher competition last season I'm hoping we are now assured of a significant drop in his playing time. He just looked lost on the court after ACC play started. Now, if he finds that 3-point stroke we heard about as he was coming out of high school, that's a different story...
  • Its good to hear about Johnson's shooting abilities. While I think we would have been more or less fine with some combination of Young, Smith, Potter, and Jennings taking 3s (with the occasional contribution from Booker Sr.), Johnson has the potential to again make our 3-point game something the opposing team will have to specifically plan for.
  • Come to think of it, with the bulk of our talent arguably in the front court this season, why is everyone so worried about the 3-point game anyway? As long as it's around league average (a good bet in my estimation) and we can get the ball inside, I think we'll end up with a stronger offense than last year. And that's saying something for 16th best offense last year in Division I.
  • Obviously, I'm still on a high after hearing the news. But there will be growing pains for this squad with so much contribution expected from the rookies. In other words, I don't think we'll get through the non-conference schedule undefeated. We'll have stupid lapses (10:1 this is related to sloppy ball-handling) that cost us games. But for once, the upside of the squad is such that we can actually expect the team to get better as the season progresses.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Welcome Noel Johnson

Well well well, Terrence Oglesby you genius...you knew this was for the greater good. Somehow you knew that it was your time to go, that you had to sacrifice your position so that the team could get stronger.

Thank you TO, thank you...

Out with the old, in with the nucleus (old school Simpson joke). While I am at it I would also like to thank Tim Floyd for not only staying away from Clemson but also for having yet another scandal and releasing Johnson at just the right time. If you read this post there is one thing I want you to take away from it--this is big. This is a huge, perhaps pivotal signing for Clemson. This has the potential to launch us into the upper echelon of not only the ACC but makes us a legit top 15 team. That hasn't happened at Clemson--even in the days of Dale Davis and Elden Campbell we werent complete teams. Now we can have some staying power.

Here are the reasons why I am literally drooling about the prospects for next season. Johnson is 6' 7, can play the 1, 2, or 3 positions, can shoot, can penetrate, can play D. He is ranked around the number 50 player in the nation for 2009 by rivals and scout. This is a guy that any ACC team would take, and had it not been for our good fortune and timing would have made a push for him--some say he is the best shooter in the country out of high school this year. Now obviously I am excited and overstating my case but this is the best Clemson basketball recruiting class of my lifetime and, dare I say it, perhaps the best ever. We have now filled every need we once had. We have a serviceable PG rotation, a top shooting guard, we just improved ourselves defensively, and we have a set of four players who could all have an immediate impact. Way to recruit Oliver Purnell, you sir deserve a tip of my hat.

What is there not to like...not much. He needs to get a little quicker with his footwork and keep improving ball handling and passing. While I wish he was also known for great handles I can live with it. One thing we all know is that Clemson needs to improve its ballhandling, primarily entry passing to the post. TO brought a lot to like to the table but we just got more length at the SG position, more versatility, more athleticism, more defense, more discipline. Oh and did I mention he hits free throws, hopefully around 80%??

This is a good kid from what I have seen, not a ball hawk who shoots when he wants to. He played within the Fayetteville system and is very coachable from what I know, surrounded by NBA names etc. He is a legit talent and will ease the burden already put on Milton Jennings. Jennings will be better with Johnson and no one will be able to double team or cover both of them while committing to Booker inside. Little Booker will provide some depth and skill inside, helping Grant to back-up Big Booker, and Donte Hill is a defensive stopper, perhaps one of the more underrated three star prospects. He will provide a solid contribution off the bench.

So thank you TO, we could only have gotten better without you...

Go Tigers!!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


This article is a nice swift kick in the mouth...I think Hunter Ansley at DraftZoo.com says it best--our players always have good pro days and test well at the combine, what they are lacking is the coaching. Thats why I like the hires of Dan Brooks and Pearman and Steele, all respected coaches. These guys can teach fundamentals and the little things, the techniques of the game--everything from hand placement to alignments to leveraging. We have some great recruiters, great energy right now but not a lot of teachers. Tommy never coached x's and o's as his career at Clemson went on--I think thats what he lost with Rich Rod, Spence was pitiful and disinterested and Vic Koenning did an alright job trying to get his system understood and executed.

So what do we have now? Well Swinney is a motivator but still a relatively new coach and not some offensive mad scientist(although those are highly overrated) and Napier is going to be trying to keep his head above water. Both excellent recruiters, lots of enthusiasm but not much expertise in molding and developing young talent. Brad Scott is a disaster and I dont think Jeff Scott brings anything to the table. The offense is where I am scared, only Pearman inspires any confidence and I am glad he is helping to coach the O-Line, maybe he can shake things up a bit, get in some better rotations...something...

Summary-Defense in better hands, Offense--no one knows, and that folks is what this season depends on...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Clemson Adds New Commit Williams

I really like this latest commitment for Clemson, granted its for the 2011 season but it is a positive sign for future Clemson recruiting. Daniel is becoming a lockdown pipeline for Clemson with consecutive commitments of triple J, Jarvis Jenkins, then this years commit DeAndre Hopkins and now Deshaun Williams. It doesnt hurt our chances to hold on to Hopkins although nothing indicates that the two are very close, but maintaining a steady flow of commitments from a productive school in your backyard is an important first step in building a fence around your recruiting territory.

Williams is son of Ronald Williams, a standout running back in 1990, so he has the athletic genes. He has been very productive as a sophmore and at 15 is still growing and getting stronger. I think he is a gem and a solid DL prospect, something we will really be in need of after next year so it fills an immediate need and takes some of the pressure off this year. Its good to get early commits that get the ball rolling for you like JK Jay did last year. Sounds like he isnt going to swayed to go anywhere else because of his connections to current DL beast Jenkins and his family. Its just a bonus that he is a good kid who will work hard in the weight room as well as studying the game. Hopefully we get get a couple more commits out of Dabo's Camp...

Go Tigers!!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Draft Round-up

A quick word on the MLB draft. Things are looking good for next year as Ben Paulsen was the only tiger drafted in the first three rounds so he is gone. Thats a tough loss for Clemson but as a junior he was pretty much gone no matter what, good luck to him--one of the most consistent performers in the past couple of years at Clemson. Dwyer and some of this years recruiting class seem to have scared off some of their potential suitors by having too high of an asking price. MLB drafts are a little different than basketball and certainly football. Players have more leverage and can get drafted but never sign--happens quite often. Players have a signing bonus demand and if the team wont agree to it then they can go to college or play for an independent league. This State article points out that Clemson isnt in the clear yet--DJ Mitchell signed in the 10th round but the Yankees were willing to pay the $400,000 signing bonus, so you never know. Right now Dwyer is asking for second round money apparently so he can use and benefit from another year of college without hurting his draft stock too much.

So much has been made of Strasburg but it remains to be seen if the Nationals will fork out the cash for him (Scott Boras is his agent), so its quite possible he doesnt even play minor league ball next year. Interesting system of high schoolers, college players, independent leagues, international signings, and above all sports agents they got going in the MLB. But for the present it seems that Jack and the Tigers are sitting pretty for next season.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Super-Regional Wrap

Tough games to watch, but going in the Tigers were clear underdogs and I think they acquitted themselves pretty well on the diamond. I thought we played brilliantly in game 1; strange as it sounds scoring 4 runs off Mike Leake is something to be proud of. And we had a chance to come back right up to the end. I had higher hopes for Game 2, but I don't think anyone anticipated Josh Spence's start after being slowed by a hand injury for so long. If anything, I was a little surprised ASU went with Spence, and thought we stood a reasonable chance of putting some crooked numbers on the board before the game started.

In the end though, it was just what I feared--ASU's starting arms were just too good. But, hey, let's remember the concerns surrounding the Clemson program going season. I'll try to take a closer look at why the team did better in the next week or so, but for now tip of the hat to Jack Leggett, I for one saw this team as nothing more than a .500 squad. The job he and his staff did getting just about every hitter in the lineup to take a step forward over last year's campaign was remarkable, I think the swing in offensive production from below league average to well above average was the difference this year. Also, giving the young, promising hitters time at the expense of some of the upperclassmen not only led to an increase in production at the plate, it will also form an experienced core for next year's team. That's not the easiest path to take as a coach, but it was definitely the right choice for the program. Looking forward to next year, let's get back to Omaha!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Final Thoughts, Pre-Super-Regional

Well, I completely got the date wrong for the start of the Clemson-ASU super-regional in my last post. I woke up yesterday morning expecting to watch the game in the evening; didn't realize it started Saturday until I checked espn.com a few hours later. I hate it when I do this, I was all geared up to watch the game last night and then suddenly the rug gets pulled out from underneath me. Oh well, I managed to catch some of the other super-regional games last night so it wasn't a total loss.

A few final thoughts:
  • The extra day probably helps ASU more than us given the lack of depth in their pitching staff, although there's been enough rest to probably not give either team any real advantage.

  • The MLB draft starts June 9th (I double-checked the date this time), so this is the last weekend to play in front of the scouts. At this point, anything that happens this weekend probably doesn't make a difference, teams pretty much know the strengths/weaknesses of individual players. But as a player, the days leading up to the draft must be nerve-wracking, and I wonder if they don't end up pressing in an attempt to make a last-second good impression, or alternatively if they don't hold back something to avoid a stupid injury. The only first round lock playing in Tempe this weekend is Mike Leake, but I wonder if fringe second and third-round guys like Chris Dywer, Ben Paulsen, and Jason Kipnis wouldn't be affected by this kind of mindset.

  • Arizona State starting pitchers landed five times in Boyd Nation's Pitch Count Watch, which requires a start of ~130 or more pitches. I think its safe to say that ASU has ridden their starting pitchers if things are going well, with little regard for climbing pitch counts.

  • By contrast, Clemson makes only one appearance on the list, last week's Dwyer start against OSU. I think this might suggest Leggett is a little more "new-school" in favoring pitch count limits. In the post-season, though, I doubt there's a college coach alive that cares about pitch count other than as a proxy for arm fatigue.

  • Related to the above, I came across this ridiculous article at MLB.com today. It sounds like some MLB mouthpiece concern-trolling college baseball for not having rigid pitch counts in their post-season play that align with the current interests of MLB. Look, I get that MLB sees college players as future assets, but don't tell me these college kids don't want to win as much as their managers. I'm all for keeping pitch counts down in general, but in the post-season its just a different story.

  • A general rant on pitch-counts: I definitely fall in the camp that thinks MLB takes things to a pretty ridiculous extreme. Its no wonder that major league teams find half of their staff injured two-thirds of the way through the season, these guys are being selected for pure stuff and no endurance. The other extreme is equally stupid, though--say in Japanese baseball, where you get high school kids throwing hundreds of pitches on consecutive days in the Koshien Tournament. That system ends up selecting for pitchers that have rubber arms and little else. There's a happy medium where pitchers are extended enough to identify guys that are high injury risks, but still retain guys with excellent stuff.

  • Speaking of Japan, if you have a weak stomach you might want to look the other way:

    You read that right--Lemon Vinegar KitKat. Yeah, not the first flavor one would naturally associate with chocolate. I hear there's Apple Vinegar, as well.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

NCAA Super-Regional: ASU

Well, the Tigers play Arizona State in the Super-Regional best of three series starting Friday. ASU is the overall 5th seed in the tournament, led by likely top 15 first round draft pick RHP Mike Leake. You've probably already seen the eye-popping raw numbers: 20 BB vs. 143 K in 124.2 IP. The scouting reports say the most impressive part of his pitching reportoire is his command, sitting around 70 on the 20-80 scale--he can apparently throw four different pitches for strikes, at any point in the count. The other thing I keep reading about is praise for his poise--so I wouldn't count on Clemson being able to rattle him with any of their patented offensive outbursts. The other two primary starters for ASU hover close to mere mortality, but still sport solid numbers that match up well with any of Clemson's starters. One glaring kink in ASU's pitching is their lack of depth; including the three starters they really only run about 7 deep this season. Of course, when you have a guy like Leake throwing complete games every time he takes the hill that tends to lessen the need for bullpen work, and when they do turn the ball over it usually goes to newly-minted Freshman All-American Mitchell Lambson, he of 84 Ks in 73.2 largely relief innings. Notwithstanding Lambson, Clemson has to be thinking about breaking into ASU's pen on offense this Friday, but with Leake likely dealing strikes from the get-go they probably can't afford to take an unusually patient approach at the plate.

On offense, ASU is led by PAC-10 player of the year CF Jason Kipnis (a likely second rounder in next week's draft), who sports a healthy .387/.500/.731 slash line--the guy manages to gets on base in half of his plate appearances. In raw home run totals, he is bested by the other slugger on the roster, catcher Carlos Ramirez, who has 18 to Kipnis' 15.

I guess what jumps out at me is the top pitchers and hitters at ASU have put up better numbers than anyone on the Tigers' roster. Despite this, I don't think you can name ASU the overwhelming favorite this weekend for two reasons: 1) roster-wise, top to bottom the Tigers get more consistent numbers out of their players, particularly on offense. 2) You have to take into account opponent strength--the PAC-10 is traditionally a power conference in baseball, but this year has been something of a down year (ASU is the last PAC-10 team in the field) and by most accounts a strong year for the ACC.

One area where the Tigers might be overmatched is defense--not exactly a strong suit this season. ASU has PAC-10 defensive player of the year SS Jake Schlander, and looking at the pitching numbers, it seems safe to infer that their staff ERA is bolstered by a strong defense.

All in all, Clemson is certainly the underdog this weekend. But not by wide margin. It will be interesting to see how Clemson's youngish offense fares against a highly-regarded pitcher, one who probably hasn't faced a lineup this year with the same mix of balance and power that Clemson will run out. Like I said before the regional, baseball is a game driven in part by random outcomes, and the Tigers are riding a hot streak. Let's hope it carries them through the weekend--


Monday, 1 June 2009

SUPER WIN! Tigers Do It Again!

I have to admit when we were down 5-1 in the seventh, I took off my orange colored spectacles and wondered if another Clemson team with more talent than their opponents would bite the dust again. This team loves to live dangerously. Ok St was rolling and our pitching was struggling out of the gate--Hinson lasted one inning, giving up two runs in the second when Cruz was called upon to save us. Which he did and then he battled, giving up a solo home run and a bunch of unearned runs, before you knew we were down big, Matt Vaughn was in the game and he struggled a little bit. We inserted Kyle Parker on offense, Boyd, Sanders and nothing. Its not until Mr. Epps comes to the plate and homers with two outs that things start changing. Thats what you call clutch.

So we are down in the eighth but its manageable at 5-4 Ok St. Then after being benched in his biggest at bat of the season none other than our future QB KP comes to bat and plates two runs to take the lead. I couldnt believe this was the same team. Vaughn comes on in the 9th and gets a ground ball that Miller makes a good play on and we have to wait five min while the coach from Ok state gets thrown out. Then we give up another single off the 1st basemans glove, an out to advance the runner. Leggett decides to walk Ok St. best player and hottest bat to put runners on first and second. Now that is not a buy the book move cause you put the winning run on base but it worked and we leave the Doug to move on to Tempe AZ to play ASU in a best of three SUPER REGIONAL! It will be interesting to see who we elect to start but for now I'm just going to love winning for a change. Way to scrape for three consecutive wins. Leggett is now 11-0 in games where Clemson can clinch a regional or super regional with a victory.

I really got to know this team better in these past few days. Funny how a team can grow on you as you face some adversity together--I know I sound corny but I'm really rooting for these guys now more than ever. They got character and they stick together--something the other Clemson teams could take a lesson on. Anyway, its late and I'm waxing poetic--Go Tigers! Beat those heathen Sun Devils!!

Weekend Baseball Observations

After blowing the first game against OK St. Clemson needed to win three straight games to advance to the SuperRegional and they have won two of those, needed only to beat OK St. once more tonight to move on. Its tough to play the same team three times but thats the position Clemson put itself in. So a quick rundown of the games for those who missed it.

In the first game against Tenn Tech we almost blew it. We had a runner on second in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings and couldnt advance any runners. Kyle Parker along with the offense in general had been struggling somewhat sinve the ACC tourney and it bled into the tourney. Delk really struggled giving up four runs early. It took some heriocs on a double by Schaus down the first base line to plate two runs and win the game 5-4 in the 9th. It was good to see Addison Johnson come in and get a pinch hit single to key the rally. Graham Stoneburner come on in relief and pitched a gem, pretty much saving our bacon. Losing the first game in these double elimination things is really tough so its good we came through with that one.

In the first OK St. game, Harman pitched seven perfect innings but then gave up two consecutive solo shots that put the Tigers down 2-0. Which was a shame bc he really was pitching nicely. Clemson in the eighth showed their first sign of life scoring two runs on four consecutive singles off of the starter Oliver. We had runners on second and third (and all the momentum in our favor) with one out and Schaus goes and strikes out and then KP pops up to end the inning. We then made two bad defensive plays, really bad. Boyd basically misses the ball in CF and then Paulsen let a ball bounce off his glove, even if he knocks it down he prevents the run scoring from second. Tough couple of plays and McCurry in relief for the Cowboys was lights out.

We blanked Tenn Tech 10-0, Weismann going eight innings and then exacted revenge on 15-1 against Ok St., with Dwyer going eight innings as well. So the starting pitching with the exception of Delk has been superb--I mean awesome. It wasnt considered to be our greatest strength going in but we have been very good. The offense has finally come around but that is against second and third tier starters, not the best pitchers on the teams. I think it was a good move by Leggett to pull Parker from the lineup, albeit a tough one and he has some serious decisions to make about who to start in this last game, the two freshman Weismann and Dwyer looked good after stuggling a little towards the end of the season--perhaps fatigue. Leggett said he was favoring starting Hinson, which wouldnt be a bad move going forward.

I think tonights game comes down to who Ok St. starts. If the start McCurry will he be able to handle the work load. If he is fresh then its going to be another nailbiter and we dont want to be in a close game with Ok St. relying on their stout relief pitching.

I wanted to recommend and thank MRBO on justintv.com for broadcasting the games. Check it out if you want to watch the games streamed. I think we are the best team in the regional and it would be a shame to finish so early, Go Tigers! Beat those stinking Cowboys!
A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.