Wednesday, 30 December 2009

S.C. State and playing the freshmen

I'm working on the midseason basketball update, but in the meantime I thought I would comment on last night's game.

Ugly game from Clemson against, statistically speaking, arguably the worst opponent the team has faced this season. I think the tendency will be to chalk this up as the result of a rusty team looking ahead to an ACC opener against the hated Duke Blue Devils. (From the sportswriter's perspective, the storyline practically writes itself.) Clearly, it was a near-disastrous game where the Tigers played lax defense until the final minutes and failed to hit any free throws down the stretch while SC State seemed to get just about every bounce, deflection, and borderline call to go there way. Clemson is really, really lucky this didn't end up in the "bad loss" column for the selection committee to see come March. (It also raises the question as to when "near-bad losses" will start to enter the selection criteria...)

The most interesting part of the game for me, however, was Purnell's willingness to stick with a lot of freshmen on the floor for the first 10-12 minutes of the second half, even after it became clear that SC State was chipping away at the lead and primed to make a run. As we've stated before on the blog, for Clemson to really contend in the ACC this season they need at least one or two of the freshmen to get comfortable in the system and really start contributing, particularly on the offensive end. I'm wondering if the coaching staff isn't a little bit exasperated at this point. Here is the most highly-touted recruiting class in years and years at Clemson and with the possible exception of Devin Booker, we've yet to see anyone flash even the promise of becoming a star at Clemson. My sense was today Purnell was willing to risk a close(r) game in order to give Johnson and Jennings every opportunity to succeed in a sort of sink-or-swim fashion (not giving them any veteran support). Unfortunately, the strategy didn't seem to help matters and it nearly ended up costing Clemson in the win column.

So what gives? Is this a case of 1) over-hyped talent, 2) a failure on the coaching staff's part to successfully integrate new talent into the system, or 3) is everything going to be fine and we just need to accept that the learning curve is really steep for these players? If you've been following the blog, I've been more or less advocating #3 while cautioning against the possibility that #2 becomes something of a reality. Now that the ACC preseason is over, I'm not so sure anymore. I'm still leaning towards #3, but #2 is becoming more and more of a possibility. Purnell may have made a critical error by awarding scholarships to the best available talent; talent which may or may not ever really "fit" into his brand of basketball. Let's be brutally honest: Jennings and Johnson have looked more or less lost offensively--flat-footed and standing around most of the time. They've been even worse on defense, barely contributing to the press and even struggling to play solid defense in the half-court. Hill has, at least, shown flashes of being a potential contributor on defense, but again hasn't shown anything on offense. I really hope this is setting off alarm after alarm in every meeting Purnell holds with the other coaches and that this is a constant topic of discussion, because the team's prospects for the season (to say nothing of the ceiling of success for the program in the future) depend on integration of superior offensive talent.

To be clear, everything is not lost. One observation that favors #3 over #2 is that Jennings and Johnson are really being asked to do a lot all at once. This isn't a case similar to when, for example, Oglesby was brought in. When he first joined the team his primary responsibility was to get open on the offensive end and drain threes. He worked on other aspects of his game as time went on, without the pressure of being a force on defense by the time game #15 of his collegiate career came around. Another example is Trevor Booker, who was expected to provide a post presence underneath on offense while blocking a few shots on defense in his first year, while gradually building the other parts of his game. This could be an easy way for the coaches to assist Jennings, Johnson, and Hill. Give them some roles to focus on in individual games--I get the feeling these guys are just being asked to do too much at once. With a little focus they might be able to ground themselves a little better.

Unfortunately, the counter-argument to the preceding paragraph is that these freshmen are supposed to be tremendous athletes. The coaching staff could be perfectly justified in setting high expectations for their adjustment into the Clemson system. This also raises the discomforting but ultimately unavoidable notion that once you start considering #2, you have to also consider #1.

I don't have the answers, but I felt like throwing this out. The result of all this is that we may need to temper our expectations for the season. From my vantage point, 10 ACC wins is looking more and more like a goal to be achieved rather than a given. I said in the season preview that Clemson needed at least one of the four freshmen to emerge in the ACC preseason. As it turns out, I was wrong. We really need one of the three non-Booker freshmen to emerge, because Devin Booker's role is filled by Trevor. Of course it's great that Devin looks is able to come in and spell Trevor for a few minutes at a time without a significant drop-off on the offensive end, but the Tigers need someone else to provide us with an upgrade in a slot that doesn't already feature our best position player. The great news for Clemson fans, though, is Devin Booker looks like the real deal, which should relieve concerns about lack of an inside presence next season.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sweet Music At The Gaylord Bowl

Got a defensive stop and were able to run the ball out. Thought Harper and Ellington looked good. Parker has matured and with more focus could be a great QB. We really need McDaniel to stick around, he was a beast. Goodman and Hawkins making some progress. We had too many penalties and arm tackles towards the end but looked good overall on D. I was on the Kentucky boards and they were not happy with Joker's play calling...sounded oddly familiar.

We finish 9-5 and won the division. How many of you predicted that? I said we would be in the Orange bowl but thats cause I am a hopeless optimist but I also thought that CJ could have that kind of impact. I think you have to call this season a success, we were one drive away from a BCS bowl game but we actually accomplished some things--won the Atlantic, won a bowl finally, and had a Heisman candidate who finished 6th in the balloting. If McDaniel comes back and we improve the linebacker play, get some WR's to step up and the O-Line stays relatively injury free we can easily compete for a BCS bowl birth again. Remember this was the first year with a brand spanking new OC and defensive system. We can expect some level of automatic progression heading into the second year of the system.

Dabo has done alright. We know he is not happy with being mediocre and will keep pushing to be the best, hopefully we can start winning championships before he plateau's. 9-5--I'll take it this year but we need to beat USC and be in the Orange next year--year three is the natl championship...haha (deep down inside I'm kinda serious though!)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Re-emerging for a post or two

I've been working the 12-14 hour day again the past three weeks or so. I'm still lacking much of any free time, but things have calmed down a bit and I thought I'd chime in with a few thoughts here and there. It sucks to condense the last few seismic weeks in Clemson sporting into bullet points, but it also sucks I was stuck in working hell at the same time.

  • I'll just go ahead and say what everyone else is thinking: we have no chance on Sunday against Kentucky. It doesn't even matter we match up fairly well against Kentucky, after this season's colossal collapse, I can't see the team showing up motivated for a semi-away game in the Gaylord's Bowl. It would take a miracle motivator; and even though that's one of the reasons why we hired Swinney, I don't see it.
  • I think this season has once again exposed the fallacy of hiring based on intangibles. We can all agree that the coaching got better as the season progressed, and by and large this was a more satisfying style of play for Clemson fans to watch, but Swinney did little to alleviate the problem with the team not inexplicably showing up to play certain weeks (see Maryland, Sakerlina). 2 times this season (plus a likely third in the bowl game), including a game against a team that failed to beat another ACC team, that's not much better than a Tommy Bowden season.
  • Dabo Swinney has his work cut out for him. Ultimately, an 8-6 season is acceptable given this was basically the expectation going in (with a Division title added in as a bonus). But he really could have used something more to help him ride out next year. With the talent coming off the roster in various skill positions combined with a cratering in recruitment efforts (documented by ClemBen in the previous posts), he's gonna be relying solely on his and his staff's coaching ability to somehow improve the team next season. Heaven help us. Something north of .500 next year will be an accomplishment.
  • I fully believe Swinney will have three seasons to establish himself, but his final record in season 3 will be a big part of how long he lasts at Clemson. Unfortunately, as far as having the players needed to address the teams' shortcomings, things aren't looking much better for season 3 than season 2.
  • On to basketball: ClemBen's been covering things just fine in my absence. I would just echo that this team can get better and should get better as the season progresses. To be honest, I think Purnell has struggled a bit to get the freshmen to fit in the system. While these are talented freshmen, they are not the kind of talent that Purnell has picked up in the past.
  • There's still time for the freshmen to improve this season. Obviously we didn't see as much as we would have liked in the pre-ACC season. But Jennings and Devin Booker have looked slightly better as the season has progressed (albeit against vastly inferior opposition). Johnson needs to find his shot, its taken him way too long to get calibrated to the college game.
  • Purnell is spreading the minutes around even deep into the pre-ACC season. I really hope this pays dividends at the end of the season and we don't see a drop-off in energy level as the season progresses, particularly with so many freshmen unaccustomed to the longer seasons.
  • Kenpom's player ratings are out, and have been updated now through the College of Charleston game. A summary really deserves a post of its own, but just to hit some highlights:
  • Tanner Smith has the second best offensive rating on the team. This highlights 2 problems, first, as ClemBen has hit on, Tanner Smith is not the team's answer on offense. He plays okay against inferior competition, but if you recall he completely disappeared in league play last year. To my eyes, he's really not much better this year. He's playing a little sharper in defense and maybe passing the ball a bit better, but he's not shooting the ball particularly well, handling the ball well, and he's completely out of control when he goes to the hoop. Second, Tanner Smith's rating highlights the problems Booker has had getting out of the blocks this season. He's been trying to expand his role by driving to the hoop and its hurting the team. He needs to get back into the blocks and concentrate on finishing plays. As ClemBen said, more solid 4/5 play, please.
  • Andre Young is crushing Demontez Stitt in just about every measurable category except one: percentage of minutes played. This is disappointing, because it reinforces the image of Purnell as a coach who tends to favor veterans even when they are not the best performers. In fairness its not completely one-sided. Stitt is sitting at 68.3% minutes played while Yound is at 57.5%. As we've documented before, Stitt has his uses; he's the best option for Clemson when they need to create off the dribble, and his assist total this year is starting to reflect the fact that he's looking to pass at the rim instead of looking for the shot. But his turnover rate is right where it was last year, before ACC play even begins. I'd like to see the minute percentages between the two at least flipped by the end of the season.
  • Despite the wailing about the lack of three-point shooting, we've actually been doing pretty well. Despite his recent struggles, Potter is at .478 for the season and Andre Young is the best player at .404. Great numbers all around, really, with Stitt unexpectedly logging a .353 and Noel Johnson sitting at 11-31. The only difference is the drop in the total number of shots, but I think we expected that coming in and I don't think its necessarily a bad thing. We need to work more off Booker inside. I expect Potter to regress much more as the season goes along, but hopefully Johnson or Smith pick up the slack.
  • On the team level, Kenpom has Clemson ranked 6. Pay no attention, its still too early.
  • FT% is back to 2007-2008 levels. Very disappointing--this team has the skill to be a better FT shooting team. The excuses I gave last year don't hold water anymore. Hopefully this is just related to the recent swoon we've seen from Trevor Booker at the line, and hopefully he rights himself soon.
  • The win over Western Carolina is nice, I think they will be serious contenders for the Southern Conference title, which could add a footnote to our tourney resume come March.
  • To again echo ClemBen, when someone asks me the biggest problem facing the basketball team, I don't hesitate to say "turnovers, turnovers, turnovers". Got to hang on to the ball in the halfcourt set. We are giving up way too many possessions. Switching out Young for Stitt helps, but Smith and Young need to improve as well.
  • I'm not as optimistic as ClemBen on our prospects for the ACC season. I felt in order to really contend we needed a freshmen or two to quickly become significant contributors, which hasn't happened yet. Right now, I think a 10-6 ACC finish is a realistic expectation.

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year everyone. And GO TIGERS!!!!

Merry Christmas!!

Just wanted to wish the entire Tiger Nation family a Merry Christmas! Best of luck in the new year!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Western Carolina Catamount Reaction: Booker Brother Bookends??

Another good performance overall, but being the critic I am and looking towards ACC play lets breakdown a few things. We are still really sloppy with the ball. Stitt had eight assists tonight but he turns it over so much. They ran a 1-4 offense set which allowed them to get some open looks. We did an alright rotating, which we are doing a lot better in--basically because the freshman have learned what to do. But I absolutely hate the Stitt, Potter, Young, Smith, Grant line-up because they cant rebound. Potter and Tanner cant rebound like forwards and Grant has always had trouble rebounding strong, he is adequate but needs Booker. Whats worse is the 16-32 FT shooting, which is very troubling. OP has always said that they need to just recruit better FT shooters and we give him a pass. Now he has all his kids and we are regressing, something needs to be done--its becoming an area of concern. Booker has regressed in a major way, 8-17 just dont cut it.

Booker looked more comfortable in the paint tonight, looking like the more dominant force he was at the end of last year. I think it was the intl play and talk of the draft that had him trying to look more like an NBA 3 than a college basketball monster at the 4 or 5. We forget that Booker played center his freshman and sophomore season almost exclusively. Ok Booker had a monster game but Devin Booker continues to impress me. He makes it so easy for guards to pass it in to him, he has been schooled on how to set himself for the entry pass and the guards are learning how to throw it in--well Potter, Stitt and sometimes Smith still need to improve but Booker Jr. is going to be big off the bench and keeps improving his defense. Right now I am calling it--the Booker Brother Bookends! Or something like that, its trademarked...any reporter must now reference this blog or your a bad journalist...haha. Bookend Bookers may be better(a play on the Bamberg bookends??). Anyway, its clear the brothers feed off of each other and I think Devin pushes TBook to play more aggressive and flashy. Lots of sweet flushes when the two were in together tonight--think they made Sportscenter...

Jennings also provided a nice spark off the bench and was really active--getting some rebounds, put backs and energy. Hopefully now he can step back and let his offense come to him some more.

So rebounding and turnovers were the big problems. Our press looked a little crisper too, Booker is really quite good at the point--that is where the press is most poignant. Noel Johnson took a small step backwards though, I'm not a fan of Potter who went 1-5. Johnson only took one shot. Lastly for all you Narcisse fans--tonight was a perfect example why he shouldnt play more than the other freshman. He comes in and gives you energy, but its risky. He turns it over way too much to be a regular offensive substitution. You cant have your prime bench players coming in and screwing up the flow of the offense. Put him in for a defensive or offensive spark that is limited to ten minutes a game as he learns how to better manage himself within the flow of the offense. Like I've said before, it can come but his ceiling is so much lower than a Jennings, Devin Booker, or even Donte Hill I think going forward. I thought Hill showed us something last game and was disappointed not to see him tonight. Bobo gain some weight! If he had any kind of big man presence he would be so dangerous...maybe next year...

Nice win Tigers, we get a week break and then a tune up for Duke with SC State which is nice. I really want us to take it to a highly ranked but suspect Duke team. Would be a nice upset that vaults us in the top 15 at least...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Recruiting Update: Jeff Scott is Flailing

Well take all of my earlier optimism about recruiting and dump it in the trash. I thought we would have Gibson and Garcia, and then you add to that a LB and possible RB--you got a good class. Is Dan Brooks the only guy who can recruit?

Garcia is going to Maryland?? For a stupid journalism school? I have a Masters from USC's (the real one) Annenberg school for Communication and Journalism--they are the same thing...line the whole Commun faculty up around the block and undergrad degree in journalism compared to comm is pure semantics. Clemson actually has a good new media/interactive media program--this is a failure, the coaches misread this and didnt sell those top 20 academics (the ones that keep out all the good recruits) enough. How is UNC able to recruit lower scoring athletes than us is beyond me...staggering.

Shaking has a better take on this than me, so go read their post here. I too am upset that we didnt even offer the JUCO but that better mean we have a LB nailed down, like silent commit style. How can Steele be ok with this when LB is obviously the gaping hole in the D? One LB recruit wont cut it...I think Jeff Scott is a much weaker recruiting coordinator than Napier was. Its true that this year was going to be tough with Byrnes and other recruits but I'm not happy with what needed to be a bigger year. If JK Jay cant come back from injury to give some depth next year, and if Cloy doesnt return to form, bringing in only 2 lineman last year and in 2005?? looks really stupid. At least DeAndre Hopkins looks awesome--I am hoping he and Bryant can come in and contribute with Bryce McNeal--flush out or at least challenge the Marquan Jones and Brandon Clears who cant catch balls, run routes, or create seperation.

Yeah and BBall recruiting isnt looking much better...thankfully this years class is good enough to let Purnell sit on his hands for a couple years at least. Come on Dabo!!! Where is the closing spirit--get Jeff Scott to call up that list of all top one hundred recruits. Jeff Scott dont become your father...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

College of Charleston Reaction

That was the game I have been waiting for from these tigers. Jerai Grant had easily his best game of the season--when he is a force inside, this team is a premiere team. If we have Grant as a solid contributor in ACC play we can beat NC and Duke but without him we are too soft on the inside for my liking. I really liked adding Johnson to the starting line-up over Potter. Potter is a better value as a sixth man, giving more opportunity for future players with higher ceilings to emerge.

I am impressed with Devin Booker's poise on the block and in the paint. He is a big man, not trying to do too much, just smooth down low. I said in the offseason that Hill is going to be good and we saw a glimpse of that tonight. He plays good defense and just knows how to score points. Jennings had another solid game, which is key--we need him to build his confidence. We looked sharp on defense and ran some good set plays. We still need to work on the rebounding bc we will suffer against bigger stronger opponents going forward. Western Carolina beat Louisville so this will be another good test for us gearing up to play Duke. Last I think its really important that Stitt plays with confidence. When he is driving and hitting shots, when Grant is dunking, and Booker is taking it to the hoop this is easily a Sweet 16 team. Add in some supporting/outstanding freshman play and you have an ACC contender, final four possibility.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

On Loving/Hating Tanner Smith

First off this post is not going to be popular--I know that, but I think its a good debate to have so here it is. I have a love/hate relationship with Tanner. On the message boards and in the blogs there is a general love that follows Mr. Smith. Now I dont think he is a bad player, I'm just not sold yet, and its a debate that is pivotal to the complexion, the demeanor that the team develops going forward.

So Smith is loved because:
  • he hustles and gets to those loose balls
  • he is the great white hype
  • he is a team leader and team player
  • Hitting above 80% from FT line, getting a lot of steals
  • he is a go-to guy on offense
Wait what? He is a go to guy on offense? A compliment to Booker right? Here is where I have a problem--I love Tanner as a glue guy, the hustle guy that makes everything work--not as a go to guy. I also dont mind if he is a guy who helps fill in for Oglesby by hitting three point shots but that hasnt been working out lately. Potter and Smith are both struggling to be a complimentary piece but are perhaps playing out of their roles. Potter rode his early hot streak but now is taking a ton of bad shots. What Smith has become is this slasher, scorer for the team?

Let me first list my reasons for not loving (obviously this is too critical, every player has flaws, but with Smith becoming a go-to guy, I think it deserves deeper inspection)
  • he makes bad passes--I counted about ten possessions in the ECU game where Smith made a bad pass that was a turnover or resulted in the other player committing a turnover. He makes some good passes--great assists but he has this tendency to revert to his Freshman mistakes and throw these stupid little passes out of the flow of the offense. One was a bullet to Young who was like two feet away, no one around, for no reason??
  • Related to the first point, on the break he is not a great finisher. Too many times this year I have seen Tanner hustle to the ball, charge down the court and make a poor decision. He throws it away, doesnt make the best pass, and takes much more difficult shots than needed. He has trouble finishing around the basket and I think its because he lacks top end athleticism.
  • Rebounding: Yes, he gets to loose balls and makes hustle plays but he gets caught (along with the rest of the Clemson team) flat footed trying to rebound. This is true for all the freshman, especially Jennings. We are getting beaten to rebounds and left staring at the ball because we arent elevating on to rebound. Tanner doesnt block out particularly well either, which we need from our three position.
  • His defense is good but again he doesnt play above the rim much.
  • 3-point shooting has been disappointing, only 32%--needs to be closer to 38-40 to be a legit threat deep.
I realize that this is a lot of ranting but I am worried that against superior athletic ability, Tanner will struggle and force some drives and turnovers like he did in the A&M and Illinois game, that the discrepancy between his talent and what he makes up for in hustle will be magnified. I like Tanner right now, but I love him as a glue guy. Cut down on the turnovers, improve the strength on rebounding, and finish at the basket. Thats what I am looking for heading into ACC play from Tanner. (Is the real reason why everyone likes him is cause he is white, unfulfilled basketball wish fantasies? Well I guess there is that whole thing about him being a good, selfless person too...)

Last bit of ranting, Narcisse has surprised me. When Purnell gave him that scholie I thought it was a total waste and he is not. He has some great leaping ability, long arms for the press and some tools to work on. What keeps him out of the line-up and should continue to do so is his lack of body control. Its one of those intrinsic qualities needed for basketball, a kind of body balance. Narcisse completely lacks a level of fluidity which makes his ball handling in particular but also his passing and sometimes shooting ugly. So while he can fly out of the gym, he will do things like jump way too early, give the ball away right after he has stolen it and generally spaz out from time to time.

These are kinks and growing pains that can be worked out of his game but at 6'6 he is not going to play the 4 unless he gains some serious muscle mass, and cant play the 2 bc of the poor ballhandling, shooting--so he is a 3 but lacks a great jumper or the ability to consistently create off the dribble. He is another athletic hustle guy who could try to develop into something more (to his credit you can see him trying to develop a three point shot). Its a question of whether you spend that developing time on him or someone like Milton Jennings (5* with height, a supposedly beautiful stroke that we havent seen yet and all the tools to land in the NBA) who finally had a good game in his limited minutes against ECU. Thats why I support Purnell in his choice to give Narcisse less playing time. Grant has taken a step backward in his progression, and we will need him much more than Narcisse in ACC play. Worry about why his minutes are decreasing...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Dan Brooks, Best Hire of the Year

I like Harbison and Steele but I got to say the best hire of the year so far for me has been Dan Brooks. He is a monster on the recruiting trail and I think he is someone you can trust to evaluate and develop talent along the defensive line. At the beginning to the year we were talking about how thin we were on the inside but by the end of the year we were getting help from Chavis, Moore, Cumbie, to complement the play of Jenkins and Thompson.

So we just landed Tra Thomas who is a three star DLineman but another solid pick-up. With the addition of Watson and hopefully Gibson, this class is shaping up nicely and I think that we are going to land Ethan Farmer, just cause Brooks is that good. The class of 2011 already seems solid, so recruiting is going well. The only missing piece, especially with Jake Nicolopulous tragic circumstances (we are all hoping for the best), is help at Linebacker. Landing Parker makes us that much better next year. Maye is average, Conner gone, Willard may help next year along with Hawkins, but Scotty Cooper has to be the biggest disappointment for me at linebacker. Those knee problems have hurt his career. I am sick of waiting till next year for a good Linebacker.

So we have to lock down Vic Beasley but it seems the rest of the class is pretty set. I see us pulling off a few more fireworks here at the end. I think our staff is hungry for some talent and putting in some extra effort to get it. Pearman is earning his stripes getting Watson and hopefully Gibson. Also I think that the loss of Wolford hurts SC more than anyone is saying. He was their best recruiter and was breathing some new enthusiasm and life into that program along with Ellis Johnson. Glad he left.

Geographically we are doing better this year in Georgia but arent pulling anything out of Florida like in years past--I think that is because Swinney is unable to work his magic, but I am looking forward to him closing strong. I think our in home visits are going to get us four more solid recruits. Look for Farmer, Max Garcia, White, Parker and possibly Woestmann down the homestretch. Not a spectacular year but a solid one if these coaches can be trusted with their talent evals over some of the star ratings.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Got to love Recruiting

So here is where Dabo and company prove their metal. I always thought one of the major bonuses about hiring Dabo was that he was going to be a solid recruiter. If you can recruit then at least you have the talent to compete every year. I thought we did an adequate job salvaging the recruits last season but nothing spectacular. But after a year in place, I want to see some home runs this year.

Dabo has a staff that has a proven track record of recruiting talent. Napier was an excellent recruiting coordinator. Fat Brad for all his flaws does have good connections in-state but I'm not sure how important that really is in modern college football. Its important but not paramount. His son is the recruiting coordinator and so far I have not been particularly impressed.

We have failed on a lot of in-state backyard talent this year and that never sits well with me. Byrnes has been a disaster and we are paying for screwing up Lattimore's recruitment. Somebody made somebody angry, blah blah blah. We lost Miller, Willis, and Lattimore. So Davis needs to prove himself to me somewhat and land some big fish. Steele, Brooks, and Harbison are all solid if not special recruiters who take the job seriously so I am expecting big things. I am interested to see how Pearman does, he is in charge of recruiting some O-Line talent we desperately need.

Right now it seems like we are going to hold on to our 18 commits so far which is very good news. We have battled back against Georgia to secure Crawford and Beasley which is big. Darius Robinson is still flirting with Auburn but we should be able to hold out. This is good news because in recent years we have been subject to a great deal of poaching from other teams.

South Carolina is putting together another solid class unfortunately. We really want Mack to go somewhere else and Quarles almost jumped ship. If Lattimore goes somewhere else then I'm not too worried. Still cant believe we lost Gilmore and Holloman last year.

Our big battles now are with stealing Max Garcia away from Maryland despite a better journalism school?? Max--journalism is dead...come to Clemson. Also the battle for Justin Parker continues to rage, we led but not so much anymore...We need a big time LB and I dont want to wait another year. We have a shot with RB White and maybe Ethan Farmer (cross your fingers). Im hoping Dabo can be an insane closer for us and we can turn in a stellar class to get some momentum back in the program.

If not I think we need some hostesses. This is scary but really pure genius. Employing girls to shadow players on facebook, texting, go to some games and then leave them high and dry after they commit. Thats a UT Wild boy for yah...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Boycott The Gaylords Bowl

So we go from Orange Bowl to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. The ACC needs some restructuring. Usually the bogus system goes our way so we dont complain but as the Atlantic winner, this is absolute garbage and the ACC should step in and change it. No wonder we are getting such pathetic bowls in the future and have a TV deal with Raycom.

Swofford, you suck. Kentucky?? We are going to be unmotivated and probably lose the game. All you juniors, you cant go out like this--no one goes to the hear me!! Dec. 27th, I wont be there....

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Well Done Valiant Tigers

That was another heartbreaking chapter to my Clemson fandom. After we marched down the field and scored to go up 34-33 I thought we had them. When they overturned the call (well done Dabo), I thought we would have the magic. I thought all those blown fourth quarter drives would help us pull this one out. Spiller was amazing, Parker choked on some throws and the D just couldnt get that elusive turnover.

But I'm not going to rant, I said we would make it to the ACC Champs this year and lose. I was wearing orange colored glasses when I said that, shooting for the moon. You have to be happy with this season. I hope they invite CJ to the heisman ceremony, he deserves it over Tebow, McCoy looked awful and Ingram is a product of Alabama.

Well done valiant Tigers. Thank you seniors, its been an amazing four years....I'm going to go sulk in a closet for awhile...

Friday, 4 December 2009

ACC Championship Game

Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, 12/5, 8:00pm, Raymond James Stadium

Tigermax: If you would of told me at the beginning of the year that we would make it to the Championship game, I would have been overjoyed to the point of not caring much about the result of the game. There were just to many questions surrounding the team before the start of the season to realistically be that optimistic about our chances. But now that we've made it...I really want to win. 19 years has been too long for a team with the annual talent and dedicated fanbase of Clemson's. Also, in the event of a loss, for several reasons this isn't a situation where we can step back and say "well, there's always next year."

1) We've got a lot of talent graduating at key skill positions (RB, WR, TE, etc.). We could even lose Kyle Parker to the baseball draft (although personally I think its unlikely).
2) Despite marginal improvement this season, we still have the seemingly perpetual problems at LB and O-line, as well as an emerging problem in the WR corps.
3) Unfortunately, the coaches overseeing these positions lack experience or have spotty track records in coaxing improvement.
4) This is shaping up to be the second consecutive "down" recruiting year. Not bad years, necessarily, but its not like we have loads of game-ready talent knocking down the door right now.
5) The rotation of our schedule works against us next year. As long as we continue to have Wake, BC, and FSU as road games every other year, our odds of winning the division take a substantial hit in even years (while being significantly improved in odd years).

So its a definitely a stretch to think we can contend next season. Swinney and company may well be envisioning a two-year plan for contending in 2011, but we'll need to see emergence of some players in the interim to obtain the "serious contender" label. So I guess I'm saying that the talent on this year's squad is almost certain to be superior to next year--I just never thought we'd put it together enough to make a run at the championship.

So what about Georgia Tech? I definitely think we are the underdog; I have next to no confidence in our ability to stop Paul Johnson's ground attack. Our best shot for winning is to match GT blow for blow with our offense and hope to force a turnover or two. We can do this against Tech's defense. The problem is our margin for error turnover-wise is non-existent. Put the ball on the ground even once on Saturday and we could be in a hole too big to climb out of.

Clemben: So its taken me a week to get over the whole losing to your eternal rival thing. So our main problems--blown Oline and LB assignments. I also think our secondary has seen its performance fade towards the end of the season. I thought for the first time all season coach Steele made some bad calls and couldnt make any key adjustments. So what I am hoping for is an early Christmas present in the form of a slowed Josh Nesbitt. He sustained an ankle injury against Georgia. A guy can dream...

We can beat GT but I think they are better than us right now. I think we were the better talent at the beginning of the season but spotted them too many points. Let me rephrase that--the coaches spotted them too many points that game. Pretty much on offense the game revolves around Parker settling and keeping his mechanics, which means Landon Walker needs to have the game of his life against the #8 rated prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.'s bogus big draft board. Morgan must be double teamed. Its tough though bc Palmer is our best WR.

Speaking of Palmer, I want more of those TE screens and misdirection plays we saw earlier in the turn around--no third and bubbles!!! We arent getting Spiller in space anymore which has been really disappointing. Spiller, Ford, and Palmer should be enough to beat GT offensively. How about another fullback dive this game? Designed Parker run or two?

I also think this game will be about how healthy Daquan Bowers is. He played slow the past couple games and it hurt us--he needs some super healing powers like the other bookend Sapp. He wasnt supposed to be ready till the fourth game?? Thats a month ahead of recovery time, thats really two months bc of camp and august drills he participated in...insane...

Anywho--I wanted to be more excited since this is the biggest game in almost 20 yrs but my heart isnt in it yet. Got to make one last pitcher of orange kool-aid for the year!! Come on Tigers!! I like Dr. Pepper so that is an encouraging sign...makes no sense I know, but I'm just going with it...

Clemson Surge!! Thats it the Clemson Surge takes the Dr. Pepper Champs...We can call it the All In, All Orange Bowl...haha...Oh and remember, after a yellow jacket stings you and loses its stinger its dead, right? So GT is already dead...just keep on keepin on...

Go Tigers!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Poor End Game Execution

This team needs to get it together. Last three posessions--Stitt an early Booker tough, next Potter cant pass it to a Booker with position (when will this team learn to pass the ball??) so he makes a weak drive that gets blocked--ugly. Granted that the late whistle on the opposite end where Booker had position was a horrible call. And then to top it off, Stitt jogs down the court and we dont have time for a putback.

That Narcisse turnover killed us. That Potter turnover killed us. We need to shoot better at the FT line and not give up 23 point leads. When Booker is on the block all you need to do is fake a lob and throw it around your defender--take a dribble, perhaps, and then pass it in with a clear lane. A bounce pass works well...

That loss hurts what momentum we had from beating Butler and really helps the Big Ten. How the Big Ten is the best conference in America is still beyond me--I do like this tourney bc it shows that they aint that great. We should do it in football to get more wins...


Have you ever seen a game turn on a dime like this?

--Brad Nessler, midway through second half of Illinois game

Yes, Brad, I'm a Clemson Tiger Basketball fan.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Illinois Preview

ACC-Big10 Challenge, Illinois vs. Clemson, Dec. 2, 7:15pm, Littlejohn

As I wrote in the last post, Clemson is in the midst of a crucial five game stretch. After Illinois on Wednesday and South Carolina on Sunday, there are exactly zero non-conference games that will catch the attention of the selection committee come March. We can always hope that a team like Long Beach State or, I don't know, Western Carolina get hot and convincingly win their conference but the odds against that appear pretty long at the moment. That's why the win against Butler was so important, the next two games are no longer essential for resume-padding.

That being said, the next two games are both winnable games for Tigers. I probably won't have time to squeeze in a post about South Carolina between the ACC Championship Game and Sunday, but let me just say something right now: thank you, Oliver Purnelll, for amassing a 5-1 record against the Gamecocks. Lord knows I have trouble sleeping some nights knowing I might die with Clemson trailing the overall series in one of the three main sports (of course we have historically dominated football and baseball) but through your efforts, Mr. Purnell, I can rest a little easier. Still trailing 86-73, though, so please, please keep up the good work.

Back to Illinois and the ACC-Big Ten "challenge". Fun fact: since it's inception in 1999, the ACC has yet to lose this competition, compiling a 62-35 overall record. But it's still fun to hear ESPN hype every year as the year the Big10 will once again become the best league in the country. On a related note Clemson is 8-2 in the challenge while Illinois has managed a 3-7 mark. That pretty much tells the story in a small capsule right there, because while Clemson has never been viewed as an ACC powerhouse, Illinois has often been right around the top of the class in the Big10. This is also a rematch of last year's pretty memorable game at Illinois, which saw Clemson eke out a victory in a seesaw match, ultimately winning after the Illini couldn't get a shot off in the final seconds.

The early returns for Bruce Weber's Illinois team this year have not been kind. After destroying four paperweights, they are coming off back-to-back losses against Utah and Bradley. Its too early to say how good those teams are, but Utah did manage to lose to Seattle University. (Yes, that's right, Seattle apparently has their own University (not Washington University) and their own Division I basketball team with no conference affiliation. They are going around this year and providing filler relief to teams from various conferences across the country whenever its convenient for their schedule. Kind of like Notre Dame in football.) Anyways, once again back to Illinois. Still extrapolating from small sample sizes, but Illinois seems to be struggling quite a bit on defense. They've been holding teams to a reasonable FG%, although teams haven't been shooting the three much against them, but they've really struggled to force turnovers. That would be good news for Clemson, if we weren't so adept at handing the ball over to the other team with out any help. On offense, the bad news for Clemson is Illinois has done a tremendous job of not turning the ball over. On the other hand, they haven't shot the ball particularly well, particularly from beyond the arc.

As for Clemson, after the 76 Classic we are seeing some troubling trends emerge. First, poor guard play, specifically the inability of either Stitt, Smith, or Young to hang onto the ball. While this is par for the course for Stitt and Smith, I'm really disappointed thus far in Young. Additionally, we've really been giving up a lot of trips to the foul line, most since 2006. And we're still hovering around 64.6% from the line, in spite of Stitt's heroics.

The good news is that despite the fact we've looked lost in the halfcourt set for stretches at a time, we're still shooting a decent effective FG% (54.7%). I think this really underscores what we've said since the season preview--this team is a work in progress. Give the youngsters time to adjust to the system, we should get quite a bit better. Hopefully we don't need the improvement to take out Illinois and South Carolina at home and as long as Illinois doesn't come out shooting extremely well from the field (reversing their performance from the last two games), I think we've got a good chance to continue our recent run of success against the Big10.

A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.