Friday, 30 September 2011

Beamer Balling

I still have nightmares of playing Virginia Tech in 2006, 2007.  It soured me on the all white road uni's and made my disdain for all purple Grimace colors very high.  I have the most respect for VTech as a program in the ACC.  I don't know how they lose to no name teams every year but that fact only has me more worried about this game.

I have been absolutely giddy after the FSU game and haven't been able to do anything other than consume all Clemson info but there has been this unspoken dread as VTech has approached. Post-FSU I was cautiously optimistic but now just cautious.  VT blew up our 2006 and 2007 seasons--we fell apart after these games and I don't want that to happen this year.  I have always had this game as a big L since its been on the schedule. I thought we would beat Auburn and FSU (just bc of Death Valley) but lose to VT because it is one the road at Lane Stadium. It makes it worse that it is a night game. The problem is that we know so little about VTech this year.  I don't know if VT knows exactly what they have.

As Auburn found out--early game play is not exactly representative of overall talent levels.  We were holding back against Wofford so how much has VTech been holding back?

How injured are some of the VT players?  How bad is that Logan Thomas (VT QB) non-throwing shoulder?  He appeared to jam it so bad that he could only hand off with one arm at the end of the game last week.  Initially I thought we were going to have the greatest QB injury luck of all-time.  The reason this matters is because if the shoulder is really bad then VT is less likely to run much zone read and designed QB runs.  Thomas is not elusive but Clemson sucks against running QB's (remember when Maryland's dirt slow QB ran all over us in 2009? Any Dalton TCU?), and it doesn't take much talent to make that happen.  Thomas has the 6' 6" frame and is a decent straight line runner. Something to watch.

Speaking of running VT has #4 Wilson and #2 Oglesby who are both plus runners.  They aren't exactly bruising punishing runners but Wilson, in particular, has a good burst.  They can get to the edge and run up the gut.  We haven't been particularly good at stopping either. I don't think FSU is any barometer for claiming we have improved our running D. FSU hasn't been able to run on us for years and Jimbo simply abandoned it last week.

VT receivers have been decent but it remains to be seen how good they will be against elevated competition.  We also don't know which will be playing due to injuries but none are world beaters. However, FSU carved up our inconsistent secondary.  We have some young talent and supposedly veteran CB's but too many instances of soft coverage against average talent.  With Hall missing a step and Meeks being sub-par in pass coverage we are always going to be somewhat vulnerable to the play action bomb.

On defense they are solid but haven't put all the pieces together yet.  There second strings suck but they won't play much at all in the Clemson game.  The question becomes whether or not we can wear down that first team D.  Also Boyd has to be more careful and accurate with the ball.  There were three-four passes that easily could have been picked off by FSU.  One where Dwayne Allen bailed him out, the tipped ball, a Brown catch and the first pass of the game.

Something that I wanted to post on after the FSU game was how the Tajh to Werner connection was scary.  After it happened I felt like I was watching a Bowden/Swinney team.  You know, the uber talented team that was weak mentally and prone to making stupid, give the game away errors.  I found myself sliding into a defeatist Clemson fan attitude of--well here it comes, I knew this would happen, we suck mentality.  The next drive where Boyd was rattled was tough to watch but I was impressed with how he pulled it together.  I think that this is Morris's influence.

Hosley is the man and VT will not drop int's so Boyd must be sharp. They will also send pressure that our O-Line hasn't been great at picking up.  Last week it was partly Morris's scheme that helped with protection--misdirection and getting the ball out early.  Lets hope that continues.  The O-Line played well compared to what we thought we had after Wofford.  I think Thomas has played pretty well.  When Smith gets more healthy I would like to hear talk of him pushing McLain for playing time or for his starting job.

This sounds so cliche but this game will come down to turnovers and special teams.  Last time we played VT scored on a punt return, kick return, and a pick 6.  The defense played ok in that game but we spotted them 21 points.  We can't do that in this game.  Beamer ball is talked about too much but they do try to consistently score off of special teams and turnovers.  Our coverage and kick units all struggled this past week.  We need Crapanzaro to show that he has improved and be able to kick on the road.  The sample size is small so far this year to call for a change but he has missed too many xp's and fg's already in his career for my liking. The FSU kicker is amazing and all I want is someone who is perfect on xp's and from within the 40 hits 90-95% of the kicks.  My standards have become that low.  VT has struggled at punter and have an unproven kicker. They are good at blocking punts though.

We need to get up early so we can force VT to pass more than they would like.  If we can stop the run then we can win this game.  If not we are going to be relying on our offense to again put up big numbers on the best defense we will face the rest of the year. UNC and the Cocks in a close second and third.

This is the game that pushes you toward greatness.  A 5-0 team that has beaten three ranked opponents is big time.  No one will be able to say, well you played them injured or x team wasn't as good.  5-0 is 5-0 and two top 15 wins is big time college football.  Also remember to tell anyone that Clemson had the toughest schedule in the nation going into the first game.  Looking at the currently undefeated teams only LSU has an arguably tougher schedule.  Most teams now play 4 cupcake OOC games.  So if we win will be in the top ten, maybe ranked as high as seventh in the country.  Then it would be about having no letdowns and taking care of GT and UNC (at home). 

The question is how far can Boyd, through the Morris offense, carry us and how much can the defense improve. I will be interested to see how the extra linebacker playing in the 4-3 rather than the nickel will help our run D.  I think one of the keys to the rest of the season is how good Anthony and Steward turn out to be.  If one of them emerges as a dominant Mike or Will then the defense will be improve drastically.

Here is to shaking the Lane Stadium Hokie demons of the past!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Fat Boy to Phat Boy

There are a ton of things I want to post about and I am seeing the world in all shades of orange.  I must post about the Macho Man Dabo soon.  You got to believe, you got greatness in you, Oh yeeeah...Dabo Flair on national television.  Waaahooo...I have to shake my head and laugh at what an embarrassment that truly is, I mean act like you've been there before, but I was just as jacked up about winning.  Maybe we need a cheerleader who hoots and hollars.

Anyway, I had to quickly comment on Tajh Boyd.  In the few times I have written since checking out of writing about Clemson I have been very critical of Tajh.  He was pretty much amazing on Saturday.  I just read a piece where Dwayne Allen, who also played spectacularly Saturday, said last year Boyd weighed over 240 pounds.  As an aside Chad Morris has got some strategery to him--Allen was being saved in the first two games.  The gameplan went through Allen, Watkins, and Nuk in the air.  A lesser offensive coordinator like Spence wouldn't have been flexible enough to integrate Allen into his system.  Chad Morris may save Clemson football single handed.

So Boyd weighed over 240 with Jamie Harper.  Who was held accountable for that?  Sure the player needs to be, and that shows a lack of dedication and commitment from Boyd but seriously.  I guy gains twenty-thirty pounds and starts getting called Fat Boy by teammates and no one on the coaching staff picks up on it or does anything?  That is a change in uniform size!  This has to be partially on Bateson and Napier but is really a larger problem of not cultivating a culture of responsibility from players, coaches, staff and administrators.  Back-ups and scout team players are being groomed to be players and I think red-shirts are often wasted at Clemson.  Players get fatter, don't learn the offense or defense well enough and become complacent.  Is this the kind of thing a Woody McCorvey type of staff member should be on the look-out for and not let happen? 

Boyd wasn't ready to be QB in the Spring because he was too heavy.  That hurt his footwork which throws off or changes mechanics.  That was why I kind of laughed at the dual-threat talk--I thought he was more a fullback than a QB.  I still would like him to drop another ten pounds to add a bit more speed but if its muscle now you can't argue with a little bit of durability.  If Boyd gets injured we are in serious trouble.  At least our back-up doesn't look like an eighth grader who weighs 170 pounds.  If I'm EJ Manuel I am pissed off at Jimbo.

Boyd was great! I didn't think he had that in him.  The only bad things were that he forced it a couple of times but when you have receivers with the hands of Nuke and Watkins you can afford to do that. Allen made some amazing grabs as well, so much different from the guy who dropped some easy balls last year. That TD catch was a pleasure to watch. We really picked up the blitzing better and Boyd had plenty of time.  Auburn didn't do all that much up front because of their own youth so we will probably take some more lumps here, but it was night and day compared to Wofford.  Boyd ran well on some broken plays and showed a positive confidence and Leadership! that I didn't know he had in him. We can't get overconfident but if I had to pick between a lack of confidence with no way to ever find said confidence and overconfidence, its not that bad a problem to have.  I am now firmly on the Boyd 'Phat Boy' Bandwagon.  Yes I just went there with the 'Ph'.

We need Boyd to stay healthy and in-shape, the latter not being a problem with drillmaster Chad Morris at the helm.  I love his attitude of telling his offensive team that they may not like him but they will be better for it (which must be some kind of reference to how Dabo must need that kind of reciprocal love or something, I don't know).  I just hope Dabo doesn't start 'coaching' again.  Anytime he makes a call, of any kind, it ends with something poorly executed (like the fake), or everyone yelling at each other.  I thought Bowden was a bad end game coach but Dabo must be worse--his record in close games certainly is.  I am hoping that Morris will be in total control of the offense all of the time and am not too worried about the end game because we already are constantly in a hurry-up offense.  Why does Dabo scribble things down??  That is why the invention of tape recorders was a big deal.  I think my high school had a group of 'stats girls' who did that job.

Hey its a new paragraph, how about another random tangent--how scary good were Meyer and Speilman breaking down game footage.  I was scared that that opposing defensive coordinators would use what they were saying.  That was the gold standard for breaking down footage in real-time.  I felt like a football guru just by listening to them.  But I thought Speilman got one thing wrong--he said in the fourth that he would slow the game down.  I think he was dead wrong.  That is how you let a team back into the game.  The offense is designed to wear down the defense so that they can take it to you in the fourth and add those points to the scoreboard.  If you slow it down, they catch their breath and you are two possessions away from defeat.  Best to have your foot on the gas until the three or four minute mark--which is what Morris did beautifully.
Its been ten years since we had a competent offensive mind who could make in-game adjustments.  FSU looks vulnerable and the game may hinge on the health of EJ Manuel's shoulder. Or it may hinge on the Clemson offense running down the throat of the FSU defense, while Chad Morris simultaneously stomps that same throat with the back heel of his Texas boot.  Yes, you heard it here first--our offense is turning into beast mode this Saturday, Woohoo!  Woohoo! (Ric Flair sounds) Then Dabo Hogan rips his breakaway shirt, brother.  He is one part preacher, another part pro wrestler but 100% salesman cheerleader coach.  Go Dabo! Go Tigers!

PS. The Pac-10 used to suck and still does but they potentially get Oklahoma and Texas and we get Pitt and Syracuse??  You know BC isn't exactly working out for us right? Oh and Barker, you genius, thanks for voting for the 20 million dollar exit fee...Which Big East teams are in the top 25--the ones we didn't pick to join the ACC. 


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Orange Marshmallows

Yeah I thought I was pretty much done posting.  I thought my time for rants and raves would be up.  I was going to post in the Spring about how bad we looked but Morris beat me to the punch.  I was going to post in the fall about my doubts about Tajh as a runner, leader, and hard enough worker but he seemed to have an excellent fall camp. 

I thought that Troy was a good team and that the first half jitters could be accounted to first game, freshman stuff.  Yesterday has got me back in vomit mode.  I was laughing watching the game yesterday.  I was laughing at how soft we have become and I remembered that I used to laugh like this about the cluckers...

It wasn't until I heard Dabo in his post-game comments that I went from lethargic and depressed to upset and motivated to actually blog.  Yes, I want to be that vocal 5% duck, clucking about what is wrong with our head cheerleader when he acts incompetent and what is wrong with our program (his media talk today was less upbeat than what he said post-game, however, so I will give him that).  Once we win at least an ACC Championship I have every right to wail and moan as loud as I want.  Especially when South Carolina is dominating us...(yeah I hate writing it but you need to 'man up' and admit when you are inferior) 

We have the recruiting talent, we have an overall good coaching staff now, we have a loyal fan base...

Here are my main concerns going forward.

1. We are soft.  The last time we hit really hard was the game against Auburn last year.  Since then it has been all orange marshmallows all the time.  After the first half against Troy some players were quoted as saying, oh no here we go again.  The Clemson mentality is weak.  Auburn feels like they can win no matter what--you can see it in their demeanor and how they act and perform.  Clemson doesn't really believe in itself. 

I don't honestly know if it is Batson or not hitting enough in practice but this has been a problem for at least ten years now.  Caldwell is the right coach but the players aren't responding as of now. Morris is saying the things I want to hear so we all can collectively hold our breath. 

2. The less Dabo coaching the better.  The fake punts and kicks and garbage were Dabo's calls.  He seriously can't help sticking his finger in and trying to change something.  He was scared on Saturday, dressed up to play army man, and I think it starts to rub off on a team.  I am not a Dabo hater per se, but the man needs to remember his strengths are not the whole coaching thing.  I'm always worried about his end game coaching for example.

3. Kicking game.  I have never had faith in Cat man (as opposed to Catwoman) as a legit kicker.  I will believe it when I see it.  I am willing to give him a chance since Benton is a waste of a scholarship as far as I am concerned (although he does tackle as well as our defense) and Lakip is the same untested freshman.  Zimmerman is the best punter since Chris Gardocki, and if you don't know that name you should look it up.

4. Tackling.  We have problems wrapping up. Its funny that we like to hit more than we like to tackle, but the hitting isn't sustained for four quarters.

5. Secondary.  Yes, I think this is more worrisome than the D-Line. With Hall out I am more worried about the busted assignments and blown coverages.  Breeland isn't turning any heads and I have little faith in Brewer and Sensabaugh as elite shutdown corners.  They can play zone but on an island I get worried.  Auburn is going to expose some of these flaws and we will be caught not covering someone wide open.  Gus Malz has his QB Trotter performing very well and far ahead where I thought he would be coming into the third game.

6. MacLain and the O-Line.  If we can't create some openings for Ellington then its going to be a long season.  He needs creases not holes and we can't do it for him.  MacLain has been pathetic, no way around it and that interior line must be solid for us to have a chance.  Can we go for a fourth down against the D-line of Auburn or South Carolina?  Have we even converted a third and short yet?? Again, at least Morris is aware and visibly upset about this.  These lines have grown up lazy because they had CJ and elite RB's that made up for their inability to blow people off the line. This is tied to point number one and unless changed will result in three straight losses.

7. Tajh.  I am not sold on Mr. Boyd yet.  I really hope he proves me wrong.  He is still inaccurate with some throws (throws to Hopkins in the flat) and throws it to the other team a couple of times. What I am really worried about is his ability to read defenses and pick up blitz's.  It is primarily the responsibility of the QB.  That comes with time but Auburn and especially FSU will eat him and the oline alive.  The defense just can't deliver wins for us this year.  Also what happens if he gets hurt? Could we win a game with Cole Stoudt?

This list is too long so I will digress into some bullet points and more random thoughts.

I hope you have been saving Mike Bellamy.  Even if you ran him for the same four plays to different sides I would be happy.  He is that quick that I doubt it would matter.  Ten touches a game please.  Even if he looks at you funny when you say the word protection he should be in there.  Also don't remove him from the return game.  He is faster than Watkins.  Watkins was good in the return game but I think Bellamy will be better.

I would like to see Hawkins lose his starting job to Anthony.  Hawkins plays tentatively and too far from action.  Watch a play against Wofford and you will see how slow he is to react.  He is not a bad player but this defense needs a game changer in the middle and I am hoping it is Anthony.

Anyone saying wait till next year is stupid--we have no Oline next year.  This is the year, its always the year.  If not, you sound like a delirious chicken.  Remember that... 

We have lost some serious in-state recruiting battles along the trenches and overall.  Clowney, Cann, Gilmore, Holloman, Lattimore, and the biggest recruit that has turned USC around--Alshon Jeffrey (who was taken from Southern Cal).  Now we didn't have a chance with most of these but it just shows the talent is there in our backyard to win natl championships.  Watching the coots is getting depressing.  They finally look like winners.

Watkins will be and already is special and Hopkins has amazing hands.  We will score points this season.

Ellington has looked gassed to me these first couple games.  He is not used to being the lone workhorse but it is great to see him used properly.  I think he is still trying to find that elite gear he had last year and I hope it comes this saturday.  Stone hands Hot Rod is not the answer at back-up.  Time for Bellamy and Howard. 

How many other schools miss as many xp's as we do?

Our D-line will be ok if no one gets injured.  Goodman and Crawford, Brown and Branch are all above average.  Thompson is elite when he wants to be and Moore is good.  Shatley showed me something this week and we need some other guys to step up.  We have time before GT and the need to play assignment football.  Disappointed in guys like Josh Watson and Barnes. 

Well I feel better already.  Yes I am being negative but its better than being a homer.  I just want to quit being embarrassed when I watch my tigers.  We fans invest a lot and we deserve some winning every twenty years...
A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.