We have a great Clemson site here on SB Nation called Shakin' the Southland, and FIGUREFOUR helped us out with an extended bowl edition of Bulls Recon. FF and I talk about Kyle Parker, Da'Quan Bowers, and whether or not we can get a third ACC coach fired in two years.
1. How scared should we be of Da'Quan Bowers? Does he have any sort of weakness, or is this Mario Williams circa 2005 all over again?
FF: Bowers is nothing short of a beast. He is an extremely special player who is one of the best in Clemson history. At 6’5" and 275 lbs, Bowers has a rare combination of both fantastic speed and strength. Bowers has the ability to run around a blocker or go right through him. It has been routine to see him simply manhandle the opposition over the past three seasons at Clemson, tossing offensive linemen and backs around like rag dolls. He really has not shown too many weaknesses this season.
Previous seasons saw Bowers take plays off and get himself out of position. He devoted the ‘10 off-season to becoming an elite football player. Da’Quan got himself into phenomenal shape and worked hard to understand the basics and his role at the end position. Bowers learned to play better fundamental football and avoided getting himself out of position by trying to do too much. The game seemed to come to him. His improved work ethic, athletic ability, and fundamental play turned him into a legit superstar, winning him this season’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
USF will have to account for Bowers on every play. He will require double-teams and attention from a running back in passing situations. I would expect your running backs to focus on AT LEAST getting a good chip on Bowers anytime they go into a route and expect that Todd Fitch will try to use some misdirection and screens to try to slow down the potential #1 draft pick.
2. You guys had a couple of great players in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford leave last season. Who has stepped up to replace them this year?
FF: Andre Ellington played well for us through the Boston College game. Andre is a back who has great vision, is very quick, and explodes through holes. Ellington, who was underutilized in our opinion, was Clemson’s biggest "home run hitter" on the year. In my opinion AE was every bit as good of a pure running back (not overall football player, but pure running back) as C.J. Spiller was last season.
Ellington suffered a ligament injury to his foot against BC and underwent surgery to correct this injury earlier this month. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he will not be available for the bowl game.
Clemson’s other back, Jamie Harper, has improved over the year. Harper has done a good job catching the football all season. Harper did not run especially hard and tended to dance around early in the year. Jamie did improve over the course of the season and had a couple nice games at the end of ACC play.
DeAndre Hopkins (Nuke) emerged as Clemson’s best receiver. The true freshman gained playing time as the season progressed. Nuke has some big plays for the Tigers and is a spectacular athlete. He has adjusted to the college game well so far and has a tremendous amount of upside. Hopkins also contributed in the return game this season and is a viable threat returning kicks/punts.
3. Kyle Parker was tabbed to have a big season this year, but it looked like he took a step back in his development. What happened?
FF: I think lack of off-season preparation is the start. Kyle’s baseball success was detrimental to his football career. Parker had a full year as a member of Clemson’s College World Series squad. This lengthened season, combined with extended contract negotiations with the Colorado Rockies, caused KP to miss some Spring drills as well as Summer "voluntary" workouts. Clemson has a relatively young group of wide receivers. The QB/WR relationship maturation would have been better developed with Parker in Clemson over the summer.
Next, our receiver play was, to be nice, poor early on, and Kyle was the victim of quite a few dropped passes. A quarterback’s confidence in his receivers plays an important role in any passing game. These drops may have caused KP to apply additional focus on his passes instead of just throwing the ball (some of his passes looked aimed, not thrown).
Additionally, Kyle got happy feet and repeatedly rolled out of the pocket for no apparent reason. Kyle is much more effective standing in the pocket and throwing the ball. KP often made poor decisions when he got out of the pocket, often forcing things or floating the ball over the middle of the field. Poor decisions that resulted in turnovers and stalled drives repeatedly hampered this offense when our receivers weren’t dropping the ball.
Finally, Clemson’s play calling needs improvement. Clemson could not get KP into sustained rhythms during games AND formations generally indicated Clemson’s play call. The Tigers’ tendency is to primarily throw the ball out of the shotgun, and run under center. Knowing this, a defense can accurately predict the play type regardless of down and distance by simply recognizing the formation. This obviously does not help the quarterback.
4. What should we expect from the Clemson defense? Is there anyone else other than Bowers that we should keep an eye on?
FF: Clemson has a really good defense, especially when you realize that the Tigers’ offense provided little help for the team this season. Clemson is really good up front. Bowers is the centerpiece of this unit but has a very good supporting cast. Both of Clemson’s DT’s (Brandon Thompson and Jarvis Jenkins) have played really well this season, with Jenkins being named first team All-ACC. The other ends (Goodman, Branch, and Brown) have all given CU quality snaps. I should note that Branch is versatile and played a good bit of linebacker against Georgia Tech’s option attack.
Clemson’s linebackers are the weak point of this defense. The Tigers are relatively thin here and Kevin Steele’s scheme is stressful for the backers. Clemson has improved its gap responsibilities and fundamental play this season but still has room for improvement out of this group.
Clemson’s secondary graduated two very experienced corners last year and have SR Marcus Gilchrist as starter on one side and Xavier Brewer/Byron Maxwell on the other. Clemson’s safety combination of first team All-American and 2010 All-ACC player DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall are a stout combination. This group has had a few mental mistakes over the course of the 2010 season, allowing Miami to have a big game through the air and several other opponents to get big yards on a couple coverage busts.
5. What in the world is going on with Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips? Can you give us a brief synopsis?
FF: Here is the short version of this tale: TDP has been the AD at Clemson just over eight years. In those eight years, Clemson has improved in some areas (particularly in facility upgrades) but has fallen short in the athletic department. This fall Clemson did not have an athletic team finish over .500 in ACC play. TDP was also involved in several contract extensions given to Tommy Bowden, including one following the 2007 season that involved a ridiculous buyout. Tommy was fired less than a year later and Clemson was stuck paying him lots of cash due to this poor negotiation on the administration’s part. TDP then put forth a farce of a coaching search that ended with Dabo Swinney being hired on the cheap. Additionally, Phillips has gained a reputation of dodging fundraising events. The combination of these concepts and a drought of championships (particularly out of the football team), put TDP on the hot seat.
Over a year ago the Clemson Board of Trustees began a study on TDP’s performance at Clemson. Earlier this fall, school President Jim Barker conducted his own survey within the athletic department. Everything we heard pointed to both parties agreeing that TDP should be relieved of his duties at Clemson. They further thought that there was just cause for termination. We have all heard that his lawyers (as well as TDP - also a lawyer himself) objected to the "with cause" portion as TDP would lose the balance of his contract because of this terminology. They quickly turned the situation on President Barker and his micromanagement of the department as objections to the "with cause" portion. That is where we stand now…an AD whose performance is being questioned by fans and the administration AND an administration/BOT that refuses to make a move, for whatever reason.
6. The last two ACC teams we've beaten have fired their coaches that same season. If Clemson lost, would Dabo get the axe?
FF: Dabo will get another year at Clemson. I do not believe that the Clemson Board of Trustees will allow TDP to select another coach at Clemson, hence Swinney gets another season. This is only CDS’s 2nd complete season AND this staff is set up for an excellent 2011 recruiting class. Both of these points will also keep Swinney around for another year assuming South Florida doesn’t put 60 up on the Tigers.
7. I'm a big food guy. Do you have any recommendations for places to eat while we are in the Queen City?
FF: Unfortunately, I am not too familiar with Charlotte. However, I have heard the Penguin is jam up for greasy food and cold beers. I have also heard of Bill Spoon’s BBQ as well as BBQ King for some Cue. Sorry about the lack of info, just not my neck of the woods.
8. Any predictions for the game?
FF: In the spirit of your Big East meets Vegas parlay challenge: It looks like both teams have struggled offensively in 2010. I really have no clue what to expect out of Clemson and our offensive staff. I’d take the under (saw it at 40 earlier today). I think that Clemson has more overall talent but USF has a distinct advantage in head coaching experience. Clemson should be able to pull this one out…SHOULD. I would predict a Clemson win but don’t think the Tigers will cover (CU -4).
Thanks again to FIGUREFOUR and Shakin' the Southland. If you'd like to follow STS on Twitter, you can do that here.
(Note from Voodoo: Bowl game protocol dictated I cram a Ben Folds song into this post, so I chose "Not the Same" because after they came down against Auburn and looked around, they were not the same after that.)
Not the Same- Ben Folds (via hpsnorlaxdirector)