Friday, October 21, 2011

Clemson Tigers, 7-0

The jury is still out on Clemson football (7-0) this year.  Lots of people around the country are talking about a national title, and it's my personal belief that you don't talk about that kind of things until 10 wins are in the books.  It feels different than others I've experienced (I just moved back to Chattanooga after spending 10 years in Clemson), but with Clemson, you never know.  The defining characteristic in both the football and basketball programs for the majority of the seasons I witnessed has been inconsistency. Basketball wins vs North Carolina followed by losses by bottom ranked Florida State and football wins against top ranked Miami followed by losses to Duke.  The talent has been there, but for whatever reason the teams can't pull it together on a regular basis.  I'm always nervous about jinxing Clemson, but here are my thoughts on Clemson Football as it stands now, and why I think that this year *might* be different.

Chad Morris - I am 100% convinced that the single most important precipitant in Clemson's success this year is Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris.  Not only has he brought a new offense to the program, but he's implemented it in such a way that technique and discipline on the field have improved.  He hasn't overwhelmed his players and focuses on execution. The way he is introducing his playbook the players have time to learn and be comfortable, and teams are surprised each week as new layers and folds are added.  I also really like his attitude.  He's tough and all business.  When asked about how tough he is on his players he has said "I don't need any more 20 year old friends" and if my memory serves me correct also something to the effect of  'this is not the first time I've yelled at a team, and it won't be the last.'  I feel like he is giving this team the tools it needs to be better football players, pushing them,  and expecting them to make it happen.  I like it. A lot.

Receivers and backs - I grew up an SEC fan, and I appreciate a good hard hitting running game.  For me something that separates the men from the boys in football is yards after hit, or yards after contact. The ACC is more of a passing conference, and in past years Clemson has been weak in the yards after contact category.  Don't get me wrong, there have been a few standout players, and maneuverability has been a strength in many Clemson players. But an area where I see an across the board improvement on Clemson's offense is the guy with the ball tucking his shoulder, making a hit rather than just taking a hit, and trying to break a tackle for extra yardage. I like it.

Adjustments - A strength in this coaching staff and this team lies in the ability to adjust the game plan, and make corrections.  The first two games this year Clemson played sloppy and ineffective first halves, but were able to make great corrections and adjustments at halftime.  As this season has progressed we've seen good adjustments in the 2nd quarter and after halftime.  Clemson has not been able to do this in season's past, and I give the staff and the players kudos for this.

Every game is a big game - Clemson has always been able to get up for the big game.  They've exceeded expectations when they're up against quality opponents.  It's great to have a team that plays to the level of the competition when the opponent is nationally ranked, not so much when it's Duke.  **So far** this year, Clemson has played every game like it's a big game, and that each win is important.  I'd like to see them come out stronger to start a game, but they have settled down each time and played every game like it's the most important game of the year. I've also never seen the fans get so excited for a road game at Maryland, or a home game against un-ranked UNC.

Sammy Watkins - The great thing about this team is there are a lot of play makers.Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen are all fantastic.  I believe that by the end of the year Mike Bellamy is going to be a true freshman standout.  And then there is Sammy Watkins.  I'm convinced that there was a moment in the 2nd half of the Maryland game when Clemson was down and he said to himself 'We need to win this game, and I'm going to make it happen.' And then he did. He doesn't do it alone; he's had some great blocks.  What impresses me even more than his speed, hands & size (all amazing by the way) is his vision and communication skills.  This is a true freshman that came in and studied the offense this summer with his upperclassman QB.  He knows the game, and is able to communicate what he sees on the field to his coaches and the other players in a way that directly translates to points.  This kid is special, has his goals set high, and I'm pretty sure he's not going to let anyone on a football field stop him from making his dreams come true.  He will do what is necessary to out run, out catch, and out smart anyone he lines up against.  His talent, work ethic, and immediate impact on the field is why we (and thanks to ESPN, everyone else) have taken notice of Sammy Watkins.  Tweets like these are why Clemson fans have fallen in love with him, and cheer for him on Saturdays.


*Images from,, Orlando Sentinel online, and the Sammy Watkins for Heisman Facebook Page.

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