Ed McGranahan covers the Tigers everyday for the Greenville News, the Clemson area's top newspaper. He joins us today for some in-depth answers about the team that'll try to make it four in a row against the Noles.
Why did Dabo Sweeney, who apparently had little experience calling plays, tap TE Coach Billy Napier as his offensive coord., instead of the more experienced Brad Scott, who'd been FSU's O.C. in the dynasty days and later a head coach?
First, understand that Dabo has ideas about how an offense should be schemed. Tommy promoted him to assistant head coach last year with the idea that if Rob Spence left – he was being courted by both pro and college teams at the time – Dabo would become the offensive coordinator.
One of the first things he did was to dust off the three-point stance for the offensive line, and with such a young, inexperienced group of players he needed Brad Scott to continue coaching them. Scott recruited every one of them and has created a family within the family.
Dabo needed a quarterbacks coach and Billy, a record-setting quarterback and former Walter Payton finalist on very good Furman teams, was the most likely suspect. He spent a year at S.C. State in the job.
Dabo also needed someone calling plays from the box with whom he connected. Dabo said they’re in perfect sync. Wrote a story about that for today’s paper on greenvilleonline.com.
Having Spiller, Davis, Kelly, Grisham and Ford are a luxury they have tried to exploit, as evidenced by Spiller’s big day at Boston College, but play calling is about feel and rhythm. I watched every game in Spence’s time at Clemson and never felt the beat. Either Spence was calling Thelonious Monk and I was listening for Miles Davis or the guy was on another plane. Even the players occasionally – but oh, so respectfully – wondered, too.
Napier makes the calls from the box and Dabo has veto power. Billy says Dabo trumped him only “three or four” times in the Georgia Tech game. At BC there wasn’t a number, but Billy said they used on the plays on their call sheet – plays they practiced for the game with Harper at QB – repeated a few, some more than once, then pulled out a couple they hadn’t practiced.
How has Clemson's defense evolved since the Bama blowout to now be one of the tops in the ACC?
Coming into the season there were three givens. The line was deep and talented with the potential of bringing pressure. The linebackers, virtually novices, were quick and salty but prone to mistakes. The secondary experienced, capable though thin at safety.
Losing senior tackle Rashaad Jackson before the season was a big blow because alongside Dorell Scott he had the capability of creating a lot of havoc from the heart of the defense. That kind of push could set up a potentially dangerous rush from the edge while taking some pressure off three new linebackers.
If you go back and look at Alabama, field position killed them in the first half. Then, after Spiller returned the opening kickoff of the second half, Alabama had two drives that consumed more than 15 minutes.
I just think they badly underestimated Alabama – but who among us didn’t. (Continued)
Subsequently they’ve been really good most of the time but prone to mistakes at the most costly points of a game. If they stop a reverse they knew was coming in the Maryland game, they win. If they stuff a third-and-long late in the Wake Forest game, they win. If they don’t guess wrong on two plays against Georgia Tech, they.
The first two losses, one might argue, cost Tommy the job. The Georgia Tech game was pretty remarkable given the circumstances of the week. And the defense made a couple of big plays at BC to clinch that game.
Has Cullen Harper regained the confidence he had last season, and will he start over Willy Korn?
Cullen never lost confidence, but he may have lost some of the confidence his coaches had in him. From what we know for sure, part of Cullen’s problem was a separated right shoulder (Alabama) and fractured left shoulder (N.C. State) which made it hard for him to conduct business.
His throws were – are – not always on point, but during the first half of the season lacked zip. Occasionally he’d wind up and throw a dart, but it appeared forced and wasn’t frequent enough to think he was healthy.
Billy Napier said this week he thought Cullen might have forgotten what got him the starting job last season, that he needed to be a blue-collar player with a chip on his shoulder (absolutely no pun intended. Billy don’t do puns).
What I know for sure is that when Tommy named Willy Korn the starter it created a rift in the team because Cullen has a deep, solid following. He and Michael Hamlin were voted co-captains last season. Korn’s injury re-opened the door for him and Cullen has that look again of a guy on a mission but with five interceptions in two games he’s got to play make better decisions. He admitted to forcing all three picks in last week’s game, which is a good sign. In the past he might have made excuses.
Has Korn fully recovered from his shoulder injury? If so, will he have a role on Saturday?
Korn has his best throwing day in practice Wednesday. After staying after practice Tuesday for extra throwing he told me he’s near 100 percent. For BC they’d installed an option package for him, but if he can’t at least hit the intermediate routes he’s not a good enough runner to help them much.