Good evening from @HokieGuru. I’m here today to discuss the ACC spring football practice with each bloggers from each of the 12 Atlantic Coast Conference teams. What follows is our interview with @CUBOSCO on Clemson University football. @CUBOSCO, James Bostic, is a lifelong Tiger fan and 2005 graduate of Clemson currently residing in Virginia.
He is a current graduate student at Johns Hopkins and writes a Clemson blog called Tiger Times. Without further ado, here’s our interview below:
@HokieGuru: Tell us about your spring game – how was the turnout? Was the team well received?
@CUBOSCO: An estimated 25,000 people showed up for the Annual Orange-White Scrimmage at Death Valley. It was the first time Clemson fans were given a chance to get a glimpse of what life will be like on defense under the leadership of new Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables. It was also an chance for fans to get a taste of what Tiger fans can expect from the offensive side of the ball with a team returning lots of firepower at the skills positions. The shadow cast from the Orange Bowl debacle has loomed large from most outside of the program, while most returns coming out of spring ball is that the Orange Bowl was put to bed months ago and there is still a lot for Clemson fans to be excited about going into the fall.
@HokieGuru: What are some of the major strengths coming out of spring practice?
@CUBOSCO: It has been alluded to by several media outlets that the return of Andre Ellington for his senior season was Clemson’s biggest signing in 2012. I have to agree. His return gives Clemson a proven run threat going into the fall. Quarterback Tajh Boyd returns along with Freshmen All-American Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake at the receiver position. There is a collection of talent on the offensive side of the ball that I fully expect to rewrite the record books at Clemson.
On the defensive side of the ball defensive lineman Grady Jarrett emerged throughout the spring. One of Jarrett’s linemates DeShawn Williams showed improvement throughout drills. The light seemed to come on at the linebacker position for Lateek Townsend and Justin Parker. It seems that guys who will be needed in the fall are stepping and putting themselves in position to be productive come fall.
@HokieGuru: What are some of the major weaknesses coming out of spring practice? In other words, what do you think Clemson will be working on in August before the first game? What are the questions that you think have to be resolved?
@CUBOSCO: Clemson replaces three starters on the offensive line. Brandon Thomas who played guard last year made the permanent move to left tackle where he played sparingly last year after Phillip Price went down. We all know it starts up front and Coach Morris has made it clear that this team needs to be more physical up front. Tyler Shatley moved over to guard from DT, Kalon Davis is a youngster who will be counted on along with Giff Timothy. Not a lot of depth or experience along the offensive front for the Tigers and that will be something to watch throughout the summer and into the fall.
Similar story on the defensive line, there are questions at the end position. Malliciah Goodman has played some but will be counted on for significant snaps. Corey Crawford is another player who has a lot of promise but the lack of experience concerns first year coordinator Brent Venables. Like the offensive line the lack of depth and experience is cause for concern going into the summer.
@HokieGuru: Fall will be here before we know it – what position concerns you the most?
@CUBOSCO:Both lines are concerns. Football is simple, it begins and ends along the lines of scrimmage and how well the young guys hold up will likely go a long way in determining if the Tigers can make a return trip to Charlotte.
@HokieGuru: Who are the new recruits that you are impressed with the most? Are there any that you think will get some major playing time right away?
@CUBOSCO: Clemson had eight early enrollees. Kevin Dodd will be called on to play this fall at DE. Bradley Pinion a punter could get thrown to the fire early on as Clemson seeks to replace Dawson Zimmerman. The guy who could garner the most time as a true freshman is Travis Blanks a defensive back out of Tallahassee. It will be difficult for many youngsters to get on the field on offense barring injury.
@HokieGuru: Based on what you saw/read from spring practice, do you think Clemson will be better than last year? Why or why not?
@CUBOSCO: It is hard to say at this point. A huge reality is the way the schedule sets up with division road games at Florida State, at Boston College (Chestnut Hill is a House of Horrors for CU), and at Wake Forest. The returning skill on offense on paper could make the 2012 offense as potent as any in the nation. The questions at offensive line and how quickly the unit comes together looms large over the success we can expect to see this fall.
There were many reports this spring about improved gap integrity along the defensive line and fewer missed tackles by linebackers. If true, it will be refreshing come fall and could be key in a run for a conference title.
I do think this team will be better than last year but that does not mean necessarily that the 2012 team will make it to Charlotte. We will know a lot about the Atlantic Division race by the end of September after the Tigers have back to back road games to Tallahassee and Chestnut Hill. Hopefully the experience of last season will allow the 2012 team to hit its stride going into conference play.
@HokieGuru: Give us the pulse of the Clemson football program – what are are the Tigers bloggers/fans thinking right now on the status of the program?
@CUBOSCO: There is no question among fans that the beat down in the Orange Bowl looms large. There are not words to describe what it was like to sit in Sun Life Stadium and watch your team get beat by 37 but the reality is the 2011 team won the ACC Championship in emphatic fashion. To beat the Kings of the ACC twice in the way the 2011 team did when NO ONE expected it reminds fans of how good things were at one point. The slide at the end of the season left a sour taste in the mouths of Tiger fans. You couple that with the third straight loss to South Carolina and I think you have a more realistic fanbase going into the fall.
I think most people outside of Clemson are giving Clemson too much credit going into 2012. This of course sets up for the “Clemson being Clemson” and the Coach Swinney pot shots. Love him or hate him, the man was able to do something that has not been down at Clemson in a long time. What you see is what you get from Coach Swinney, he is not contrived, the guy is emotional, while he rubs people the wrong way at times, he is not a cyborg. If you get a chance take a few minutes to read up on Coach Swinney and his story. He is a coach that has been learning on the fly. Since parting ways with Billy Napier after the 2010 season and the removal of Kevin Steele after the 2011 campaign it shows that he is not afraid to make changes. Coach Swinney has assembled a tremendous staff, recruited well and raised expectations. With all of that as a reality there is reason for optimism that Clemson can be in the conversation for another ACC Title in 2012.