The Conversation: Talking the Clemson Tigers with Shakin' The

This week our guest is Dr. B of  Shakin The We really like what these guys do and since it is one of the ACC blogs we recruited over to SBNation (parent network), I read them every day.  Dr.B has some coaching or playing experience and if you enjoy our writeups on scheme and strategy, you'll really enjoy his work over there.  I always feel like I learn something when I read their articles. Our answers to his questions there.  Our questions first and their answers follow in the shaded text boxes.  

We'll start with the program. What's going on with Clemson. Do you think Swinney has his ship on the right course? I've heard talks that the administration is concerned with improving Clemson academics, no matter the consequence to the athletic department. Is that true, and if so, does it change the way you evaluate Swinney? 

There has been considerable press amongst the fans about certain bloggers and their opinion of the program and AD Terry Don Phillips' leadership of it. There have been some off-the-field issues among the staff and the higher-ups in the AD as well. Also, a fight on the field amongst the coaches that seems to have been overblown. But, I think these bloggers could've put their opinions and the facts they used out there in a better way. I dont necessarily disagree with them either however.

Academics has always been a battle with athletics here. The Admin wants us to be Top 20 (public) nationally and they have kinda skewed the relevant stats to get us up there in the Top 25 now. It means my degree is worth more, but I dont really care about the Top 20 goal. I would rather us be good at football, get our program established, and then tighten up academics. Theres no reason you can't do well at both, and I want Clemson to be great at both, but I think its easier to do with lower standards for football to start.

Leaving that aside, I think the AD has given Swinney considerable support in some areas. We've added many administrative/support positions to the staff with good people that were not here previously. That will help pay off long-term.

My opinion of Swinney and Napier is still wait-and-see. Tammy looked like chicken salad one week, and chicken shit the next against teams we should beat. See Miami and Maryland for examples of how it has continued. I just want to see a trend of us playing well against good AND bad teams to say he's not Tommy-lite.

I've said all along, he gets 3 full years from me to improve the program. Not 4 because he was from the old staff and he recruited these guys, but it takes time to overcome terrible coaching. I'll critique, but I won't call for his head til then.

I've been big on trying to get FSU fans to have realistic expectations for Florida State.  For instance, I proffered that when operating at reasonably peak efficiency, FSU should expect to win the Atlantic 3 of 5 years (as for the championship game, that's a bit of a tossup unless I know which program FSU would face). All fan bases will have their nut jobs who think their team should be favored to win the MNC every year, but what do you think a reasonable goal for Clemson should be for a 5 year period?

I expect Clemson to compete for the division every year, to win it at least every other year, depending on graduation, losses, etc. In a 5 year period, I'd say we should win it 2-3 times and it should come down to the two of us. The other teams will sneak in every few years. I don't think 3 ACC titles in a decade for Clemson is asking too much.

We know we can recruit, especially with this all-star recruiting staff, and with the facilities improvements done and another endzone construction possible in a few years, that should get even better. FSU and Miami will always have an advantage in recruiting, but we can be consistently a Top 15 team in those recruiting rankings, and that means that we should be right there fighting for the division/ACC.

Continue reading for more, and some Hank!

I have to say I am quite impressed with your defense.  Steele is an excellent coach and you've held everyone well under their season average. (Including Georgia Tech in Atlanta, considering the Yellow jackets scored on a punt return and a fake field goal pass play).  FEI currently ranks you guys 6th, but pretty much on par with Bama, Florida, BC, Iowa, and UNC.  In fact, they've held that lofty ranking for most of the year.   Do you think they've improved as the season has progressed? Why/ Why not.   And do you think they will continue to improve, stay the same, or take a step back?  Also, since we'll be getting a new DC, probably from Alabama (Smart/ Sunseri), how has the implementation of the pattern reading gone?

We're still playing more man-free and 2-Man than matchup, but I expect this defense to be even better next year at pattern reading. Its really difficult to tell, with our DL eating up pretty much everyone we've faced, how good our secondary really is playing, but we still get alot of coverage sacks. WF's guys never got open. Maryland basically got 2 or 3 big plays on them and that was it. BC, well....that was the most horrible offensive performance i've ever seen. Andy Dalton (TCU) was probably the most efficient QB we faced, and his receivers were great at catching the ball. Jacory Harris is very good, but I think our defense did well to limit him. Still 280 of UM's 400+yards came on 10 plays. Even had we lost that game, I don't think I'd have blamed the secondary coverage, they really ate us up running the ball more than anything.

DL has gotten better inside, more than at End. The inside guys use their hands really well and Jenkins can be unstoppable if properly motivated. They got a bit sloppy against Coastal Carolina at times, but I have been nothing less than ecstatic about our line play this season.

Our LBs have been the weakness. They are fast but dont play with great instincts, and overpursue, and take angles that get them blocked out on plays. Maye is a mean and extremely fast player at MIKE, but sometimes he does the stupidest things and runs right into a blocker square, instead of driving the shoulder into his chest.

Our safeties are both going to be All-Americans next year if DeAndre McDaniel doesnt leave for the NFL. I really Rashard Hall could be that good, the other two play a lot but arent as good as he is, he never misses assignments. They could take better angles at times on run plays, but otherwise they are outstanding.

Overall, opposing drives here and there this year have gotten scores almost entirely because the D took a drive off when it came to tackling.

Perhaps overlooked because of their poor start and the excellent play of the defense and a top ten special teams unit, the offense has really improved, from something like 65th best a few weeks ago to 34th as of the last measurement.  With a Freshman quarterback, how have they done it? I know the line played poorly early in the year, as did Parker, but what has been the major catalyst behind this improvement, or has it been a combination? Has there been a new approach?

The changes post Maryland: Attack the underneath with backs and TEs, use less motion, not change personnel as often, and throw fewer screens and passes to the WRs.

At Maryland and prior, it was Jacoby Ford and our young WRs as the focus. For Wake and afterward, we've hit TE Michael Palmer over the middle and CJ Spiller in the backfield/flats much more. Last week we tried shifting back to the WRs and it showed in poor execution (Spiller was kept out to heal his turf toe, and Palmer had a concussion).

The OL has improved a little, but I'm not thrilled with their run blocking at all. I would not say they are the reason we've done better offensively. Pass blocking, aside from one half against GT's Derrick Morgan, has been very good. Parker is progressing, but still does stupid things that you'd expect from a freshman, at times. We've done our best against man/man coverage teams, not so well against zone.

I've only been to Clemson once (the game Bobby threw to save Tommy's job in 2003). Top row, sandals and shorts, 35 degree weather, pneumonia, etc. That place is louder than the Swamp. I've never been to LSU, however, and I know you have. Which Death Valley is louder?

I wrote this over the summer on the old site to describe what LSU is like. I love our Valley, but given the football success at LSU and the much-more-raucous student section, on average I would say LSU is louder.  They'll go nuts playing Tulane; Clemson doesnt go nuts playing Furman.  Now, Clemson is capable of being louder by a good bit, when our fans are into it.  Its kind of hard to get so totally into Noon games, and thats all we seem to get.  Since we haven't had a meaningful night game in Death Valley lately, this saturday should really be rocking.

Thanks again to Dr.B and  Shakin The  Make sure to head over there later for our answers to their questions.

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