Signing Day Eve: A Meditation on Orange

20110409_springfootball07_t300The year was 2008, and an upstart wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator had just been promoted to the top football job at Clemson Tiger University. Many scratched their heads upon hearing that Tommy Bowden had been replaced with the young, inexperienced, Dabo Swinney. Once Coach Swinney’s maudlin antics and non sequiturs were quickly made manifest, others predicted his certain demise.

But as strange as he may have acted, and as juvenile and forced as his persona, Dabo could still recruit. That trait was his key asset. He had a manner of speaking that resonated with 17 year olds, and a background in sales, so when he pulled off a football victory over South Carolina in one of his first games as a head coach, many of the Tiger faithful thought they had the total package.

Fresh off the victory over the Gamecocks, Swinney began assembling his first recruiting class. Limited in numbers by a small group of graduating seniors, Dabo assembled twelve recruits that he dubbed “The Dandy Dozen” and then pronounced them the future of Clemson football excellence.

“We aren’t worried about players that went to other schools, we could have taken more. But these are our guys and we are proud of them.”

“The grass is greener in Clemson,” he said on that first signing day.

Now, four long year later, most of those players are gone.

Two left school as underclassmen. Of the remaining ten, only a handful were major contributors. Tajh Boyd, Malliciah Goodman, and Brandon Thomas all made meaningful contributions on the ACC level of play.

But they never beat South Carolina. Not once. Now Tajh still has the hope of squeaking out on victory in his final, redshirt senior year, but other than that possibility, The Dandy Dozen have turned out to be a goose egg.

Let that sink in for a minute: Tajh Boyd, the headliner of the 2009 class, may well spend 5 years with the Tigers and never beat South Carolina.

It goes further, actually. The guys from Tommy Bowden’s highly ranked 2008 class that redshirted their first year (like Andre Ellington, Dalton Freeman, and Jonathan Willard) exhausted their eligibility without ever playing a single snap in a win against Carolina.

More? The 2010 recruits still haven’t done it either. Some of them, like Joe Craig, found a way off the team early (his first choice, a metal rod used against a female, didn’t work, so he resorted to drug use). And one other, Deandre “Nuke” Hopkins, opted for the NFL before ever beating the Gamecocks.

What does this have to do with recruiting, you ask?

It reminds us all to calm the hell down.  Recruiting isn’t the end-all-be-all we try to make it out to be.

Approach National Signing Day with tranquility, Gamecocks.  Because whatever babbling nonsense about football excellence that may come out of the upstate tomorrow, whatever the final rankings may be on Thursday, our guys are better than their guys. We’ve proved it. And without nearly as much recruiting hype.

It’s the X’s and the O’s, not the Jimmys and the Joes. And the guy doing our X’s and our O’s is demonstrably superior to the guy they have cheerleading for them.




UPDATE: I just looked at the latest recruiting rankings, and our class is rated ahead of theirs, so please disregard everything I just said.


Quick Gameday Storylines

A few thoughts to ponder/debate/throw guacamole at your friends over:

Who gets the ball first?  The HBC consistently choses the ball if we win the toss, and our opponents consistently want to get a stop on us so they elect to kick.  Either way, there’s usually a 90% chance we get the first possession.  For some reason (OK its CTU’s defensive struggles) I expect Dabo et al to play against the norm and take the ball if they get the chance.  Opening kick to Watkins? [shudder]

Watch DJ Swearinger – The Greenwood native mentioned it again this week – The Tigers didn’t strongly recruit him and only came through with an offer in the final weeks leading up to signing day.  He knows as well as us what that means:  He was their backup plan.  Hopefully the chip on his shoulder carries over to a physical play.

Speaking of physical play – This rivalry game swings from year to year on who hits the hardest at the point of attack.  It’s not going to come down to a big play by CTU WR #2 or SC WR #1, the team that wins will be the team that consistently out-hits the other guys.

Injuries – Both teams are riddled with them.  But to suggest that the nicks and bruises on the CTU squad are anywhere close to our issues is laughable.  Not an excuse, just a talking point.  Oh, and #winanyway.

Smack talk – Hasn’t been an inordinate amount of back and forth this week, but I will list a few just to keep your hatred fresh: Boyd and his “SMH” tweet re: Mangus, Allen says he doesn’t know #2’s name, Allen says Boyd will crack under pressure, Dabo drops the HBC’s age about ten times in his presser, the HBC calls Dabo the “CEO,” implying what we already know is true:  the Excited One is (only) the CTU head cheerleader.

Place kicking – Both teams have issues with their field goal units.  A “Wide Left” game redux is not out of the question.

Tailgate Grenade – If you are forced to watch The Game with CTU fans, please do yourself a favor: during the first conversation lull proclaim thusly:  “My brother-in-law (etc) is a big Gamecock Club donor and he says the Board of Trustees has already voted to do away with the CU/USC series now that the SEC has expanded and needs 9 conference games.   It’s not really a big deal to most Gamecock fans, actually, since we’ve pretty much passed you guys and have 3 or 4 other better rivals.  I’m sure its gonna suck for you guys, but hey whaddyagonnado?”  Enjoy the spasms of outrage that result.  You’re welcome.

In Case of Emergency – In the unlikely event of a CTU win tonight, just avoid the Dollar General for the next couple of weeks.  You will run into significantly fewer CTU fans that way.



The Comeuppance Report; or, Who I’m Pulling Against This Week

This has been a strange week. I’ve been less motivated than usual (which is saying something), and don’t have the typical vitriol built up that I usually have heading into a college football weekend. Maybe the big win over Georgia last week combined with a supposed “gimme” this week has eased my nerves and softened me up.

Regardless, here is a kindler, gentler version of who I’m pulling against this week:

Orange Tigers Of course, Im mainly pulling against the orange Tigers from the upstate, but I dont want the orange Tigers from L.A. to look too good doing it. Then again, a 45-7 Auburn victory this week, and then a victory for the Gamecocks on the Plains next week would catapult us into a legitimate top 10 ranking. And probably cause a slew of bridge-jumping related deaths in upstate South Carolina.

Furman Ive never given Furman football fans even a passing thought until this week. Turns out they are easily offended and quite a humorless bunch.

Duke Even though it hasnt happened yet, I keep hoping massive failure by the Duke football team will somehow translate into massive failure for the Duke basketball team. Look for Bama to be playing walk-ons by the third quarter.

Georgia This was a tough call. Since we in essence have a two-game lead on them in the division, Ive given a brief thought to actually pulling for them to help further legitimize our decisive victory over them last week. But nah, it turns out watching fans of teams you despise have nuclear meltdowns up close is quite entertaining.

The Masters? Yes. SEC Football? No.

The CBS 3:30 Game Why in the world isFlorida-Tennessee still worthy of the CBS 3:30 p.m. slot? Oh, right, because the SEC slate of games sucks this week. Speaking of, the SEC needs to find a way to break up with CBS anddate ESPN exclusively. Even though ESPN is incredibly self-indulgent and stuck up, she’s still the hottest chick around. Plus she acts like she might like us. CBS is getting older and more boringwith each passing season, plusshe’s starting to smell a little like mothballs (I’m looking at you Verne). Ill watch this game anyway, because theres no way these two teams can be as bad as they seem.

Rick Neuheisel How does this toolstill have a job? And who gave him the green light to address the fans after home games? Worstideaever.

Pat Conroy – For this statement to the Wall Street Journal about Marcus Lattimore: “I keep thinking he’s going to break his leg,” says Mr. Conroy, “because of the Chicken Curse.”A big fat shut the hell up to you Mr. Conroy, you blasphemer.

Bacteria Feeling a little under the weather today, which is not good. I only give myself 14-15 Saturdays per year to engage in extreme gluttony and sloth, and I cannot afford to have sickness ruin one of those days.