Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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Friday, February 27, 2009


Since Wednesday's article covering Clemson Tigers football safeties Chris Clemons and Michael Hamlin's workouts at the NFL Combine, one additional statistic has been released: The bench press results. This drill is where the player attempts to bench 225 lbs. for as many reps. as possible. Clemons finished with 19 while Hamlin completed 17. The average number of reps. for the 22 participating players at the safety position was 18.27, so Clemons was just above the average and Hamlin just below it.

Clemons was the only one of the six participating Tigers who was listed as a top performer in any of the drills. His 40 yard dash time of 4.41 ranked #1 across every position group at the Combine except for WR's, who only had five players run it faster. It's interesting to note that we didn't hear much about Clemons' speed during his playing days at Clemson. When you think of speed, Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller come to mind but both of those guys are also track stars. Clemons definitely made a positive impression with his run and surely helped his draft status.

One of the websites that specializes in NFL mock drafts, Walter Football, has moved Clemons up to an early 3rd round selection. They have Clemons going as the 71st overall player selected by the Oakland Raiders and even said "Oakland may as well begin printing Clemons jerseys". The Raiders evidently have a big need at safety due to the release of veteran Gibril Wilson and the fact that Michael Huff will be a salary cap casualty. I don't give much credibility to these mock drafts but it's still interesting to look at them.

There is a news article in the Boston Herald regarding the Patriots potential interest in Clemson WR Aaron Kelly. New England has Randy Moss and Wes Welker but the Patriots will likely want to add some depth because 3rd stringer Jabar Gaffney is a free agent this year. The article mentions that Kelly indicated at the Combine that he actually had talks with the Pats but it's still a couple of months before the NFL Draft. NFL teams are still ascertaining position needs as the rosters will continue to get shuffled in the off season as a result of free agency.

CBS Sports.com lists the Top Draft 2009 prospects and updated players rankings this morning based on their performance at the NFL Combine. The player's "stock" could have stayed equal, risen or fallen. Here is how the six Clemson Tigers football players are listed:

Dorell Scott
Overall rank: 94
Position rank: 7
Projected round selected: 3
Stock: Up

Michael Hamlin
Overall rank: 96
Position rank: 4
Projected round selected: 3
Stock: Equal

James Davis
Overall rank: 134
Position rank: 11
Projected round selected: 4-5
Stock: Equal

Chris Clemons
Overall rank: 175
Position rank: 8
Projected round selected: 5-6
Stock: Up

Aaron Kelly
Overall rank: 176
Position rank: 22
Projected round selected: 5-6
Stock: Equal

Cullen Harper
Overall rank: 274
Position rank: 15
Projected round selected: 7 or free agent
Stock: Equal

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Tuesday was the final day of the 2009 NFL Combine and Clemson Tigers football safeties Chris Clemons and Michael Hamlin participated in the workouts and drills televised on NFL Network. Going into the combine, Hamlin was the more highly regarded player of the two and in my opinion was the player who would probably be the first of all the six particpating Tigers selected in the draft. This may still hold true but Clemons definitely impressed with his 40 yd. dash time and performed reasonably well in the live drills on Tuesday. This will certainly help improve his status.

First, let's take a look at Chris Clemons. He measured 6'0 1/8 and weighed in at 208 lbs. On the Clemson roster, he is listed at 6'1, 210 lbs. The big news coming out of today's workouts at the Combine was Clemons' 40 yard dash time of 4.41. He actually ran an unofficial 4.41 on his first attempt and a 4.40 on his second. There were a couple of players in the 4.3's ahead of him but evidently those times did not hold up, as he is listed on NFL.com as the fastest of all safeties and defensive backs who participated.

Michael Hamlin measured 6'2 and weighed in at 214 lbs. He is listed at 6'3 205 lbs. on both the depth chart and the last regular season game roster, so he evidently packed on about 10 lbs. at some point between the two measurements. He may have lost an inch in height as well but I doubt it. Perhaps the most recent measurement at Clemson was just inaccurate. You can rest assured that if a player's height is inaccurate on the roster or depth chart, it will be on the high side and not the low.

Clemons was also one of five safeties who participated in the broad jump and was measured at 10'7". This distance was right in the middle of the five with the two longer ones at 10'9" and 11'0" and two shorter ones at 10'6" and 10'5". At this point, it does not appear that Chris participated in any of the other timed or measured events. In fact, only 6 of the 23 players participated in any timed/measured drills besides the 40 yd. dash and broad jump.

Hamlin ran a 4.60 in the 40 yard dash, which was slightly higher than the 4.57 average of the 23 participating players. The announcers on the NFL Network and especially Deion Sanders made reference to the speed of the WR group at the Combine this year. Sanders mentioned that if the player ran over a 4.50, they would have a very difficult time against wide receivers in the NFL. Therefore, I think this is one area that Hamlin can impove on in the weeks leading up to the Pro Day at Clemson in March.

In the first field drill, players lined up and had to backpedal 10 yards and then watch a coach in the middle of the field with a football holding it to the right or left and turn accordingly. Times did not matter in the drill. The object was to stay low, make the right/left transitions fluid and quick and try to stay on the same vertical line. I noticed that Clemons was the only player who took very big backsteps. In fact, he only took 8 steps back to cover 10 yards whereas every other player I observed took 10-12. Hamlin was not featured in this drill as NFL Network went to commercial.

In the second drill, players lined up and backpedaled while again watching a coach in the middle of the field moving the football to their left or right. The object was to turn the hips in a fluid motion and stay low. At the end of the drill, the player makes a break to the sideline, tries to catch a pass at its highest point, remain inbounds and then sprint towards the end zone. Clemons was only shown completing the last half of the drill due to a breakaway for film study but he did catch the ball. Hamlin looked good backpedaling, made good, fluid left/right transitions and caught the pass.

The next drill was the same as the previous one except it was run to the opposite sideline. This and the previous drill were designed to simulate defending a post corner route. Clemons again looked somewhat awkward in his backpedal by taking such large steps. He also looked to be a little too upright but he made good direction changes and caught the pass. Hamlin had the faster, shorter backsteps and looked more natural in the drill. He stayed low and used good body mechanics and technique.

The final drill basically simulated defending a hitch and go. The player backpedaled 10 yards, immediately had to reverse direction and come forward five yards, then immediately reverse direction again into a full sprint and catch a pass that was floated slightly over their heads. Clemons was not featured in this drill due to a commercial break. Deion Sanders criticized Hamlin for planting his back foot instead of his front and also for stopping his feet during the direction change. One of the other announcers mentioned that this could be due to the way that he was coached.

Overall, I believe Clemons improved his standing with the 40 time alone. I'm not sure if the NFL teams see the large backsteps as a weakness. I think with him playing S instead of CB, it's not as much of an issue because his job is not to play press man but to provide help over the top. His closing speed will obviously be a big benefit there. I doubt Hamlin hurt himself too much but working on his 40 yd. dash times is a must before the Pro Day. Today concluded the NFL Combine coverage but I will do a final wrap up on all six participating players coming up in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The NFL combine featured Clemson Tigers football DT Dorell Scott participating in drills on Monday. Scott measured at 6'3 1/4 and weighed in at 312 lbs. He was listed on the CU roster and the last regular season game depth chart at 6'3, 310. While neither of Dorell's two 40 yard dash drills were televised, he ran a blazing (for a DT) 4.95. This was the 3rd quickest time out of all 24 participating DT's, with two players ahead of him tying at 4.89. Scott's time was one of only 4 in the entire group that was under 5 seconds.

Dorell was not listed in the NFL.com's top performers in the drill because DT's are lumped in with DE's, who are typically faster, under the broader DL category. Just a side note here: The reason that Scott's dashes were not part of the NFL Network's featured coverage was because he was player #45 and BC's B.J. Raji was player #43. Raji is one of the more acclaimed DT's at the combine and both times after his dashes, the network went to commercial. So, it was just an unfortunate luck of the draw with respect to Scott's player number being right behind him.

In the bench press drill, Scott completed 29 reps with 225 lbs. The average of the 19 participating DT's was 28.4, which put him right in the middle of the group. Ga. Tech's Darryl Richards only completed 17 reps and finished at the bottom, while Michigan's Terrance Taylor completed the most with 37. Scott obviously didn't hurt his "stock" with this performance and combined with his speed in the 40 yd. dash, probably impressed the scouts and NFL personnel in attendance.

Dorell did get some "face time" on tv in three other drills. The first was an agility drill that required a lateral shuffle over a set of bags and then running forward and back through the lanes in the bags before finishing with a short sprint. I thought Scott looked good in this one. Next was a pass-rushing drill that featured two "dummy" bags that the players used a rip or swim technique on while trying maintain a tight arc around the second bag. Again, I thought Dorell performed well.

In the next drill, I thought Scott did fantastic. This drill required the players to stay low and keep good form while delivering a blow to three standing dummy bags and then tapping another bag on the turf that was in betweent those. It sounds odd and it looked odd but nevertheless, Dorell performed as well as anyone in the drill and again I think again could have only helped his stock rise. There were many players bobbing up and down who were using poor technique and body mechanics.

The final drill was another one emphasizing agility and footwork. The player lines up in a 3 point stance and has a coach five yards in front of him. The player fires off the line and has to make a hard cut either left or right but doesn't know which way until the coach points in that direction. The player then makes another hard cut between a set of cones and then finishes with a 20 yard dash. I sound like a broken record but in my opinion, I thought Scott did great in this drill as well.

Please click below where you see "comments" and post any additional information, statistics, questions, comments or anything relevant. Today is the final day of NFL Combine coverage and I will post an article later on how Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons performed.


The NFL announced on Monday that Clemson's Pro Day workout will be held on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a Pro Day is basically where NFL scouts and coaches are allowed to come to various college and university campuses around the country and observe players participating in the drills that are featured at the Combine.

The difference between a Pro Day and the NFL Combine is that the Combine is held in a central location and is by invitation only. Therefore, the Pro Day gives both uninvited players along with players who participated in the Combine the opportunity to work out. The Pro Days generally have a huge turnout at the major universities and are some players' only opportunity to get an "interview" before the NFL Draft.

Monday, February 23, 2009


As a Clemson Tigers football fan, I was anxiously awaiting the NFL Network's coverage of the NFL Combine workouts for QB's, WR's and RB's on Sunday. My sole purpose in tuning in to the three hour segment was to see how QB Cullen Harper, WR Aaron Kelly and RB James Davis performed in the workouts. I must say that I was very disappointed in how miniscule the coverage was for the entire group of RB's. As a matter of fact, the only RB drills that were even shown were a couple of long and vertical jumps and Beanie Wells of Ohio St. was featured in both.

Let me say that I am a big fan of the NFL Network and couldn't live without it. However, I am bewildered by the fact that they devoted perhaps 10 minutes of the entire segment to RB coverage. 5 minutes was on Beanie Wells falling backwards and forwards trying to complete a long jump. The other 5 minutes was Beanie Wells and another player in the vertical jump drill. I'm biased about wanting to see Davis but there were 32 RB's present. Surely UGA fans wanted to see Moreno, 'Bama fans wanted to see Coffee and UConn fans wanted to see the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown.

Moving on, QB Cullen Harper was measured at 6'3 and weighed in at 225 lbs. He is listed on the Clemson roster at 6'4, 225 lbs. Harper received the most "face time" of any of the three players. Early in the segment, he was shown in live drills throwing two passes to different WR's running a deep post corner route. Harper completed the first pass although it was slightly underthrown. The second pass was also a completion and hit the receiver in stride. Both passes also allowed the WR's to stay in bounds and turn upfield instead of leading the receiver out of bounds. Harper's 40 yd. dash time was one of the slower among QB's at 5.01 and he bench pressed 225 lbs. 19 times.

WR Aaron Kelly measured 6'4 1/2 and weighed 204 lbs. He packed on some weight for the combine since the Clemson roster lists him as 6'5, 190 lbs. Kelly got some face time running that deep post corner route and catching a ball thrown by Fresno St. QB Tom Brandstater. Aaron ran a decent route and had to really stretch out for the ball, catch it on his fingertips and pull it in. He also had the presence of mind to drag his toe to get two feet in before his momentum carried him out of bounds. Kelly was a top performer among WR's in the 40 yard dash, posting a 4.49 time. He had a 38'' vertical jump, which was in the middle of his group. Aaron bench pressed 225 lbs. 11 times, which was near the bottom of the 21 participating WR's.

RB James Davis measured 5'11 and weighed in at 218 lbs. He is listed at 5'11 and 215 lbs. on the Clemson roster. As I mentioned earlier, it's unfortunate that we didn't even catch a glimpse of him in the NFL Network's coverage. I do know that Davis ran a 4.61 40 yd. dash and the average among the 23 participating RB's was 4.58. James also bench pressed 225 lbs. 17 times while the average among the 23 participating RB's in that drill was 21. I've read an unconfirmed report that his vertical jump was 33''. If this is true, it would put him in a tie for worst out of the 15 participating RB's.

Keep in mind that some of these players' drill performance statistics are subject to change as they become "official". It's also important to note that not all players in each position group elected to participate in all of the drills. The players' performance statistics are therefore relative only to the number of players who did participate but it's subjective in terms of comparing them to the entire group who will be eligible for the draft. There is such a limited amount of information available at this time that it's impossible to know how the NFL personnal have "graded" our guys and whether they helped our hurt their "stock". I will do an update as more info. becomes available.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The good news just keeps on coming! I'm very excited to announce that an interview with former Clemson Tiger football All-American, NFL star and Super Bowl Champion Dexter McCleon will be coming up next week! Be sure to check it out and let all of your friends, relatives and co-workers who are Clemson Tigers football fans know about it. It should be a very interesting interview. I'm really looking forward to it. Go Tigers!


I'm excited to announce that RubTheRock has now had 20,000 page loads since I started tracking it just over 11 weeks ago! The site itself is only 13 weeks old, so it's still in its infancy and will hopefully continue to grow. Many thanks to all the loyal readers and especially to those who have helped spread the word about the site to all of these Tiger Football fans.


Rub The Rock-110% Clemson Football is now on Facebook! If you are a member, you can now view the page and become a fan. You can post on the wall, start a discussion and become friends with other fans of Rub The Rock. If you are not already a member of Facebook, it's easy to join. Just go to http://www.facebook.com/ and click on "sign up".

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Here is a trivia quiz designed to test your knowledge of the history of Clemson Tigers Football. The questions begin with the foundation of the program and end with the modern era. Some of the questions are fairly easy while others you may find extremely difficult. The answers are posted at the bottom of the quiz. Good luck!

1. In what year was the first Clemson football game played?
2. What color were the original uniforms?
3. Which Clemson head football coach originated the center snap, handoff, double lateral and the "flea-flicker" while leading Clemson to a 19-3-2 record during his four seasons from 1900-1903?
4. True or False: Clemson and SC suspended their rivalry in football for six years due to an altercation between fans after a game in the early 1900's.
5. Name the four positions that the legendary Banks McFadden played for Clemson
6. Who was the only head coach in Clemson football history to win the conference championship in his first year?
7. What did Clemson football head coach Frank Howard throw into each of the four corners of Memorial Stadium as it was being built?
8. In a game against Boston College in 1948, this LB that Clemson head football coach Frank Howard called "Dumb Dumb" hit a BC player so hard it knocked him out of his shoes and out of the game. He went on to knock three other BC players out of the game and prompted the BC QB to plead with the ref to do something about it. Name him.
9. True or False: It is SC state law that the Clemson Tigers and SC Gamecocks must play each other in football every year.
10. Clemson was one of the seven original members of the ACC formed in 1953. Name the other six.
11. What was the rivalry between the Clemson and SC football teams referred to up until 1960?
12. The ACC passed a rule in 1960 which required ACC student athletes to have a minimum SAT score of what?
13. In what year did the Clemson football team begin rubbing Howard's Rock before their home games?
14. True or False: During Clemson head football coach Hootie Ingram's (Howard's successor) tenure for three seasons from 1970-1972, the Tigers only ran down The Hill one time.
15. Who caught the TD pass in 1977 which ended the Tigers' 18-year bowl drought and gave them a victory over the Gamecocks 31-27?
16. In Danny Ford's first game as head football coach at Clemson, his team defeated Ohio State University in the Gator Bowl. Who was the Clemson player who intercepted a pass and then got punched by OSU coach Woody Hayes?
17. True or False: SC's Heisman Trophy winning RB, George Rogers, never scored a TD against the Tigers defense in his entire career.
18. During the Clemson Tigers' 1981 National Championship season, the Tigers defense set the school record (which still stands to this day) for what category or statistic?
19. What was the name of the infamous gadget play that FSU coach Bobby Bowden used against Clemson in 1988?
20. Prior to Ken Hatfield's first year as Clemson head football coach in 1990, the Tigers had never lost a game on the gridiron to what conference opponent?
21. Tommy West was the head football coach of what university before coming to Clemson?
22. Who holds the Clemson record for rushing yards by a QB?
23. There was only one team which shutout Clemson during Tommy Bowden's career as head football coach. Name the team.
24. Name the Clemson QB who never lost to the Gamecocks during his entire four year playing career.
25. Gaines Adams was selected by what team as the fourth overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft?

Answers: 1.1896 2. Purple+gold 3. John Heisman 4. True 5. QB, RB, DB, P 6. Frank Howard 7. Chewing tobacco 8. Stephen "Wyndie" Wyndham 9. True 10. MD, Duke, UNC, NCSU, WF, SC 11. Big Thursday 12. 800 13. 1967 14. True 15. Jerry Butler 16. Charlie Bauman 17. True 18. Turnovers 19. Puntrooskie 20. UVA 21. Univ. Tenn. Chattanooga 22. Woodrow Dantzler 23. UGA 24. Charlie Whitehurst 25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How did you score?
0-10: Not too good
11-15: Not too bad
16-20: Impressive
21-25: The CU Sports Information office wants to speak with you about a job
Click on COMMENT to let everyone know how you did!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


In the article on Clemson football players in the 2009 NFL Draft that I posted on Sunday and updated yesterday, I mentioned that Aaron Kelly's name was mysteriously absent from the list of participating players at the 2009 NFL Combine which begins this week. After I checked the list at the NFL's official website, I went to a Clemson msg. board and inquired whether anyone had information on Kelly and/or why his name was missing. I then received a link to an affiliated NFL Combine website that showed Kelly on the official invite list.

Since it was an invite list and not the list of participating players, I thought maybe he had chosen not to attend, gotten injured recently when working out, who knows. In order to clear the matter up once and for all, I sent Kelly an email and told him of the confusion. Aaron did reply to me and confirmed that he will in fact be in Indianapolis on Thursday and will participate. Good news. Perhaps it was just an error on the webmaster's part.

Although I will be covering how Tigers (Hamlin, Scott, Davis, Harper, Kelly and Clemmons) are doing at the NFL Combine in upcoming articles, you can tune in to the NFL Network and watch live coverage of the event beginning on Thursday. Note: RubTheRock is not affiliated with, does not endorse and is not compensated (although I wish I was) by the NFL in any way.

As far as our players are concerned, Thursday through Saturday are designated for things like orientation, x-rays, measurements, meetings, exams and interviews. The real action is Sunday through Tuesday with the workouts, featuring the 40 yd. dash, bench press, vertical/broad jump and position drills. Here is the NFL Network's broadcast schedule for the workouts by position and here's wishing the best of luck to our guys:

Sunday- starting at 11 a.m. E.S.T.
QB (Harper)
WR (Kelly)
RB (Davis)
Monday- starting at 11 a.m. E.S.T.
DL (Scott)
Tuesday- starting at 11 a.m. E.S.T.
DB (Hamlin and Clemmons)

Want to add a comment, ask a question or start a discussion? Please click on COMMENT. Aaron Kelly photo courtesy of: Jonathan Jordan- thank you!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The 2009 NFL Draft is coming up in about two months and several Tigers that played on the 2008 team have a chance of being selected by one of the 32 NFL teams. I posted an article back in late December with projections from several popular websites with mock NFL drafts. Since that time, many NFL draft prospects have played in a bowl game (all of our players) and many also participated in the East West All Star Game (Kelly) or the Under Armour Senior Bowl (Hamlin, Davis and Harper).

Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to look at updated projections that take those games and other factors such as injuries, etc. into account. Based on my research on these sites and the fact that four out of the five following players were invited to a post season all-star type of game, I believe the Clemson players who probably have the best chance of being drafted are (in no particular order): Michael Hamlin, James Davis, Dorrell Scott, Aaron Kelly, Cullen Harper and Chris Clemmons.

It's important to note that between now and the draft which begins April 24, there are two other important events that take place. The first is the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, which begins this Wednesday, Feb.18. This event, according to NFL.com, is "the annual job fair for prospective new NFL players" where they're put through tests, drills and interviews. Over 300 of the very best college football players across the nation are invited to the event.

The second event is the college "Pro Day" workouts. These take place at various college and university campuses across the nation between March 1-April 2. While these are one-day events that are not as thorough nor exhaustive as the Combine, they are still very important and give NFL personnel the chance to evaluate prospects. Given that these two events have yet to take place, I will update the projections once more in mid-April.

One interesting sidenote is that Aaron Kelly is not listed as an invited participant in the NFL Combine on the NFL.com website. Furthermore, I checked their site for the NFL Pro Day workout participants at the university closest to Clemson (Furman) and his hometown (Georgia Tech) as well as every other location across the country. Aaron is not listed anywhere. I've sent him a message, hope to get a reply soon and will post an update if and when I do.

As for my personal projections, I believe Hamlin will be the first Clemson player taken- probably in the 2nd or 3rd round. Scott will likely go in the 3rd round, Davis in the 4th or 5th and Harper in the 5th or 6th. The wild card is Kelly. He could go as early as the 4th, as late as the 7th or not at all. It's hard to believe, considering his stats and accolades but I think his size (190 lbs.) is what NFL teams are questioning.

These draft sites only have the first 3 rounds projected thus far, with the exception of NFL Draft Site. Here's how our players are projected:

Walter Football- early 3rd round pick, 66th overall
NFL Draft Source- late 3rd round pick, 87th overall
Consensus Draft Services- late 3rd round pick, 87th overall
NFL Draft Site- mid 3rd round pick- 71st overall

Walter Football- late 3rd round pick, 92nd overall
NFL Draft Source- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
Consensus Draft Services- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
NFL Draft Site- early 4th round pick, 99th overall

Walter Football- mid 3rd round pick, 82nd overall
NFL Draft Source- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
Consensus Draft Services- early 3rd round pick, 68th overall
NFL Draft Site- early 4th round pick, 103rd overall

Walter Football- not listed in their first 4 rounds
NFL Draft Source- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
Consensus Draft Services- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
NFL Draft Site- mid 6th round pick, 177th overall

Walter Football- not listed in any of their 4 rounds
NFL Draft Source- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
Consensus Draft Services- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
NFL Draft Site- not listed in any of their 7 rounds

Walter Football- not listed in any of their 4 rounds
NFL Draft Source- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
Consensus Draft Services- not listed in any of their 3 rounds
NFL Draft Site- late 6th round pick, 186th overall
Do you have comments, questions, or want to post your own projections? Have any info. on Aaron Kelly? Click on "comments" at the bottom of the article and get a discussion started!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Take a look at the left side of the page and scroll down to view all of the new photos added today! If you have photos of Clemson football players, game action, Death Valley, Rally Cats, CU Cheerleaders, etc. that you would like for me to consider using, please send them to: jmesser4@gmail.com. Please only send photos that you have taken PERSONALLY. Many thanks to all the photographers who have allowed me to use their photos for the site. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


It turns out that my schedule projection yesterday was off the mark. One usually reliable source indicated that Louisiana Tech and Pittsburgh were locked as 2009 non-conference opponents. It turned out not to be the case, although the source was correct about Middle Tennessee State. I projected that in addition to Georgia Tech, the two ACC Coastal division opponents would be Duke and Virginia. Had I take the time to dig a little deeper on the ACC's website, I would have found the future conference schedule through 2015 which showed the 2009 Tigers facing Miami and Virginia.

Speaking of the ACC's football scheduling procedure, I learned some other things on their website as well. Of course I knew that we played Georgia Tech every year but I didn't know why. It turns out that each ACC team has been assigned one primary crossover opponent from the opposite division, meaning those two teams will play every year. Clemson's primary crossover opponent is Georgia Tech. This makes sense considering that before the Tigers and Yellowjackets were split into the separate divisions in 2004, there was a tremendous history and rivalry between these two teams dating back to 1898.

Now, here is another fact from the ACC's website: Each year from 2006 to 2015 (10 seasons), one non-divisional opponent will rotate on, and off, each conference team's schedule so that each team will play their non-divisional opponents an equal number of times with the exception of their primary crossover opponent. The "equal number of times" ends up being 4. So, at the end of the 10 year period, the Tigers will have played every one of the five Coastal division opponents (besides Georgia Tech) a total of 4 times each.

For example, the Tigers have not faced Miami since 2005, which is outside the 2006-2015 schedule in question. So, Clemson will play Miami away in 2009 and at home in 2010. They will then play Miami away in 2014 and at home in 2015, covering four games total. The Tigers played Va. Tech away in 2006 and at home in 2007. They face Va. Tech on the road in 2011 and at home in 2012, covering four games total. The only exception to the home/away series in consecutive years is the UNC, which the Tigers faced at home in 2006 but will not play again until an away game in 2010. This is followed by a home game in 2011 and then a final matchup away in 2015, covering four games total.

Clemson played Duke away in 2007 and at home in 2008. They face the Blue Devils away in 2012 and at home in 2013, covering the four total games. Finally, the Tigers played Virginia away in 2008 and face them at home in 2009. They play again in Charlottesville in 2013 and in Clemson in 2014, covering four games total. So, now that we have all of that straight, here is the 2009 Clemson Tigers Football Schedule with home games in CAPS:

09/10 at Georgia Tech
10/03 at Maryland
10/24 at Miami
11/14 at NC State
11/28 at South Carolina


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The ACC announced that it will release the 2009 ACC football season schedule on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 11 a.m. We already know 10 of 12 opponents on the Tigers' 2009 schedule. Conference opponents in the Atlantic division include Florida State, Boston College, North Carolina State, Maryland and Wake Forest. The conference opponent in the Coastal division that the Tigers play annually is Georgia Tech. Since there are eight total conference games but only six known conference opponents at this time, the only "mystery" is who the two other conference opponents will be. The non-conference opponents this year are Middle Tenn. State, Pitt, La. Tech and SC.

Obviously, the two "mystery" conference opponents will be from the Coastal division since the Tigers cannot face an Atlantic opponent twice in a season. Last year, the Tigers faced Duke at home and Virginia away. Typically, the Tigers play Duke every year. In the past 45 years, there have been only two that Clemson and Duke did not face each other: Once in 1963 and most recently in 2006. If Duke and Virginia are on the schedule again this year, then Virginia would likely be a home game and Duke would be away. This would give the Tigers four home conference games and four away and seven total home games based on my projections. Here is how I see it:

1. Middle Tennessee State
2. Pittsburgh
3. Louisiana Tech
4. Florida State
5. Boston College
6. Wake Forest
7. Virginia

1. North Carolina State
2. Maryland
3. Georgia Tech
4. Duke
5. South Carolina

Monday, February 9, 2009

RECRUITING WRAP UP (photo: WR Bryce McNeal)

THE HIGHEST STAR RATED CLASS EVER- Coach Swinney mentioned that despite the low number of recruits signed, Sports Information Director Tim Bouret told him that this is the highest average star rating of any recruting class Clemson has ever had. It is not, however, anywhere near the highest ranked class in polls by scouting services or ESPN. Rivals ranked Clemson's recruiting class as 37th best in the nation, Scout ranked it 42nd and ESPN ranked it 19th.

HOWEVER, STAR RATINGS DON'T MATTER- Coach Swinney also mentioned that the rankings are over-rated and an inexact science. He said that the true test is four years later. I agree that they're somewhat over-rated and an inexact science but I do not believe it takes four years to determine whether a player was productive or effective. In other words, the coaches can see a hit or a miss way before the end of a player's senior year. Some recruits will play below the coaches', and for that matter, fans' expectations, while others will far exceed them. Some players hit the ground running as true freshmen and make an immediate impact, whereas others take longer to develop.

HITS & MISSES- The overall class ranking really means far less than the individual player rankings because the overall ranking counts players signed in the class who may be academically ineligible. If the player never steps foot on campus and never plays a down, then why would their individual star ranking even be considered cumulatively in the overall ranking of the class? As far as individual rankings, here are a few examples of hits and misses by recruiting services (either Rivals or Scout) in Clemson's classes over the past few years:

HIT: C.J. Spiller was rated as a five star recruit in the 2006 class. Care to disagree with that one? I think not. If there was a six star rating, C.J. may have lived up to that as well.
MISS: Kavell Conner was rated as a two star recruit in the 2005 class but last season as a Jr. , started all 13 games, led the tigers in tackles with 125, including six for loss and also had a sack.
HIT: Phillip Merling was rated as a four star recruit in the 2005 class, left after his Jr. season and was the first player selected in the 2nd round of the '08 NFL Draft.
MISS: Aaron Kelly was rated as a two star recruit in the 2004 class, yet went on to become Clemson's all-time leader in reception TD's and the ACC's all time reception leader.
HIT: DeAndre' McDaniel was rated as a four star recruit in the 2007 class and has become one of the Tigers' biggest play-makers on defense in just two years.
MISS: Gaines Adams was rated as a two star recruit in the 2002 class, yet tied the school record for career sacks and was the 4th player selected in the '07 NFL draft.

CURRENT RECRUIT AS RECRUITER- Coach Swinney remarked about how our current players are a big part of the recruiting process and can have a huge impact on new recruits. You hear many recruits talk about how current players made them feel welcome on campus when they visited and how the Clemson team felt like a family. If a recruit senses that camraderie while on campus and believes they can fit in, it goes a long way in getting that player to commit. In the case of Tajh Boyd, he may have even been recruited by a fellow recruit, WR Bryce McNeal. Several reports have indicated that McNeal and Boyd may have struck up a friendship at the All American game in San Antonio this year and postulated that it was one more reason for Boyd to come to Clemson.

A DIFFICULT YEAR FOR RECRUITING- Coach Swinney alluded to how difficult of a year it was in recruiting after the disarray that the program was in mid-season. Coach Bowden was out and although Swinney was named interim coach, there was no guarantee who the permanent coach would be since Clemson was interviewing several candidates. Combined with the debacle at the Georgia Dome and losses against MD and WF early on in the season, other programs had plenty of ammunition to use against our prospects, whether they were verbally committed or not. We did in fact "lose" a few recruits but Coach Swinney gave kudos to all the ones who hung in there with us through all of the turbulent times.

JEFF SCOTT IS NEW RECRUITING COORDINATOR- Jeff Scott will now hold the title of Recruiting Coordinator in addition to being Wide Receivers Coach. Billy Napier previously held the Recruiting Coordinator title but will now focus more on his duties as the newly promoted Offensive Coordinator. Scott played for the Tigers from '99-'02. In 2003, he became a graduate assistant, working with the defense. In 2006, he became the head football coach at Blythewood High School (SC), whom he led to the state championship in his first year. He was then hired as Wide Receivers Coach at Presbyterian in 2007 and then returned to Clemson.

Friday, February 6, 2009


On National Signing Day, after the Tigers had received all 12 Letters of Intent from recruits by a little after 2 p.m., head football coach Dabo Swinney held a press conference to discuss the class. One of the most interesting things that he brought up was that he and the staff were focused on filling the critical needs: "We were very, very calculated in what we have done the past five to six weeks. The focus was really on quality, really trying to sign top notch kids, great players that fit Clemson and trying to do that while filling a critical need at each position where they felt like we had that. We felt like we did that."

Coach Swinney mentioned several positions that were specified as being a critical need: DE; Safety; depth at LB; RB; WR and QB . Let's take a quick look at each of these positions and where things stand:

DE- Swinney felt it was important to get a couple of end guys because both Ricky Sapp and Kevin Alexander are seniors this year. Malliciah Goodman is a very highly rated recruit that Dabo described as having a high motor and being a phenomenal young man. It's exciting to think about how well Bowers is developing and having both of these guys on the field together next year could spell big trouble for opposing offenses. New signee Darrell Smith is a DE that also played TE in high school. Returning players are Andre' Branch, a RS sophomore, senior Jeremy Campbell and junior Kourtnei Brown. All three have playing experience and will provide some depth.

SAFETY- Replacing Michael Hamlin will be hard to do but Andre' McDaniel has experience at the CAT safety position and will move back there to try and fill those big shoes. McDaniel is one of the best players the Tigers have on defense and I hope that he continues to play well at this "new" position. Chris Clemmons is gone and Sadat Chambers will therefore almost certainly be the starting free safety. RS freshmen Spencer Adams, Rashard Hall and Carlton Lewis will also compete for playing time. New signee Jonathan Meeks is also a free safety and probably has the best shot at playing as a true freshman along with J.K. Jay and Malliciah Goodman.

LB- All three LB's signed in this class are highly rated, especially Corico Hawkins. Hawkins and Spencer Shuey play inside and Quandon Christian is an outside LB. The only outgoing senior LB on the 2008 team was Josh Miller, who was not a starter. Returning starters are Kavelle Connor and Brandon Maye, who gained a reputation as a big-time hitter last year. McDaniel did start at LB last year but is changing positions as previously mentioned. Scotty Cooper is a returning Jr. and Stanley Hunter is a returning Soph. that will also compete for playing time. Swinney mentioned that he may shuffle these guys up a little bit with respect to sam, mike and will positions.

RB- C.J. Spiller deciding to return for his senior season gives the Tigers a monumental boost going into 2009. With Davis gone, it will be up to sophomore Jamie Harper and redshirt freshman Andre' Ellington to step up and show why they were such highly rated recruits a year ago. New signee Roderick McDowell is another very highly rated recruit from Sumter, SC that will likely redshirt and join Harper and Ellington in the backfield next year. Redshirt senior Ronald Watson is the only other RB on the 2008 and has seen hardly any playing time.

WR- Aaron Kelly is another record-setting player who will be difficult to replace. Tyler Grisham will be missed because he always picked up tough yards and blocked well. Faerber is also gone. The top returning receiver is senior speedster Jacoby Ford. This year it's time for underclassmen like Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones, Jaron Brown, Terrance Ashe, Brandon Clear and Brandon Ford to become the next Tigers catching touchdown passes and breaking records. The new WR signee is Bryce McNeal, all the way from the state of Minnesota. McNeal is another player who is very highly rated and will add to the depth at this position next year.

QB- Tajh Boyd is the crown jewel of this recruiting class and we're very fortunate that he chose to come to Clemson even though we already have two very talented QB's in Willy Korn and Kyle Parker battling for the starting position this spring. Korn has suffered injuries to his throwing shoulder two years in a row and had surgery on it last December. Hopefully, the shoulder heals completely and Willy is 100%. It would be great to see the healthy player that had Tiger nation so excited coming into 2007. Parker was a highly ranked recruit at QB who is also playing baseball but has not played a down in a football game for the Tigers. Since neither has staked their claim to the QB position, I believe getting Boyd was huge. However, since Tajh is coming off of very recent acl surgery on his knee, it's highly unlikely he would be ready to start this year as a true freshman.

Coach Swinney also mentioned that preferred walk-ons will play into the mix of filling the critical need at the PK position and admitted it's one of the biggest question marks going into this year. Richard Jackson, according to my interview with Jimmy Maners, has a big leg and a lot of distance but is very inconsistent. The PK is such an important position on the team because making FG's wins games. Missing FG's loses games. Even an extra point can be the difference between losing and winning. Six out of the top 7 top scorers in Clemson football history have been PK's. So, it's imperative that we get someone who can deliver in the clutch and be consistent.

A final wrap up of National Signing Day and commentary on other announcements and information Coach Swinney discussed in the press conference is upcoming.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Head football coach Dabo Swinney referred to the 2009 recruiting class, consisting of twelve signed players, as the "Dandy Dozen" yesterday. There certainly has been a lot of talk about how small the class is in terms of the number of players and indeed it is an unusually low number. Of all the recruiting classes listed in ESPN's Top 25, on which Clemson's is ranked 19th, it is by far the smallest. In fact, defending national champion Florida had the next smallest class with 16. Ole Miss signed the largest class with 38 and the average class size of the Top 25 was 22.6.

The NCAA allows D-1 football programs to sign up to 25 scholarship athletes during a particular season. However, programs "oversign" (more than 25) on signing day usually for two reasons: One, they suspect some players will not qualify academically and therefore never enroll. Two, they didn't sign 25 the previous year and are trying to make up for it during the current year. If the allotment of 25 is not used in a given year, additional signees can be included the following year provided they enroll in December and are on campus for the spring semester. The number allowed still cannot exceed the max. 25 for that previous year's class. Any additional players that exceed the 25 limit from the year before count against the current class.

In Clemson's case, not only did we not oversign, we didn't sign the 25 allowed by the rules. Therefore, some speculated the low number was due to recruits de-committing after Bowden's departure. This is only partially true. Coach Swinney mentioned yesterday that two other numbers played into things: 85 and 15. The NCAA rules allow Div. 1 programs to have no more than 85 players on scholarship in total at any given time, so the 85 rule trumps the 25 rule. In essence, we only had 15 scholarships to offer and still fit under the 85 total, regardless of the 25 allowable.

One other thing that played into the 15 we had to offer is what Coach Swinney referred to yesterday as "grey shirts" Spencer Benton (PK) and Terrence Ashe (WR) being promised scholarships this year. Grey shirt players commit to a team that is over-signed and then either doesn't go to school in the fall or enrolls part-time and pays their own way. They are not officially on the team. In January of the following year, the player enrolls full-time and officially joins the team. They are technically part of the recruiting class for the current year, not the year they committed. Once they join the team, they still have the full five year window to play four years and the ability to red-shirt if they so choose.

In conclusion, we really had 17 scholarships to offer but 2 were reserved for Benton and Ashe, leaving only 15 for the new recruits. We only signed 12, so we will carry those three over to next year. Over-signing in past years "caught up to us", if you will, this year. If things had unfolded differently where 3 of the players we offered had signed with us as opposed to signing with other programs, then we would have used all our scholarships and still had the smallest number of signees of the top 25 recruiting classes. We just didn't have a huge number of outgoing seniors/graduate students and thankfully the Tigers don't have a lot of attrition due to transfers, academic casualties and players getting in trouble.

More recruiting class news and discussion of comments made by Coach Swinney regarding the future of the program coming up shortly.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY- Dabo press conference moved to 3:30 p.m.

Today is National Signing Day for college football teams across the country. I will be attending the 3rd Annual Fort Hill Clemson Club Recruiting Wrap-Up event later today on the university campus and look forward to hearing Coach Swinney discuss each recruit and introduce the coaching staff with all of its new members. I will provide a report on this tomorrow (more info. on meeting below).

Here is the updated list of players that the Tigers have already received a National Letter of Intent from as of 2:22 p.m:

1. Jonathan Meeks- S from Rock Hill HS in Rock Hill, SC
2. Tyler Shatley- FB from East Burke HS in Valdese, NC
3. Brandon Thomas- OL from Dorman HS in Spartanburg, SC
4. Bryce McNeal- WR from Breck HS in Minneapolis, MN
5. Roderick McDowell- RB from Sumter HS in Sumter, SC
6. Tajh Boyd- QB from Phoebus HS in Hampton, VA
7. Spencer Shuey- LB/DE from South Mecklenburg HS in Charlotte, NC
8. Quandon Christian- LB from Lake View HS in Lake View, NC
9. Corico Hawkins- LB from Baldwin HS in Milledgeville, GA
10.Darrel Smith- DE from Gadsden City High School in Gadsden, AL

Two players in the class of 2009 are already enrolled at Clemson and will participate in spring practice:

1. J.K. Jay- OL from Christ Church Espiscopal School in Greenville, SC
2. Malliciah Goodman from West Florence HS in Florence, SC

Clemson Tigers head football coach Dabo Swinney will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. E.S.T. today to discuss the incoming 2009 recruiting class. The press conference can be viewed through the official Clemson athletics website by signing up for a free All-Access account on the website's home page beforehand.

Swinney will also discuss each individual recruit and introduce the coaching staff tonight (Feb. 4) at the Fort Hill Clemson Club's 3rd Annual Recruiting Wrap-up. This event takes place at Jervey Gym on the university campus, starting with a BBQ dinner at 6 p.m. Coach Swinney will speak at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for $25 in advance (at the university athletics office, Mr. Knickerbocker locations and Kinnucan's in Anderson) and $30 at the door. There is also a silent auction with cash or check as the only accepted forms of payment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


On Sunday, Nick Eason became the 21st former Clemson Tiger football player to become a Super Bowl champion when his Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. Eason, whose Steelers jersey number is 93, did play as a backup defensive end in Super Bowl 43 but did not record any tackles, sacks or other stats., according to NFL.com.

Eason's career path to the Super Bowl Championship is interesting. For any NFL player, winning the Super Bowl championship is the penultimate goal but very few ever attain it and most never even play in the big game. Consider these facts: There are 32 NFL teams and each team has 53 players on its roster for a total of 1696 players. Only 2 teams or 106 players make it to the Super Bowl each year, which is equal to only 6.25% of the total teams and players in the league. Ultimately, there is only 1 team and 53 players who will be champions each year.

When you consider those odds, don't forget about just how difficult it is to make it into the NFL in the first place. Of all the thousands of eligible college football players across the nation, only a total of 262 were selected by NFL teams in the 2003 draft. Of that total number, only 26 defensive ends- Eason's position- were selected. The percentage of NCAA players who are drafted into the NFL is miniscule- less than 2%.
Once a player makes it into the NFL, staying in the league can be a challenge as well. The NFL is also referred to as Not For Long. Of the 262 drafted in 2003, some players didn't even make it past training camp because they were cut. Some suffered career-ending injuries. Some were waived or cut by the team during or after the season. It's tough enough just getting drafted but Eason's experiences afterwards also show just how difficult things can be to remain in the NFL.

After his final season at Clemson, Nick was chosen as one of three players, including Carson Palmer and Jeff Roehl (no longer in the NFL), to be featured on the 2003 ESPN tv program "Hey Rookie, Welcome To The NFL". The show was designed to give viewers a behind the scenes look at the players through the draft process and their experiences as a rookie in the league. Eason appeared stressed as cameras rolled while he sat with family in his parents' home in Lyons, GA watching the draft on television. Finally, relief came over his face when his name was called by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round, the 114th overall player chosen as his family celebrated.

Things did not go so well in the beginning. Right off the bat, Nick suffered an achilles injury in Broncos training camp that kept him sidelined for the entire first season. After rehabilitating, the Broncos sent Eason to Scotland in early 2004 to play for the NFL Europe's Scottish Claymores. Upon returning to Denver after the 10 week season, he was relegated to the Broncos' practice squad. Then, on Sept. 24, 2004, Eason was waived by Denver. He never played in a single NFL game for the Broncos. This could have been the end of the road- there was just no way to know if another NFL team would be willing to sign Eason.

With the regular season underway and NFL rosters set, many weeks went by before Nick was signed by the Cleveland Browns in mid-November. He played in one game during that 2004 season and recorded two tackles. He must have showed enough promise. In 2005, he played in all 16 games for the Browns as a backup, recording 19 tackles and 2 sacks. Eason then played in 13 games for the Browns during the 2006 season. In 2007, the Steelers signed Eason as an unrestricted free agent for one year, in which he played in all 16 regular season games. This past year, he signed a two-year contract with the Steelers to play through the 2009 season.

Congratulations to Nick Eason for being a Super Bowl Champion and for continuing to work hard, persevere and believe in himself in spite of the odds. He was one of the fortunate few who overcame the setbacks and obstacles he had to deal with early on. For more information on Nick Eason, please see the previous article dated Jan. 19, 2009 located further down on this page.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Jimmy Maners is from Rock Hill, SC and played both the QB and P positions for the Northwestern High School Trojans under coach Jimmy "Moose" Wallace. Northwestern is consistently ranked among the top 10 high school football teams in the state and just this past year made it all the way to the state championship game played in Death Valley. During his playing days there, he lettered three times in football and twice in golf. He was named an all-area QB and all-region P by the Rock Hill Herald and averaged 42 yards per punt in his junior and senior seasons.

Maners walked on to the Tigers team in the spring of 2005 and became the starter in 2007, averaging 42.8 yards per punt and booting a career-long 71 yarder. He punted 49 times (his jersey number) in 2008-09 and averaged 40.5 yards per punt, with seven going for 50+ yards. Off the field, Jimmy holds the distinction of being the first Tiger football player inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He consistently made the Dean's list as a student and had a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring semester of 2008 before graduating with a degree in history.

JM: You graduated in May, 2008 with a degree in history. Now that the season is over, what are you up to and what are your future plans? Are you planning on attending the NFL Pro Day or combine and trying to gauge whether you have a shot at making it to the pro level?

Maners: Yes I am going to attend the Pro Day and see what happens from there. Hopefully, I’ll get a shot if all goes well. Right now, I am finishing up a second degree in philosophy. If the NFL does not happen over the next two years, then I am going to attend law school. If I go to law school, I am planning on enrolling in the fall of 2010.

JM: I don't know if you will remember this or not but it was pretty funny. It happened at the NC State game this past year: During a tv timeout when it was pretty quiet, a teenage girl who was sitting right behind my wife and me (10 rows up behind the Clemson bench on about the 30 yard line nearest the West Zone) suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs: "I LOVE YOU JIMMY MANERS!" You turned around but I'm not sure if you heard anything other than your name. Any recollection and do the young ladies profess their love to you publicly on a regular basis?

Maners: During the games I hear a lot of people yelling my name. I am over by the wall a lot catching snaps and swinging my leg, so I am closer to the fans than any of the other players. I have a lot of friends that yell at me during games and I try to shout back or least let them know that I heard them. I never really have too many teenage girls come up to me and profess their love but I’m guessing the days like that are over. Not too many teenage girls profess their love to NFL punters and I am guessing that slim to none profess their love to lawyers but maybe I still have a chance. Recognizing fans during the game is usually frowned upon by many of the coaches but I enjoy it. I think it makes the games a lot more fun for both me and the fans.

JM: You played both the QB and P positions at Northwestern High in Rock Hill and earned All-Region honors as a punter your senior year. You averaged 42 yards per punt in both your junior and senior seasons, yet you had to walk on to the team in the spring of 2005. Were you recruited and offered a scholarship by other schools and were you invited to walk-on by Clemson or did you request the opportunity?

Maners: I was kind of an invited walk-on. Tommy Bowden came to visit my high school teammate Jamie Robinson (now a DB at FSU) at Northwestern and my coach happened to mention to him that I was a good punter. Bowden invited me to come out if I chose to attend Clemson. I had a full ride to Wofford to play QB and punt but I just didn’t feel like that was the place for me. I was also heavily recruited by D3 schools like Washington and Lee and Sewanee, but they could offer no scholarship money. At the end of the day, I really felt like I was fully capable of playing at Clemson and I think that influenced my decision most of all. Not to degrade smaller schools, I just thought it would be more exciting to play for a large number of fans, although I do think playing at a smaller school would have certain advantages.

JM: Your career punting average with the Tigers is about 41.8, which is very solid. I looked up stats. on the 32 active punters in the NFL and the average is about 42.7. It's interesting to consider that some of those punters get to kick in domes a lot of the time. How much do the weather conditions play into a punt's distance/placement and what other factors can make a difference?

Maners: Weather plays a huge factor in punting, especially wind. Wind can screw punting up more than anything. Rain and cold always negatively affect punting as well. On the other hand, a slight favorable breeze and warm temperatures affect punting in a positive way. Being able to punt in a dome is a huge advantage and it certainly decreases the chance of hitting a ball that will be affected by those outside factors beyond technique. Bad weather also requires me to think more. Usually, it's just a motion and reaction deal but in bad weather I have to think more and that can have its pros and cons. Usually more cons than pros.

JM: I know you were a two-time letterman in golf at Northwestern High School. It seems like there could be a strong correlation with golf and punting because of the feeling you get when you connect with the ball in the sweet spot versus a shank, the mechanics and focus required and the strategy of ball placement. The only obvious difference would be that you've only got one leg and not 14 clubs to do it all with. Do you find any similarities?

Maners: Golf and punting are quite similar. Almost any saying that you have heard in golf, you can apply to punting as well. There are so analogous it isn’t even funny. Staying smooth, following through and being consistent are crucial to both sports. In a weird way, they are almost exactly the same.

JM: Two punts in your career stand out to me: The first was in this past year's (2008) game against SC. We're up 10-0 early in the 2nd quarter but SC drives to our 40 yard line before stalling. SC punter Spencer Lanning pins us deep on our own 3 and after a 3 and out, you're punting about two feet from the back line of the end zone. You know they're probably coming after it and yet you boom a 54 yarder that is angled to the right sideline, bounces on the SC 44 and then goes out of bounds at the 40, a huge play in terms of the change in field possession and doesn't allow Kenny McKinley a chance at a return. I've never seen you so fired up after a punt and rightfully so. What was going through your mind beforehand and how much does adrenaline play a factor in a punt like that, given the circumstances?

Maners: Adrenaline plays a huge factor in hitting good punts, along with confidence. I knew if I hit a good punt that it could be a game-changer. I was having so much fun that day; I knew every punt I hit was going to be a good one. I felt it that day and I wish all days could be like that. We called a right angle punt and the wind was favorable in that direction, so I knew if I hit it well it would take off. They didn’t bring much pressure and I had a great snap. The timing was perfect and it just took off. I was pumped because of the situation and I figured I’d better take advantage of it while I could. It was my last game in Death Valley and I did something that I will always remember. Situations like that don’t happen every day, so I figured I would make it truly worthwhile by getting the fans to cheer and laugh simultaneously.

JM: The second punt that stands out to me was in 2007 against Louisiana-Monroe. It was mid-4th quarter and you had only punted twice up to that point because we were scoring on most possessions, up 49-19. Korn gets sacked on 3rd down on our own 17, forcing the punt. You come in and boom one 71 yards, your career longest. Tell us about that one.

Maners: The career long was a punt that I wanted to kick over the guy’s head and I did. The returner was lined up at like 35 yards, so I knew I could bomb it over his head. I purposely kept it low so he wouldn’t be able to get back to it fast enough. In that situation in the game, being in the 4th quarter with us killing them, it kind of set up the opportunity to hit a long punt. The weather was perfect and the stadium was practically empty, so it was good time to hit a solid punt. I only wish it would have rolled further!

JM: What team win during your career as a Tiger will you look back on as the most gratifying and what team loss do you think will always sting the most and why?

Maners: The best team win will most definitely be the USC game of 2008. That was the most fun I have had playing football in a real long time and it being my last game in Clemson made it that much sweeter. The worst loss would have to be VT in 2007. We got killed and it was freezing cold. It was absolutely miserable.

JM: Do you think Dawson Zimmerman has a lock on the punting job going into spring practice and Richard Jackson will be the place kicker going into the 2009 season? I'm assuming that if Zimmerman got hurt, Jackson could pull double-duty but what kind of depth do we have at these two positions? Will Spencer Benton play any kind of role or do we need someone else to try and walk on like you did to provide both competition and depth?

Maners: Yes, I’m sure that Dawson will be the starting punter next year. He has solid technique and he will do well. He may be the best punter in Clemson history if he gets a full steam of confidence and the coaches support him 100%. If they tell him "you are the guy and we give you liberty to mess up once in a while", then he will be awesome. I have questions about the PK situation though. Jackson and Benton both have really, really strong legs but they aren’t very consistent. It might be the most competitive fight for a position over the spring. I do think a talented walk-on could come in and start and PK next season if the coaches give him an opportunity. I think Richard is fully capable of playing at Clemson but he needs to focus and improve over the summer. Richard could be deadly if he completely dedicates himself to kicking over the next 8 months.

JM: Last question: There's been a significant number of coaching staff changes over the past few weeks. In addition, for the 2009 season, the Tigers will be without a dozen key players including yourself, Buccholz, Harper, Davis, Kelly, Grisham, Faerber, Hamlin, Scott, Clemmons, Rashaad Jackson and McKissick. Do you think fans should temper their expectations and consider this a rebuilding year or is there a chance that new coaches and new starters could gel, step up and win the Atlantic division?

Maners: There is always a chance that the Tigers could win the Atlantic division and I think it is a truly attainable goal next season. Although we lost a lot, they still have and are getting much more in return. I think they can win the Atlantic division but expectations are a funny thing. I think fans' preseason expectations are too high. Last year, people were talking sure-fire ACC champions and maybe a national championship. Yes, those are great goals but if you truly expect that then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You have to expect to win but sometimes funny things happen. I think Clemson can win the ACC but it has to go one game at a time. That is the key- one game at a time. It is all about playing the best you can every game and that has to be the focus. Some fans seem to create some sort of fantasy-land ideal picture of a season and that’s well and fine if they know it is a dream season. Dream seasons almost never happen in college football. Teams lose games but the focus needs to be on the reality of how the team is playing at a particular point in time, not the fantasized expectations.

JM: I would just like to finish by saying thank you for your contributions to the team and I'm glad that you chose to come to Clemson. I wish you the best in your future endeavors whether it be the NFL or law school. Good luck and take care.

Monday, January 26, 2009


The Under Armour Senior Bowl, played this past Saturday, featured three Clemson Tigers who all have hopes of being selected in the 2009 NFL Draft: S Michael Hamlin, RB James Davis and QB Cullen Harper. All three players were on the South roster, who won the game by a score of 35-18 over the North and each of the three made contributions in the win. Below is a look at their individual performances:

Hamlin received a very substantial amount of playing time, participating on special teams as well as playing safety for the defensive team. Hamlin accounted for five total tackles, two on special teams and three from his safety position. He was consistently one of the first players down the field to cover the return man on every kickoff and he provided good downfield pass coverage. His special teams play was very impressive and I'm betting that NFL scouts were impressed as well and take this into strong consideration come draft day. His game highlights:

* On the kickoff following the South's first scoring drive, Hamlin made a great solo tackle on special teams. The hit on the return man, Oregon DB Patrick Chung, garnered "ooooh's" from the crowd.
* Hamlin evidently liked hitting Oregon players in this game. His second tackle was made on the Ducks' RB Jeremiah Johnson on the North's fourth offensive series.
* The South team kicked off to open the second half and Hamlin, for the second time on a kickoff, made the special teams tackle on Penn State WR Derrick Williams.
* On a 1st down play, Hamlin makes the tackle on a rushing play by Oregon RB Jeremiah Johnson, his third tackle of an Oregon player out of four total tackles thus far in the game.
* On the very next play, Hamlin again makes the tackle on OSU's Brian Robiskie after a 2nd down pass completion from Texas Tech's Graham Harrell.

James had 9 carries in the game for a total of 32 yards and an average gain of 3.55 yards per rush. His longest gain was 11 yards. While these are not stellar numbers at first glance, it must be noted that the South's leading rusher (Liberty's Rashad Jennings) also had nine carries for 41 yards and the RB who received the most "hype" during the week was NCSU's Andre' Brown, who had 10 carries for 31 yards.

Davis was not thrown to and therefore had no receptions. Earlier in the week during practice, Davis dropped a couple of balls thrown his way. I wonder if QB's were reluctant to throw to Davis for this reason even when WR's and TE's were covered on passing plays and they had to check down. I do believe Davis will need to work on catching the ball out of the backfield in order to improve his draft status. He only caught 14 passes in seven of thirteen games for Clemson in 2008-09 and NFL teams are going to want more production. His game highlights:

* Davis entered the game on the South's second offensive series and received two straight handoffs from Bama QB John Parker Wilson, taking each carry for a 2 yard gain. (2-4)
* In the same series, Davis got the carry on 1st and goal and made a 1 yard gain. (3-5)
* On Cullen Harper's first series as the South's QB, he handed off to Davis who ran for an 8 yard gain. (4-13)
* In the same series, on 1st and goal from the 6 yard line, Harper hands off to Davis for a 3 yard gain. (5-16)
* On the very next play (2nd and goal), Harper again hands off to Davis for a 2 yard gain to the 1 yard line. (6-18)
* Davis came in the game in the 4th quarter and had a 2 yard carry on 2nd and 10. (7-20)
* Later in the 4th quarter, Davis takes a handoff from WVU QB Pat White for a gain of 11 yards. (8-31)
* On the very next play, Davis carries for a gain of 1 yard. (9-32)

Harper officially played in four offensive series in the game. He entered the game late in the 1st half and played the entire offensive series, which resulted in an 8 play, 59 yard scoring drive that put the South up 21-3. Cullen was 2-3 for 44 yards on this drive. He came in again on the South's next offensive series with only 0:49 left in the 1st half and went 0-2. On the South's 2nd offensive series of the 2nd half, Harper played the first three downs of the series, going 0-1. His fourth series was inconsequential because he came in the game with 0:44 remaining and took a knee. His final numbers were 2-6 for 44 yards, 0 TD's and 0 INT's. His game highlights:

* On his first play of the game, Harper threw about 5 yards behind the receiver on a deep route. (0-1)
* On 3rd and 9, Harper threw what the announcers said was one of the best throws of the night to Arizona WR Mike Thomas, which went for 32 yards. (1-2)
* On 2nd and 2, Harper completes a slant pass to Southern Cal WR Patrick Turner that hits him right between the numbers and goes for 10 yards and a 1st down. The announcers again said Cullen threw the ball right where it needed to be. (2-3)
* On Harper's 2nd offensive series of the game, he threw incomplete on 1st down. Although the ball was caught by OSU's Briscoe, the ref. called him out of bounds. One of the NFL Network's announcers, Mike Mayock, is ultra-critical but said after the throw that Harper was getting the ball out of his hands efficiently. (2-4)
* On the very next play, Harper threw a screen pass incompete over FSU's Antone Smith's head due to having it to loft it high over the outstretched arms of a North DL that got pressure. After this play announcer Maylock and fellow announcer Charles Davis went on to talk at length about Harper's season being affected by a sprained a/c joint in the 1st game against 'Bama and then having to get his non-throwing shoulder cleaned out after the GT game but leading the team to a 4-1 mark down the stretch in the reg. season afterwards. (2-5)
* On his last throw of the game, Harper though the receiver was going to break outside and the receiver turned inside on the route, so the ball fell incomplete. (2-6)

Overall, I thought Harper played well in the game. He led the team on a scoring drive, made some nice throws and did not turn the ball over or take a sack. He did throw the ball way behind the receiver on the first play of the game and perhaps could have delivered the ball just a split second sooner on the catch that was ruled out but I don't think he did anything to hurt his chances in the draft. His play was solid enough all week that I think if anything it helped him.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Yesterday was the last day of practice for Saturday's Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL which features three Tigers on the South team coached by the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff: S Michael Hamlin, RB James Davis and QB Cullen Harper. Thursday's practice was in half-pads and included position drills along with live scrimmages featuring the offense going against the defensive in various down and distance situations with liberal substitutions.

All three players wearing Clemson helmets made some very good plays in Thursday's live scrimmage segment. The QB's and RB's as a group received a fair amount of camera time while the DB's received none other than during the live offense vs. defense scrimmages if they were involved in making a play on the ball or the stop. The practice was not all positive for Davis and Harper. There were some things that Jacksonville RB coach Kennedy Pola instructed Davis to improve on and a couple of Harper's throws were off. Let's look at both the areas and plays that were good and the ones that were not so good.

Good: In the live scrimmage on a red zone play made a terrific break on a pass thrown by WVU QB Pat White and knocked it down in the end zone. The play almost certainly would have resulted in a TD otherwise. The announcers/analysts for the NFL network praised Hamlin afterwards, saying that it was an especially difficult play to make because two different routes were being run right in front of him, "hitting him high and low" but he watched the QB's eyes and didn't bite on the other route/receiver.

Good: Hamlin nearly made an interception on a ball that hit FSU WR Greg Carr's hands and popped off but fell just inches short of Michael's outstretched hands as he dove for it.

Not so good: Nothing. Again, television coverage did not feature DB position drills nor any live comments made to Hamlin by the coaches who were "mic'd up". However, I didn't observe a player he was defending even catch a pass.

Good: In a red zone situation during the live scrimmage, Davis ran a wheel route and was wide open when he caught a pass from Alabama QB John Parker Wilson and took it into the end zone for a TD. Davis also caught a pass from WVU QB White and had several carries in which he looked good. It is hard to say whether he would have broken any long runs on the carries because there was no tackling allowed.

Not so good: In one RB position drill, Jacksonville RB coach told Davis that his "base" at impact when blocking a defender was too wide and therefore he doesn't have any power. He told James that he needed to get a "power step", which I understood to mean that Davis has his legs so far apart at impact that he isn't forcing the defender backward. If he keeps a more narrow stance and steps into the blocker at impact rather than keeping his legs stationary while moving his upper body forward, it would provide more power.

Not so good: On a situational play where the offense faced 2nd and 2 on the defense's 30 yard line, Davis took the pitch 7 yards deep in the backfield from WVU QB White and ran wide to the left for 7 yards but was met by a LB at the line of scrimmage and the play was called dead. Coach Pola can be heard screaming in the background "Get the 1st down, beat him there". After the play, Pola called James over and asked him if he knew the down and distance on the play. James answered "yes" and started to trot off the field when Pola called him back and said that if he was aware of it, then sooner or later he would have to plant his foot in the ground, lower his shoulder and get the 1st.

Not so good: Davis had two other balls thrown his way- both by 'Bama QB Wilson that hit him on the hands but he did not catch either one. The first was a slightly high throw that James had to leap for but it popped up in the air off his hands. The other was also slightly high and James leaped for this one and had it hit his hands again but he fell to the turf and couldn't bring it in. The balls weren't necessarily uncatchable. It was just a situation where if Davis had been 6' 1 instead of 5' 11, he probably makes the catch on both. Had he shown enough vertical jump and balance to haul both in, it would have certainly been impressive to NFL scouts in attendance.

: Cullen Harper threw a TD pass to Southern Miss TE Shawn Nelson on a red zone drill play. Harper threaded the ball between three defenders, one of whom made a break on the ball to try for an interception. The pass definitely was only where only Nelson could catch it and had a lot of velocity on it. On another series in the live scrimmage, he completed a pass to Southern Cal WR Patrick Turner. On a another play in the live scrimmage, Cullen rolled left and made a short completion to a player whose team/name I did not get.

Not so good: NFL Network announcers/analysts criticized Harper for throwing a ball high and late to FSU WR Greg Carr. It was a curl route and Cullen was slightly late with the ball, taking a three step drop instead of two but Carr had dropped every ball thrown to him previusly in the scrimmage and he is 6' 5 and can jump. Even the announcers were criticizing him later in the game when he dropped another pass from WVU QB White, so I don't know if you can pin all of this incompetion on Harper but he was in fact a little late with the throw.

Not so good: On the next series after his TD pass, Harper threw an incompletion that appeared to be very low and way behind the Southern Cal receiver who reached down and back for it. What was curious to me is whether there was some confusion on the play about just who the intended receiver was. There was another receiver running across the field who it looked like Harper was trying to hit because the ball went about five feet in front of him but the player didn't even make an attempt to catch the ball. It may have been a bad throw either way.

The Senior Bowl game takes place on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the NFL Network. Here's wishing Hamlin, Davis and Harper the best of luck in the game. Hopefully they will impress the NFL scouts in attendance with their play.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Levon Kirkland is a familiar name to Tigers football fans. It's also a familiar name to Steelers fans, since he spent the vast majority of his successful 11 year NFL career with Pittsburgh. I recently spoke to a couple of people that I know who had seen Levon (his full name is Lorenzo Levon Kirkland) at church and the gym here in the upstate of SC. I was very excited to hear this and my immediate thoughts were to try and secure an interview with him. Sometimes, it is much more difficult than you may think to get an interview with a former player, regardless of their "star-status". In this case, to me, Mr. Kirkland represented an "icon" and a living legend and so I was a little unsure of my chances. However, I was able to speak with him yesterday and he graciously agreed.

Levon is from Lamar, SC, which is in Darlington County and very near Florence. He played football (also ran track and high-jumped) at Lamar High School, which is a small, Division 1 class A school with three state football titles over the last decade. He came to Clemson in 1987 and red-shirted his freshman year. As a RS freshman, he made an immediate impact at LB and had his best game against Maryland, accounting for 13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. As a sophomore, he was named all-ACC and was also MVP of the Gator Bowl after recording 9 tackles, a sack and 3 QB pressures. As a junior, he was again all-ACC, named second-team All American, was a finalist for the Butkus award and a key part of the nation's #1 defense. In his senior season, Kirkland was again all-ACC, a first-team All American, a semi-finalist for the Lombardi award and a member of the team which most recently won the ACC championship.

After his senior season, Levon was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2nd round of the 1992 draft. After moving from outside to inside LB, he learned the ropes as a rookie but became the starter the following year and every year thereafter. 1996 is considered by many to be his "breakout" year, in which he recorded 114 tackles, 4 sacks and 4 interceptions. After both the 1996 and 1997 seasons, he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Kirkland played a total of 9 years for the Steelers and was waived in 2001 due to salary cap pressure. He was signed by Seattle for the 2003 season and recorded 100 tackles and one sack. In 2004, he was signed by Philadelphia and retired after the season.

Upon retirement, Levon returned to Clemson to finish his degreee in sociology and was looking for an opportunity to give back to the University. The opportunity presented itself and he was subsequently hired as Coordinator of Minority Recruitment at Clemson. Kirkland was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 2001 and in 2008 was indcucted into the SC Athletic Hall of Fame.

JM: You played high school football in your hometown of Lamar, SC for the Lamar Silver Foxes. You've mentioned over the years that you were not heavily recruited, so considering your success at Clemson, there must have been a lot of college coaches who regretted overlooking you. Do you believe it puts kids at a disadvantage from a recruiting standpoint- coming from a small town and high school program?

LK: I believe back then it was a big disadvantage for most kids from small towns. The State and the Greenville News just didn’t cover kids from the Pee Dee or surrounding areas. You had to be discovered. I was lucky because I was basically discovered by Clemson University. I still think that some kids get overlooked, not because of the lack of information but because of their size or the size of the high school programs and most universities don’t have the time or man-power to recruit under every rock.

JM: Who recruited you for Clemson and what other programs did you receive offers from? Did you grow up a Clemson fan or what sealed your decision to play for the Tigers?

LK: I was recruited by Miles Aldridge and he was the inside linebacker coach at the time. He looked a little like Nick Nolte, the actor from 48 hours with Eddie Murphy. I received offers from University of South Carolina, South Carolina State and Appalachian State. My one college visit to Clemson is what sealed the deal for me. I saw the campus, met the Clemson family and that's all it took. I didn’t even visit another school because I knew I found what I was looking for in a university.

JM: You had some great accomplishments during your playing days at Clemson, including being named MVP of the Gator Bowl, All-ACC for three straight years, first team All-American your senior year, a seminfinalist for the Lombardi and finalist for the Butkus awards. What or who motivated you to play at such a high level and when did you realize that the prospect of playing in the NFL could be a reality?

LK: I’ve always gotten encouragement in every level that I played on. My initial motivation was to be better than my older brothers because I heard all of their war stories (laughs). Seriously, I had mentors that saw more in me than I saw in myself and encouraged me to be the very best. I was also blessed enough to play for some outstanding programs. You don’t get much better than Clemson University, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Lamar Silver Foxes when it comes to class and the development of athletes. It wasn’t until after the Gator Bowl (against West Va. in 1989) that I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I always thought I could play professional football but running after Major Harris and winning the MVP of the Gator Bowl really gave me the boost I needed to take it to the next level.

JM: Looking back on all of the games you played in during your Tiger career, are there memories that stand out to you now about your personal peformance and/or the team's performance in some of them? How about fond and/or fun memories you have of Clemson off the field?

LK: The best memories I have about Clemson University is the fact that I got to run down the hill on most Saturdays during my college career. That was the best! I loved the fact I played for a great program and was a member of the number one defense in 1990. As far as off the field memories- take your pick, I was at a university that loved football.

JM: You did go on to play in the NFL and had a successful career for eleven years, most of which was with the Steelers. Describe what was going through your head at the start of your rookie season when you arrived in Pittsburgh and meet all of these veterans you've watched on TV. Was it like deja' vu coming to Clemson from Lamar and wondering if you can play at that level?

LK: It was actually like coming to Clemson from Lamar. The biggest surprise for me was that everyone on that team was very good, worked hard and wanted to be the best. As a rookie, you have to earn the respect of the players and most players on that level can recognize a fraud or a player when they see one. So, it was back to the drawing board but it was a dream to be playing at the highest level.

JM: Not to get too personal here but seven years after leaving Clemson, you were the highest paid linebacker in the NFL. Without question, your accomplishments on the field allowed you to earn it. I think most people wonder what it would be like to be an athlete getting paid millions of dollars. What goes through your mind when the checks are rolling in? Were you thinking, "I've made it, I can buy mansions and Ferraris" or were you worried about injuries and trying to live conservatively?

LK: To tell you the truth, the day I signed that contract was the most humbling day of my life. In one way I couldn’t believe it that I was the highest paid linebacker and in other ways it gave me hope that with hard work and faith that anything is possible. No Ferraris or mansions, maybe one day.

JM: You played at a very high level during your entire eleven-year NFL career, even including the last season with the Seattle Seahawks in which you started 15 games and had 74 tackles. Why did you choose to retire after that 2002 season when it seems that statistically you had proven you were still capable of continuing to play at that high level?

LK: I just really didn’t love it as much as much as I once did. Now, I will always love the game of football and I would love to coach one day and share the knowledge that I have but I didn’t love playing it anymore. Plus, I had just gotten married and wanted to spend some time with my wife and new baby girl.

JM: After your NFL career, you returned to Clemson and received your degree in sociology. You then expressed a desire to give back to the University and were subsequently hired as Coordinator of Minority Recruitment Initiatives. What exactly is it that you do?

LK: I basically go out and share my experience of being an Clemson alum. and try to share the educational and social opportunities here at Clemson University. I know what it means to be a first-generation student and I want those students to know that there is someone here that they can relate to and be comfortable with.

JM: In your senior season, you played on the last football team to win an ACC championship for the Tigers, which was in 1991. Give us your thoughts on the current state of the Clemson Tigers football program, the coaching changes and what needs to happen in order to bring another conference championship to Death Valley. Are you currently involved with the football program in any way?

LK: I think Clemson is headed in the right direction now. I believe that Coach Swinney will do a great job as head coach. I think it will take some time but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We as fans can become so impatient and want a national championship right now. It doesn’t happen that way and that’s a fact. He will lead the troops in the way of an ACC Championship and after that, the sky is the limit. I’m not currently involved with the program, but I would like to be. I know I could make a difference with my knowledge of the game and being a positive mentor for the athletes.

: I'm assuming that since you spent the majority of your NFL career with the Steelers that you're happy they're playing in the Super Bowl this year. Will you be jealous of Nick Eason if he ends up with a Super Bowl ring?

LK: I’m very happy for the Pittsburgh Steelers and course I’m thrilled for Nick Eason and the great opportunity he has to become a member of a Super Bowl Championship team. I will never be jealous of another person's success. In fact, I celebrate when good things happen to people.

JM: Levon, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to allow Tigers fans to catch up with you. I am proud that you are a Clemson Tiger and for all you have done and are doing for the university, students and fans.