What We are Hearing...

Some insider news and notes on what to expect this weekend against Duke, as well as some other important news and notes surrounding the football program, including the mood of the team, an interesting recruiting side note from last weekend, and some parting shots.

The Mood of the Team
I have to admit; I'm always going to be a little concerned coming into a game like this. Why? Because this is the kind of game that Clemson should win and win handily, but coming off an emotional victory over Florida State, and right before the game of the year against South Carolina, this contest has "letdown" written all over it.

The players are once again saying all the right things, but the good news is, they've all been much more open to the fact that Duke can compete with anybody in the conference- especially after they put up 40 points last week against Georgia Tech.

That victory, ending more than 4 years of consecutive losses in the conference, may be the one thing that works in the Tigers' favor more than anything else this weekend. You see, the simple fact that Duke was able to go out and drub a team that seemed destined for second place in the conference, grabs the attention of every player on the Clemson roster.

"It really does," noted Curtis Baham. "After Wake Forest, we really know that we can't overlook anyone, and we aren't about to do that again. We're confident, but it's a quiet confidence right now. We aren't about to go through what we did two weeks ago all over again. We're finishing this season out strong."

As you can see, the mood continues to be one of confidence, and one of focus. And those two attributes have proven to be the two most important traits in producing big Clemson wins this season.

The Gameplan
The past two seasons, the Tigers have only managed to get a running back over 100 yards on two occasions- both against the North Carolina Tar Heels. That will change on Saturday as Duane Coleman continues to ride some late season momentum. Saturday will present Coleman the opportunity to get over 100 yards for the second time this season, and also prepare him for a big game next week in Columbia.

Defensively, Duke won't run near as much misdirection as some people are suggesting, and even if they do, it shouldn't matter. Chris Douglass leads the ACC in rushing, and he'll get his fair share of carries, but it won't matter near enough to make a difference in this one.

Again, the Blue Devils' win over Georgia Tech should keep the Tigers' focus on the game Saturday, not at what lies ahead against South Carolina.

Finding a Rhythm
Charlie Whitehurst picked a good game to find his rhythm last weekend against Florida State. He made so many good decisions and seemed to be in control of the offense all game long. The good news is that he was able to have that kind of success while also seeing a good bit of pressure from the Noles' defense. In past games against Georgia, N.C. State, and Maryland, the Georgia native seemed to get out of sync whenever the opposing team consistently brought pressure. While I'm not expecting the Blue Devils to have a lot of defensive success, no matter what their strategy, you'd still like to Charlie come out with the same sort of focus he had against FSU. I'm suspecting he will.

Recruiting Sidenote
I overheard Justin Miller asking William Henry who that "big boy" was that he was talking to in the locker room last weekend after the Florida State game. The "big boy" he was referring to was none other than Greenville offensive lineman Cory Lambert. Henry also went to Greenville High School, and the two talk on occasion. Henry said that Lambert was going to stay in-state with a big old grin on his face.

Miller's response, "We need to get him here."

Parting Shots
Anybody that was watching the Virginia-Maryland game last night saw how the Terps taunted Virginia the entire pregame. The nonsense culminated in a penalty after the coin toss when the entire Maryland team went out to midfield and began pointing and shouting at the Cavaliers' sideline. Well, they did the same thing against Clemson and no penalty was called.

The point of this parting shot isn't to cry about a penalty that wasn't or wasn't called. The point is to remember when Maryland comes into Death Valley next year minus half their current team that graduates this spring.

After watching how their entire student section, led by the most obnoxious "mike man" in the world, tries to lead cheers for the stadium, the good folks of Death Valley need to return the favor in 2004.

Oh, and we don't need Kid Rock blasting through the loud speakers as the Maryland QB takes the snap to generate noise. Please.

I hope our team, and our crowd returns the favor in a big way next season. Obviously, a big win is the most important thing, but a little icing on top with a rowdy crowd, wouldn't be too bad either.

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