It's been awhile since I dug into the mailbag and answered questions ... so we had better get started. :)
Q: Russ, what is up with our running game? Should we expect this all season.
Timmy J., Columbia, SC
A: Timmy, it is getting a little frustrating is it not? Do not expect it to get any better against Alabama either because they will field the best defense yet against us. But there is hope and I'll tell you why. It's not that we are completely lacking in talent out there, a lot of it has to do with experience and comprehension. Coach Hunt's schemes are sound but there are one or two guys on that line that seem intent on missing assignments at key times. That's got to stop. Once everyone gets on the same page, once the light comes on for everyone on that line ... then they will have a breakout running game and you will hear a collective rush of air escaping from everyone who has been holding their breath waiting for the rushing attack to get on track. In the meantime Daccus Turman and Mike Davis show a lot of promise as a one-two power punch and Bobby Wallace will get another shot as well.
Q: What are our top priorities for the next recruiting class Russ?
James P., Pawley's Island, SC
A: Offensive Linemen. Offensive Linemen. Offensive Linemen. Oh yeah, and defensive linemen and cornerbacks and another stud tailback or two. and definitely a handful of top notched linebackers. James, we're going to sign somewhere around six or seven offensive linemen in this next class and that is a priority. We'll also sign as many blue chip defensive linemen as possible and we're really going to need a great class of corners and linebackers in this next class. We'll probably sign one good quarterback and at least one, maybe two outstanding tailbacks. Word is that Spurrier wants to sign an excellent fullback too but he'll take a ballsy walkon if he can find one given the fact that we'll only have 23 to give this season. I think they might sign one high speed tight end too if this particular kid keeps leaning our way (don't ask until the time is right) and that would give us bookends with Hannah on the other side for the next few years. And Spurrier will always take outstanding wide receivers if there is space available.
Q: What are our chances with Jimmy Clausen? Is he playing us or is he really interested in coming to South Carolina or is he headed to Tennessee like his brothers?
Michael F., Edisto, SC
A: Not only is Clausen interested Michael, I am beginning to believe Spurrier may bag him. I dread having to speculate on high school juniors but in this case I believe we are in the hunt as much as anybody else and we are probably in better shape than Tennessee. According to my sources the odds are that it will come down to the two USCs ... Carolina and Southern Cal although UC is hanging in there as well. I know a lot of recruitnics in the midwest are claiming Notre Dame is a viable player but IMHO Notre Dame is in about the same shape as Tennessee with Clausen. The kid is an independent thinker and that is a good thing for South Carolina. One last reason I believe Spurrier may bag Clausen is Spurrier himself. No explaination necessary. Plus, Clausen's Dad seems to like the idea of having one of his sons play for Steve Spurrier. Casey obviously never reached his full potential under Phil Fulmer. Spurrier would get the most out of Jimmy.
Q: Rooster, this is week three. Who is redshirting and who is not?
John S., Perry, GA
A: John, that is a trick question in week three. The third week is usually the telling week. Players who played a down or two in week one can still be redshirted technically, if they were injured in that first game, sort of, kind of ... it is hard to explain. And true freshmen who have not yet touched the field during a game might still be played this week without giving their coaches much of a guilty conscience. So ask me the same question next week and I can be more specific. However, for the time being let's look at it this way friend. We know for a fact that Carlos Thomas, Mike Davis, Jonathan Hannah, Ryan Succop, Kenny McKinley, Mike West, Shea McKeen Taylor Rank and Yvan Banag are not going to redshirt. Bobby Wallace, should probably be added to that list as well but as of week three he is not a done deal yet IMHO.
Everyone else will more than likely redshirt including O.J. Murdock, which is the one I am asked about more than any other lately probably because he received so much preseason hype. When will we learn? The only other player I can see who might not redshirt is Dakota Walker but that is because our linebackers are not playing up to snuff right now. Walker will either play this week against Bama or he will redshirt this season. Cade Thompson is another that I get asked about a lot and I suppose we should refer to him as a bubble redshirt for the moment as well.
Q: Russ, why does it seem that Clemson is outrecruiting us in state again this year?
Marvin B., Liberty, SC
A: Hmmmm. Are they? I hadn't noticed. I guess if you believe the rankings and all that, and if their commits stick, and if signing day were today it would appear they had out-recruited us in the state ... and if a bullfrog had wings. One thing you need to always remember with this new staff. They are not limited in their recruiting endeavors by the boundaries of the state of South Carolina. They do not stop and turn around once they hit the Savannah River. They do not hit a brick wall once they come to the NC border. This staff is recruiting nationally. They are looking for the very best players at their positions in the country (sic). There are not enough players in SC to build a championship team. You always want to keep the best ones home but a lot of times those kids want to get away from home and spread their wings far away from Mommy and Daddy. Other times they've grown up a fan of one team or the other. I've made a mental note to myself in the past that kids really become big-time fans of one program or the other in this state or out-of-state around their sophomore year in high school. And winning big games and going to big bowls, that is what catches the eyes of the kids when it matters. Then you factor in the influence of coaches and parents ... maybe even a former teammate now playing with a certain school. There are so many things that affect where a kid might go. In the end, what you want is a class of players that fill your needs, meet your requirements, have the skills, come from strong backgrounds, and most importantly they want to be here. It does not matter where they come from because once they are here they are yours, just like an instate player would be. Look at Ryan Brewer and Steve Tanneyhill and Sterling Sharpe and George Rogers and Todd Ellis. The list goes on and on. These are South Carolina people now, yet none of them grew up in South Carolina. They are new blood for this state. Look at what they gave us during their playing days. So, do not worry too much about where they come from as much as about what they bring with them once they arrive. That's what it most important. We're never ever going to be able to keep them all instate nor will we be able to keep them all away from Clemson. But we will get our share.
Q: Rooster, I noticed that Carlos Thomas played both ways the other day. Is that going to be a regular strategy?
Joe, B., Camden, SC
A: I don't know about it being a strategy as much as it is a necessity at times. Carlos and Gerald Sinclair are probably two of the better athletes we have signed in a long long time. Either could play either side of the ball. Carlos will continue to be used on both sides of the ball when needed. AND, he may be used as a return man before this season is done. Kenny McKinnley is another great athlete that can do so many things as well.
Q: Rusty, you owe Sydney Rice an apology.
Jason W., Gaffney, SC
A: For what? For saying he was lazy when he first got here? For saying he could do better? For saying that he is not durable enough at times? For saying he is too slow to do some things? I am not going to apologize for that. I know I upset a lot of Gaffney fans when I spoke up there and said those things about Syndey but they were true at the time. Syndey is a wonderful talent and fine kid but listen, he had his bad days way back when and I am glad to see him pulling away from that old prima donna attitude of his. He is becomming a team player and it looks like he is getting a little bit tougher these days as well. He is contributing and that is what he is supposed to do given his God Given Talents. He was wasting those at one time and I was not the only 'insider' saying it not too long ago. I believe Todd Ellis said he needed to get tougher when he spoke up there after I did ... but no one is against Sydney. Everyone is pulling for him to do well. Let's just hope he can stay healthy because the young man can leap and he has an excellent set of hands. I wish he were two tenths of a second faster - because he would be Troy Williamson type good if he were. And it appears that he has finally begun to focus on being a solid student athlete and living up to his potential. Good for him.
Q: Russ, who is your favorite Coach?
Marla K., Charleston, SC
A: I like them all but I like Rick Stockstill a lot and I've known Ron Cooper since he was head coach up at Eastern Michigan. Both great guys. Steve Spurrier, Jr. is a serious guy who has had to work hard to escape his father's shadow ... and he has. David Reaves is a nice guy who has been given a huge break at such a young age and is working hard to take advantage of that break. He is rolling around in a bed of roses right now. I like Coach Nix, he is pure football as is Coach Thompson and Hunt, etc. This staff seems to be very well put-together. Madre Hill is kind of a surprise, I mean he knows his stuff and is not just an ex-player. We know some of the same people in Arkansas and they are all big on Madre as a coach. Dave Wommack is another good guy. All of them are good football people and all of them are hard workers.
Q: Russ, is there any word on how many games will be on TV this year?
Pat K., Summerville, SC
A: If I am not mistaken, all of them will be on TV of some sort this season. Either network broadcasts, premium cable, Jefferson Pilot, or cable/pay-per-view. But all of them will be aired somewhere this season I am pretty sure ... which may be the first time that has happened. I know we came close one time before but Frank Broyles refused to allow the closed circuit game in Fayetteville that year.
Q: Will Tim Frisby get a catch this year?
Roger P., Fayetteville, NC
A: Yes he will Roger. At least he'll have it thrown his way at some point this season. It will be up to Tim to make the catch. Imagine that. All this build up and all this anticipation and eventually it is going to come down to about a second and a half in front of millions and in a blink of an eye it will be over. I know a little secret. There are big people in high up places that really want Tim to get that one catch and for him to catch the ball ... icing on the cake would be a touch down. More on that later. ;) I spoke to Tim not long ago and that catch, when it comes, will probably become as famous as any catch, or drop, in the history of South Carolina.
Q: Rooster, how bad will the limited number of visits hurt us over he next two seasons?
Charlie O., Myrtle Beach, SC
A: The key word here is "official" Charlie. They have had their official visits cut. So what we will have to hope is that a lot of players who are close enough, who are within driving distance, will be willing to come in for unofficial visits. What that means is that they are basically going to have to pay their own way. The coaches will be very very selective about who they award an official visit to over the next two years. But to answer your question, no, it should not hurt, not much anyway.
I know there are more questions but that is about all I can answer today. Keep PMing your questions via the boards or email me with your questions and I will get to them as fast as possible.
Thank you to those who sent in questions and for those that asked the same basic questions as the ones I answered above ... I used the names of the people that sent the question in first in this Q & A.