Frisby's Corner: Week Six
By now the facts of Thursday night's clash with Kentucky have been hashed and re-hashed throughout the media. So I will not add much further discourse pertaining to Thursday night's events. However, I will say this: The University of South Carolina (the real USC) is the seventh ranked team in the nation today. This fact is hard for Gamecock fans to imagine, a mere three seasons after Coach Steve Spurrier and his staff stepped on campus. But here we are, on top of the SEC-East standings with Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee in our rear view mirrors. Are we destiny's darlings? I don't know. However, I do know that now is the time to put our foot down on the accelerator and distance us from the pack. This team must do its part and then let the chips fall where they may.
Let me share with you a few observations, recommendations, and some do's and don't as we navigate these barely charted waters of a top ten football program.
Folks, there are a few things we just can't afford to do. Rule number one: We can't afford to look past our next opponent. If this season has shown us anything, it's the fact that you can be beaten on any given day. Saturday I watched a 1-4 North Carolina team play with heart and passion as they knocked off a better, albeit unranked University of Miami team. I stress "Any given Saturday." I watched Georgia get their backsides handed to them by an unranked yet skilled Tennessee team. I watched an overrated Wisconsin team be beaten by a well-coached and talented bunch from Illinois. And yes, I was pleased to watch LSU defeat the Florida Gators, although this was not an upset by any means. Finally, I watched a consistently bad Stanford team will their way to a win over the unbeatable USC West. So this brings me to rule number two: We cannot afford to get caught reading our own press clippings. I really think Coach Spurrier is doing an outstanding job of ignoring the national polls. The polls don't mean a thing. They are history. They are only as good as last week's game. In other words, "Don't believe the hype."
I continue to be impressed with the improvement in the quarterback situation. Quite frankly, I have been pleasantly surprised with the near mistake-free play of Chris Smelley. He has shown great maturity and more importantly a willingness to seek a Chi (or sense of oneness) with Coach Spurrier and his offense. It is too early to tell, but this is a level of enlightenment only former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel has been able to achieve. Smelley is definitely not reckless, if anything he errs on the safe side. That's not a bad thing. Where Coach Spurrier is concerned, believe me, you would rather be safe than sorry. My only concern continues to be with Smelley's ball velocity. His release is quick, but his ball velocity can improve. I can tell you that receivers want the ball on them when they come out of their routes. We do not want to be standing around waiting on the ball to arrive. A slow ball causes pass breakups and in worse cases, interceptions. In many cases, the receiver will start to get in the habit of working back to the ball to compensate. This may eventually result in the loss of a critical first down yardage.
Cory Boyd and Mike Davis made about the most of their opportunities Thursday evening. Kentucky could not fully commit to stopping the run because Carolina does possess a somewhat efficient medium range passing attack. I think Coach Robert Gillespie does an outstanding job of rotating Boyd and Davis based on the running situation. It is an added bonus that both backs catch the ball extremely well out of the backfield. I would like to see Boyd get some more pitchouts where he can run off tackle and use his cutback abilities. Although they are doing a magnificent job, I don't think we have utilized both to their full potential.
We still don't have a deep threat, but believe me, Coach Spurrier is working on it. I told you to start looking for the deep post patterns. We tried one Thursday night that was open but overthrown by Smelley. Kenny McKinley will continue to be the go-to receiver. We need someone to emerge as that second threat for this all-important home stretch of the season. "First Down" Freddie Brown is very consistent and trustworthy, however, we cannot consider him a second threat. It is imperative that someone step up. Who is it going to be? Will we consider splitting Jared Cook's time between receiver and tight end? Someone has to want it. Chris Culliver, Joseph Hills, Mark Barnes, Moe Brown, Dion Lecorn? The time is now!
Hey Weslye Saunders, enough with the freshman mistakes. We have played enough games now. Get your mind right. This is SEC football. It's not easy, and if it were everyone would be playing it. Keep your head up. I've got faith in you. Was it me, or did anyone else notice the fine return efforts of reserve linebacker Melvin Ingram? Just Thought I would mention it.
The defense held it together again this week. I can't say enough about the outstanding job that Coaches Tyrone Nix and Ron Cooper have done with this defense. Emanuel Cook continues to impress me with his speed, tenacity, and downright brutal hitting. He reminds me of my former teammate Ko Simpson. He may actually do a better job of penetrating into the backfield than Ko. I have named E. Cook "The Hitman." You have to be pretty impressive to get a nickname from me, but his is well deserved.
I made the following observation in reference to Eric Norwood in last week's article: "Eric Norwood's motor is constantly running. Norwood is second to none when he attacks up field. His pressure will be instrumental in our efforts on Thursday night. It will be imperative for us to pressure Andre Woodson out of his comfort zone. Woodson does not have good feet, keeping him on the move disrupts Kentucky's whole scheme." I think I nailed it down rather nicely.
I believe our secondary lived up to their ranking. Captain Munnerlyn and Carlos Thomas continue to be two of the best cover corners in the country. Kentucky picked on Darian Stewart a little bit on Thursday, but he was still in every play. It was more a matter of technique than being beat. I'm quite sure Coach Cooper will be working with him this week in practice. Stewart will have to get his head around quicker and see the ball, especially in the end zone where you have the out of bounds line as another defender. It is simply a matter of knowing where you are on the field.
The defense is still giving up too many long gainers on the ground. Again, this needs to be the area of emphasis during practice this week. I don't know what to tell you. It cost us in the LSU game and will again if not fixed. We face Arian Foster (Tennessee) and Darren McFadden (Arkansas) on the horizon. I think Tim Tebow (Florida) can run a little also. We are doing a great job of mixing up defensive packages to keep offenses off balance. However, we are seeing these schemes impact our opponent's passing game more so than their running game. We really need to show a consistency in the run stopping abilities if we expect to continue this run. Our destiny waits. Go Cocks!
Tommy Bowden, this is your life. Once again your team failed to play up to its perceived potential. Another year of "almost" and "could have beens." However, the fans aren't blaming the players. The blame rests squarely on your shoulders, Mr. Bowden. You just can't seem to put it all together. Last year your defense and special teams let you down. This year you have a great defense, but their efforts are being wasted on inept offensive performances and continued, lousy play in the kicking game. I think your offense should be named the "Magic Men" like the character Kyle Naughton Jr. in Talladega Nights (now you see them – wave your hand in front of your face – now you don't!) Will somebody please tell me Clemson's special teams players are not on scholarship? That would really make me feel a hell of a lot better. They really give the name "Special Teams" a whole new meaning. I think you should call your special teams "Bowden Ball." It would be understood nationally as the way not to play special teams.
Now let's get to your running backs - You have got to be kidding me. These are supposed to be two of the best running backs in the country. Something is either wrong with them or something is wrong with you, Mr. Bowden. I have a suspicion that it may be the latter of those two choices. There is no explanation you can give me to explain how two running backs of that supposed caliber net nine (9) yards combined in a game. Can't do it, don't try. Cullen Harper? I told you last week he had not been responsible for losing a game for you yet this year. Well, Virginia Tech gave him his chance. And he tried real hard to give it away by himself, but he did have some help from his "special" friends.
I'm still trying to figure out why a program of Clemson's stature does not have a stockpile of blue-chip quarterbacks lined up ready to go. I mean after Charlie Whitehurst the backup plan was Will Proctor and Cullen Harper? I'm still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and tell the Clemson fans they've been "Punked." This has got to be a bad dream for you guys. The objective of a good program is to progress, not regress. I really hope you can get it straightened out and salvage the remainder of your season. I see three problem games for you left on the schedule: Maryland, Boston College, and South Carolina. I don't see you winning any of those. It looks like it's up to the team to try and save Coach Bowden's job once again. What lofty goals!
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