I'll begin with the obvious...UTEP? There is really no excuse for Clemson to lose to UTEP in anything short of steer wrestling. This is going to be a very, very long basketball season...Shyatt long it appears. I guess you could blame the loss on fatigue and/or the long trip into Hawaii, but damn getting rolled by UTEP requires some BIG, BIG excuses to mitigate. Fortunately, Clemson matches up with Southern Illinois this afternoon (then again, I said, "Fortunately, Clemson opens this tournament with UTEP," so take that statement for what it's worth).
The Clemson football team finished practice for 2011 in Clemson on Wednesday. The Tigers travel to Miami on the 27th. The players have the option of providing their own transportation or riding a chartered bus from Clemson to Miami, which most of the team will do. The players do get a travel allowance, so some will choose to fly down and others will drive to South Florida. Individual player plans most likely depend on the player's hometown and what he has going on for Christmas. All this is pretty standard for bowl games-especially considering how practices fall in relation to the Holiday Season.
Chad Morris is already getting fired up about next season's offensive line. We have beleaguered the depth issues here for years and are very concerned going into 2012. Morris has to be concerned BUT he has openly stated that he will not tolerate the soft play we've come accustomed to out of Clemson up front the past couple years. I recall reading a quote from The Chad saying (paraphrase) that we have to get meaner on the line and he will not accept such soft play moving forward. A large portion of the staff issues were resolved here last January when Robby Caldwell replaced Mr. Heinz Ketchup himself, Brad Scott. As an aside, Matt Sanders is the lone Clemson player ineligible (academic reasons) for the Bowl Game. How in the hell you are not eligible is beyond me (and I'll get to that in a second). Brad had many more choices out there and, in his infinite wisdom, missed again. I don't believe sanders will be back next year though he still potentially has another year.
I believe I heard Spurrier on the radio saying six hours of credit is all you need to be eligible. Now I am not positive the number is that low but the NCAA isn't exactly forcing kids to take 20 credit hours either. I also get it that football players have a much tougher schedule than the average college student-no questions on that one. With all of the help that Clemson offers through Vickery Hall, you would think that getting through a couple classes would be a reasonable expectation.
Another piece of the puzzle that needs resolving is Joey Batson. I doubt he and The Chad see eye to eye on most things. Fortunately for Clemson's athletes and football fans, Morris is the $1.3 million man who resurrected the CU offense and Batson has the Clemson legacy of training some of the softest and most out of shape football teams this university has ever produced. Either Baston's philosophy has to change to develop more functional strength or he has to go (I am not sure how quickly philosophy can be changed in this department).
Changing gears, Rennie Moore earlier this week made some comments about Clemson's 2012 defensive line, saying they would be "ruthless." The item that I think he misses (and we will discuss tomorrow) is just how big of an impact he, Brandon Thompson, Andre Branch, and Kourtnei Brown had over the course of the season. Yes, we did get some good snaps from Tyler Shatley and the freshmen, but outside of Goodman (700 snaps) and Shatley (300 snaps to this point), the experience level drops off dramatically. Maybe Goodman was a little fatigued this season with all those snaps as it looks as though he is a little more sluggish than he was as a rookie. We'll definitely need the young bucks to step up and contribute next season (we will discuss the pure numbers behind DL participation tomorrow morning).
Moving forward, we'll obviously be focusing on Clemson's Orange Bowl matchup, then early enrollees, then it's a race to signing day. Enjoy the Holidays and the barrage of football we are privy to this time of year.