Several Thoughts as Spring Practice Begins

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  • Dabo’s new media policies

This week Clemson Football announced new media practices geared to lockdown reporting on Clemson football further, essentially making us into a Texas or Alabama. Lots has been said on the boards and by reporters themselves about the new practices, most of it negative, and understandably so.

I see how this is intended and how it could go badly for Dabo. The reason Saban and others do these things is to control the media perception of the program, and not to let too much information get out about the staff decision-making process, practices, personnel issues, bulletin board material, or the like. Saban does it because Saban cares about one and only one thing: winning football games. He doesn’t want his staff worried about anything else either. He wants them dealing with the players and not the press. He wants to present the program the way he wants it presented himself, not by assistants who could be misconstrued or players who will say something without thinking about the repercussions (though Saban’s August preseason schedule does include class sessions on dealing with media for his players).

The thing is, Saban has 2 rings that say he can do whatever he damn well pleases, and he’s in a pressure cooker. Alabama writers have been tough on the program for decades; they’re tough on the coaches and players alike. The same thing has happened elsewhere Saban has been, and happens in various places around the country.

Clemson is not a pressure cooker in terms of the local media coverage like Austin/Dallas/Houston or within the state of Alabama. Clemson’s writers, as most of you know, are generally soft on the coaches. The ones who aren’t are morons (Morris), or just assholes (Korncoot). Most of them won’t ask the toughest questions or really hammer a coach because he says something stupid. Tommy Bowden would’ve been skinned alive by the press if he had done the same things at other places, but our writers were soft on him from day 1 in my eyes, aside from a select few articles.

And Bowden was treated so well in part, at least in my view, because he treated the press well. He’d grant interviews and allow coaches and players to talk to the media all week. That makes a writer’s job easier, because these guys still have a quota of articles to write each week. Now Dabo has incrementally pulled the reins back on how much he lets people talk, to the point now that only Morris and Steele will have press conferences each week, and player content will essentially go to zero. The only info we’ll be granting from day to day is "Coach" Don Munson’s stupid little IPTAY-approved propaganda videos and post-practice audio from Swinney, which is equally worthless.

I just want to get the point across here that I do understand the thought process behind locking things down, I just don’t think he has thought this through. I understand he doesn’t want anymore Andre Powell foot-mouth pressers or "we have 6-0 talent" comments from guys like Dwayne Allen. I understand he may believe information leaked out is helping others. We’ll still have daily articles to read from the writers, Sapakoff will continue to print puff-pieces, Korncoot outright lies, and Bart Wright will still have his head up his own ass, but the lack of content made available to them means there will be more rumor and analysis on comments produced and the games themselves. The more time he gives guys like Sawchik, Strelow or Williams to think about the program, the harsher they will be, if he doesn’t win … or perhaps even if he does. You can do whatever you please when you have a national title ring, but when you are coming off a horrible season and need the press to help you create momentum, this is not the best way to go about it.

Bob Bradley got his great reputation as SID because of his practices of open media access. Dabo has basically undone all that. It isn’t that I have a personal problem with locking down media access, because I’ll get information anyway, but doing it when you need the media on your side is not something I would do just yet.

What is strange and rather ironic is that under Bowden, Dabo was the biggest snitch on the staff. How much exposure do you think a normal WR coach gets with the President and AD, or with the press?

I think Dabo is scared of what they’ll do if/when he does fail with the information they have access to. He doesn't want it out if a player doesn't respect his decisions, or worse, an assistant. In the end, with this ticking off the media, this may have created his worst nightmare.

Again, if he wins, it is fine. Everything will be hunky dory. If he loses, it will be worse than it otherwise would be, particularly with Don Munson’s printing of every article or message board post that flames the staff for their glorious stupidity last year, articles that these beat writers have penned and been dressed-down for by Dabo Swinney. If he believes media criticism is unfair after a 6-7 season that he's responsible for, just wait until we're sitting at 3-3 6 games into 2011. He won't even leave his office and will try to cancel every Tuesday press conference.

  • The Combine

I didn’t get to watch the combine this year at all really. I was in Destin on business most of the week and have barely been able to keep up with things. There was one little nugget that escaped the attention of most people this week: Jamie Harper’s weight.

We know that Harper was around 230 in August, and weighed 233 at the combine. What we didn’t know was that he was 249 lbs when he weighed in for the bowl game.

How the hell does your only RB put on 20lbs of fat during a football season? If you recall, our entire DL (aside from Sapp, who needed to add weight and couldn’t until after leaving CU) gained weight during the 2009 season. There is simply no excuse for this shit.

This is not a problem that falls on Batson directly, or the lack of a training table. Those are things I'd more likely fault if it were an offseason gain. This is a DABO problem. It is his job to set the pace of practice and to assure that lazy practices and lifting sessions never occur. There is no accountability or urgency from this staff in regards to the conditioning of players if our starters can add that kind of weight during a football season. Do any of you realize just how much a guy has to eat to add that kind of weight DURING the season?

Clemson football practice must be the easiest two hours of their day. Starters get fatter, WRs and linemen can’t block and DBs and LBs can’t get off blocks because they don’t practice 1s vs 1s. If you wanted to know why Danny Ford was pissed about watching practices, this garbage is why.

  • Spring ball

Lastly, and this has to be stated every year when practice begins: Do not believe the hype about players from the head coach in the post-practice audio. Time and again it has proven to be a perfect example of the coaches blowing smoke up your ass. Comments like "Dadgummit Rod McDowell really played well this spring"… or "Rendrick Taylor is a beast and blowing up everybody" should be totally ignored.

He's already bragged on Josh Watson and Sam Cooper, so don't tell everyone that they're going to really show up this fall before you actually see them do something. Usually its the kiss of death.

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