Mid-January Sunday Thoughts

The past couple weeks have been fairly "unique" for the Clemson Tigers. We'll begin with the non-firing/non-resignation of Kevin Steele. The Clemson Nation was further confused by the philosophical/non-philosophical differences as described by the Sweatshirt during the "Kevin Steele won't be coming back next season but we will be paying him a boatload of cash anyway" presser. I really don't know why Coach Dabo didn't just say "this is an internal personnel matter and I will not discuss the details at this time only to say that Clemson and Coach Steele have decided to part ways."

The move was not a surprise. After the piss poor efforts we saw against non-pro offenses this regular season, we thought a move could happen. After the curb stomp taken in the Orange Bowl, Swinney's hand was really forced. I know we've discussed this here before, but Steele's defense's performance (specifically the performance of his functional group-linebackers) is baffling. Further confusing was the rotation (well, lack of rotation) at many defensive positions. I get it, we were thin up front and uncomfortable at the linebacker position. Somehow the defensive coordinator has to rotate guys in, even if it means adjusting scheme items. Further, our linebacker play this year sucked anyway, so I am not ure how much worse it could have gotten.

We know Kevin Steele is a good coach because we've seen it before. His resume is jam up, particularly coaching linebackers. We thought it was a steal pulling him from Bama's staff and gave him every benefit of the doubt because of his past successes. Either he forgot how to coach or there were things out of his control here at Clemson that he couldn't overcome.

It has been widely rumored and speculated that Coach Dabo and Steele had conflicts. I suspect that Steele had some issues with Swinney, particularly because Steele is more of an old-school type guy and such a style is simply not the Sweatshirt's personality. I also assume that Steele had some issues with practice philosophy and was-purely speculative-handcuffed in the physicality of these practices. That explains the shit tackling/inability to shed blocks we witnessed for most of this season.

Whatever the reason, Coach Dabo is the head coach and he has every right to make a change anytime he sees fit. We are paying an arm and a leg for current and now former coordinators, so results are definitely expected out of these well paid coaches. This includes former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Venables is an odd subject to discuss. He has obviously been a part of some great defenses at both OU and Kansas State. Oklahoma in the early ‘00's was just sick, but those defenses also had Mike Stoops as the co-defensive coordinator until Stoops left for a head job prior to the 2004 season. Since, the perception of Oklahoma's defense is that it has slipped a bit. This, however, does not completely account for the explosion of offensive firepower that emerged within the Big 12 conference. This, coupled with a fast break Oklahoma offense, really puts a lot of pressure on a defense. The big schematic and overall coaching question then is this: Did the OU defense "taper off" due to Stoops leaving, increased defensive pressure due to changes in opponents' strategies, or some combination of the two?

I still have not finalized my opinion on the hire and am skeptical for many reasons. Venables gets praise around the coaching community, so I believe he is a good coach. The questions arise not as a position coach, co-DC, nor recruiter but completely running a defense. Oklahoma fans were eager to get Stoops back and constantly complained about the gross amount of damage opposing offenses did against the Sooners this season. While their expectations may be a little unreal, their concerns are real.

We are putting together articles that will hopefully help you form an opinion of the Venables hire. However, as you well know, none of this talk really matters until we are looking back on the 2012 season in retrospect and assessing improvement. Again, for all the jack the school is spending, results should be expected.

Now for the positive items. Our university had been reluctant to spend the money necessary to compete within the arena of major college football. We had been reluctant to go out and make a big money splash in the coaching arena. The Dabo Swinney hire was a good example as the university took a chance on a relatively unknown guy who recruited like a champion but had little experience running interconnected functional units. His contract largely favored the university, was littered with performance-based metrics, and provided low buyout levels should the contract not work. This hire would dictate TDP's future. Maybe TDP went out and clamored for more money and more initiatives. Maybe Dabo sold the powers that be on investing in personnel. Maybe there is a shift in priority out of the powers that be following the debacle known as the 2010 season as a group of BOT members were finally fed up with the status quo and drove change, forming an athletics "task force" and pressed for some change. Possibly the movement to recalibrate Barker's attitude started to get more traction, particularly after the board expressed its displeasure in Dec. 2010. I am sure there is a combination of these factors that freed up cash for Morris, Hobby, paying off Steele, and now shelling out loads of cheddar for Venables.

There are still items on the table that need a push. An initiative for an indoor practice facility was presented but construction did not proceed as aggressively as we'd like. To keep up with the teams we want to compete with, constant infrastructure upgrades are needed to recruit championship players. We've discussed perceived shortcomings associated with S&C here, so I won't get too far into that subject only to say that Clemson needs to more aggressively address this whole program. Sure we have beef with physical training philosophy but there also needs to be more emphasis on nutrition (effectively fuel intake). There is no excuse for our starting QB's gut to hang out by season's end, which boils down not only to physical conditioning but also eating properly. Additionally, we have all heard stories of players (freshmen in particular) slamming cheeseburgers and shakes all summer then being behind when fall camp starts. If we want to be a great football program, Clemson has to assure that ALL inputs, including food products, are geared towards turning these young men into football machines. We discussed this at length heading several years ago; if you haven't read our concerns about this subject, here is the link.

Also, praise needs to go out to ggggmen and F1NS for their basketball insight. I know enough about the game and gameplay to speak intelligently but these folks have helped tremendously with insights and attention, so I'll defer to them outside for the meat of the info. I will say that this season has been a letdown to date for me. December was horrid and we've been largely inconsistent as a team in general since. Yes, the FSU win was impressive (particularly when you consider their recent thrashing of UNC and win at Cameron) but the others were tough to watch. Andre Young was a machine against Tech yesterday but this team did all it could to give the Jackets life when they were all but beaten yesterday afternoon. There is no doubt in my mind that Brownell is a good X's & O's/fundamentals coach, and he will be given the benefit of the doubt after the near miracle pulled off last season. As a team, though, we appear to have an attitude and a "want" problem on our team. Leadership and a definite go-to guy has been void all season and, hopefully, Young assumed that role yesterday and will be the clutch player down the stretch. Booker's play has looked lazy for the most part and I have no clue how Milton Jennings was at one time a McDonalds All American. We'll see how this team performs as we progress through the ACC schedule.

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