Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The college football season's end is finally setting in and, yes, we fortunately have some professional ball to feed our addiction this weekend. As always, we'll start with Clemson and work our ways into other topics. I read this week that Coach Dabo and crew made the decision not to redshirt Tony Steward with full knowledge that he may only get significant looks on special teams. His decision was predicated on the act that Steward was injured his senior year of high school and got little on-field experience last year due to a similar injury to the other knee. Thus, he needed some competitive action this season to prevent him going three consecutive seasons without real play. I do not agree with this decision. He would have gotten extensive reps on scout team had he redshirted this season. Also, does anyone really think that lots of time on the punt team was worth a season of his Clemson career? Again, Swinney is the coach and I am not...
The decisions of both Nuk Hopkins and Tajh Boyd on their respective professional status were both made correctly in my opinion. Taking the orange tinted glasses off, you realize that Nuk had a ridiculous junior season. This season by itself should move him up the draft board as a later first to mid-second round pick. With the money associated with such positioning, how can you blame the young man? Had he come back, he risks injury and less production in '13. Remember, Sammy Watkins missed a couple games early due to suspension and suffered injuries that hampered his '12 snap count. Hopefully that will not happen in '13. This means that Nuk would be sharing more of the offense and more of the receptions-likely dropping his statistics even if he improves as a receiver in the offseason. Consequently, I believe he would have ended up where he is now (draft-wise) or possibly worse had he come back. Leaving early means he is younger entering the pros which could increase his overall cash pull over the course of his career. DeAndre Hopkins was one heck of an athlete at Clemson-we wish him all the best moving on to the league.
Tajh is a different story. While he did end the year with a monster game on national television, I must point to his height as a hurdle that would keep teams from drafting him high in the draft. Yes, I know Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and Doug Flutie were all shorter quarterbacks who have had considerable success in the league. Still, of these three, Brees was the highest draft choice-last pick of the 2nd round. I don't believe Boyd would have gone any higher in this draft. I also believe that Boyd's progress under Chad Morris is nothing short of incredible. Tajh has put in the work and Morris molded his talent. Another year under Morris with continued progress and a another big season next year and TB should be able to improve his stock dramatically. It is especially difficult for a junior to make the jump to the league. In fact, unless the player will be a definite first round pick (and lock up the cheddar that goes along with this) I'd encourage most quarterbacks to come back for the senior season. The exception would be the quarterbacks from SoCal who chose to return for their senior season only to drop way down the draft board and cost themselves a lot of cash. I'll point out that these guys were all projected to be at or near the top of the big board come draft day.
Along these same lines, Scar wide receiver Ace Sanders announced via Twitter he was leaving school. I believe that, because of his size, Sanders wouldn't improve his draft status if he came back to school and risks injury. Sanders had a big year in the return game and got praise from us for his route running and his overall speed. Still, he isn't getting any taller. For those reasons (good season in '12 with several Sportscenter spots), I believe he is also making the correct decision. Go ahead and get your money-especially at the younger age. Also, avoid any risk of injury at the college level. He won't be a high pick this year but he wouldn't be a high pick next either...so go get the cash now as a business decision.
Football recruiting is coming down the homestretch here and this year will be another interesting one to watch. With all the drama we've seen with Bud Robinson and Nkemdiche, the staff has been scrambling to fill spots and needs all over the place-with the adjustments and readjustments to wide receiver targets being interesting to say the least (North easily the guy I'm hoping we can grab). I'll reserve my opinions and any criticism on this topic for NSD and thereafter. There is one thing that Dabo is a master of and that is recruiting. Considering his record pulling players and classes, nothing would really surprise me here. Along those lines, we discuss roster management and will certainly take that into account when assessing the level of success of this class.
Clemson basketball picked up two big ACC victories within the past week or so. Both of these victories featured good defensive efforts that limited the opponent to 44 points on each occasion. I understand Wake and Virginia are not among the elite, but conference wins are conference wins and Clemson needs all of these they can get. I won't claim to be a basketball guru and won't try and interject much of my point of view here other than a few general statements. The Tigers get a serious test this evening as they take on the Wolfpack at their place. NC State is coming off a tough loss to Maryland and surely will be out to rebound. They are a very good basketball team and Clemson will obviously need an excellent defensive effort along with offensive support-I like most would love to see an offensive explosion from Milton Jennings similar to Virginia.
Last weekend's pro games were, for the most part, entertaining. I still am still in shock that the Ravens were able to pull off the win in Denver and still question a lot of the decisions John Fox made in that football game. The Falcons got a real scare and a lot of help from the Seahawks (botched time management at the end of the first half and questionable playcalling on drive that was stopped deep in Falcon territory-again in the first half-immediately come to mind). In addition to being a Dirty Birds fan, I am not big on Pete Carroll. He can coach but his tactics and such just rub me the wrong way.
The two blowouts had interesting twists as well. Harbaugh appears to be a genius in San Fran. Benching Alex Smith now looks like the call of the year as Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the 49ers looked unbeatable after last week. Likewise, the Patriots look stout as well-though I thought they were helped tremendously by the Texan's coaching staff. Gary Kubiak coached with no concern regarding the Patriot offense last week. I thought he should have taken more chances earlier because it was almost obvious that New England would put up a boatload of points and Houston would need to answer. Instead he chose to punt near midfield and looked unconcerned about Brady and that offense.
Personally, I am pulling for a Falcons/Ravens Super Bowl but really believe that it will be New England and San Fran.
The golf is getting going. At the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, both Tiger and Rory missed the cut...creating less interest in a big worldwide tournament. Others are in California at the Humana Challenge. After Phil hit another wayward shot behind a huge tree on the par 3 12th then followed it up with a ridiculous second shot to save par, Phil gave one of the better quotes I've heard from a pro and something I routinely say following a shot off pine straw off two trees and back into the fairway following a wayward drive: "That was one of my better wedges," Mickelson said. "But, as I was telling my partner, 'You hit it there as much as I do, eventually you're going to learn how to hit those shots.' "
The pros continue their West Coast swing until the end of February when they head to the Sunshine State for March golf. The Tour really picks up with Arnie's tournament down at Bay Hill. Golf excitement will be at a fever pitch here in a couple weeks.