Once again I am here to give you the ritual head coach press conference. This is where the media get to show how little they know about football and the head coach gets a first chance to perfect his 'us against the world' media persona and converse in the ancient language of 'coach speak' (or act completely indifferent).
Dabo, to his credit, has yet to perfect either of these facades. Sure he slides into the occasional coach speak (like anyone around the coaching profession does) but The Chad seems to have rubbed off because Dabo is much more candid and comfortable as he matures as a head coach.
Block lettering in the endzone and THE Danny Ford on the Ring of Honor?? It is about time we started seeing these improvements happening. I have been very encouraged by what I have heard about Thad Turnipseed (came over from Alabama). He was on Philpot's show and I think it is worth a listen--he says he is going to finally improve the music and will include clips of NFL players in the stadium. Great hire.
One recruiting note: I have been hinting at this but Ohio State seems to have been able to jump ahead of us in the recruitment of Raekwon McMillan because they are selling him on Clemson's defense not improving. They are telling him that we prioritize offense over defense in our recruiting. This is actually kind of true. We have whiffed at DE for the past three years with elite talent--Bullard, Lawson, Adams, Nkemdiche and our only top rated corner is Mackensie Alexander after missing on lots of guys like Darby, Fuller, etc. Sure we brought in 8 guys but they would not be considered elite and we are only bringing in a couple of guys at DE, DT and CB this year.
Our 5* LB's also haven't excelled yet--obviously we all hope that changes.
This recruiting class has great offensive weapons with McMillan's friends like TE Milan Richard, WR Kitt and QB Watson but no elite Georgia defensive player. Andrew Williams is definitely going to wait until he takes all his official visits. Alabama is also in his ear about Clemson sending defensive players (and especially LB's) to the NFL. Right now I would put Alabama and Ohio State above Clemson.
This is the reason that I think this game is crucial to McMillan's recruitment. If we put in a solid defensive effort then it will be hard to continue to say we don't care about defense. This is a make or break type of problem for his recruitment. He wants to play for a team that wins championships and although Richard is a good friend, Clemson has to show it on the field. McMillan will also be staying the entire weekend, which is a very good sign and opportunity. If we win the party will not stop but if we lose it will obviously not be the same atmosphere.
So the press conference: apparently Chad Kelly has miraculously recovered from a torn ACL in 4 months.
Exactly how long the ACL graft takes to heal sufficiently is open to debate. Furthermore, some sports and activities will place a higher demand on the ACL and more healing may be necessary prior to participation. Most orthopedic physicians agree that a minimum of 6 months is needed before returning to competitive sports. Because of potential risks of reinjury, however, most recommend waiting 7 to 9 months.
But not only have our trainers worked their magic on Kelly--Sam Cooper is back to practicing a bit and Jordan Leggett will suit up for the Georgia game. Given our recent history of rushing back elite talent (see Ricky Sapp, Daquan Bowers,etc), only to have them complain of playing at half strength or 70-80% a year later, this has me very scared. The Kelly family has a history of toughness and getting back on the field and I applaud the hard work these guys are putting into their rehab but lets not mortgage the future for a few months (this is not about the players but about the training staff).
He is ready. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. I give that young man credit. When I walked into the locker room after the Spring Game, Chad was just devastated after having such a good spring. He was devastated with his injury. I’m trying to talk to him and counsel him, we are not going to cut your legs off and he said, ‘I’ll be back for Georgia.’ And, I’m like, ‘Well thats great, that’s the attitude you want and the one you need to have, but, listen, if you don’t make it back for Georgia you will be back soon.’ But to be honest with you I was thinking October or November.
Our doctors and training staff have done a great job. But Chad Kelly has worked his tail off. He has been relentless in his rehab. They cleared him to play the other day. He’s our third guy and if we need him, yeah, he will play. You’ve never seen a guy more happy than Chad Kelly. He's looked great. He’s done everything this week. Really proud of him. He was the Georgia quarterback the other night in our mock game.
I do respect Chad Kelly's drive. For all the talk that he would be nothing but a problem child player, he sure has that determination you want in your QB. Stay healthy Chad (head's should roll if there are substantial setbacks).
It does sound like Jayron Kearse will be able to play against Georgia despite a banged up shoulder. We need him healthy and taking reps so he can gain that understanding of the defense and provide needed nickel and safety depth. Also sounds like Alexander will finally be back next week and practicing completely. Tyshon Dye has a back injury and had a couple of epidurals according to Swinney. If he doesn't respond to those he will definitely be redshirting.
Great to hear the Gurshall story from Swinney's perspective. People don't realize that Marshall was coming to Clemson and how much influence he had on swinging Gurley to Georgia. If Marshall stays with Clemson--Gurshall happens in this offense last year.
"Not just Gurley but Marshall. Both of them. Marshall, everyone thinks he's a little guy but he is no little guy, he is put together. I love both of those guys. I thought we had them both and then when Marshall broke our heart, cause when he went to bed thought he was coming to Clemson, had a bad dream or something and went to UGA, I just knew we were going to get Gurley. Both of them were phenomenal, just great people, great families. We felt great about him, but it didn't happen. I'm fired up about him and we didn't get him. I'll never forget it. The day he was supposed to announce I was on edge. Most of the time, not all the time, you know when you're getting a guy. Sometimes they'll fool you but most of the time you know.
We're still on edge when he was about to announce. I got a call from Mark Richt that day, don't remember why. Gurley was going to announce around 2pm. I call coach Richt back. He answers the phone and I won't bring anything up. But he's on the treadmill. I'm going, 'Well, I guess you're not real worried about this announcement coming up.' Kind of knew right then we weren't getting him. He said, 'Well, you never know.' I knew right then we weren't getting him. I'm like, 'How in the world did they get these great backs?' You have to give them credit. They did a great job of recruiting them the right way. Two really, really talented dynamic backs. They'll be a handful."
A few nuggets from Brent Venables:
What about the tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall? Where does that tandem rank among those you've faced in your career?
"I don't know that we've faced any like that. They're pretty good to say the least. They're big, fast, physical and Gurley reminds you some of Adrian Peterson in some ways with his strength and physicality. He's a big violent runner who runs through trash. They do a good job of making your secondary support in the run game and that creates problems."
I think one of the key players on defense that we haven't talked much about is Quandon Christian. Gurley/Marshall will consistently find space behind a veteran offensive line and how Christian fills that gap, especially when he comes on a SAM blitz as Venables says, will go a long way towards how much Georgia runs on us. Will QC remain the greatest practice All-American in Clemson history or will it finally translate on the field.
What does Quandon Christian need to do at this juncture to sort of reach that next level?
"He needs to make plays. He needs to make the plays he's suppose to make. He needs to do it consistently every week. He's been really consistent and he doesn't have to be special but he needs to make all the plays he's suppose to make. I know that's pretty broad but in football terms ... if we send a SAM blitz and they run right at him, you need to make that play 100-percent of the time. I like how he has matured in the system and I think he's excited. He's very focused and takes his role very serious. He's easy to coach. He's very engaged and prideful both of himself and what we need to accomplish defensively."
Christian has gained at least 10-15 pounds of good muscle during the offseason so hopefully that will translate on the field.
(and while I am posting random things...This is also a great read on Clemson being the original 'Death Valley' and LSU being 'Deaf Valley' until 1959 when LSU stole the Death from Clemson after we played in the Sugar Bowl that year.) Go Tigers!