Spring is quickly rolling in and excitement is bubbling around many items. Among them are Spring football items, baseball, NIT basketball, and--of course--the golf.
First things first, Clemson basketball is headed up to New York to try for an NIT championship. While the NIT is inferior to the real tournament, the excitement around this program is very impressive. The crowd that showed up Sunday morning was nothing short of impressive. The crowd again showed up later in the week and the team delivered. I'll admit that I thought that the Illinois game was looking like several other similar stories this basketball season: Clemson comes out, plays well, builds a lead, then gives it away in a very disappointing fashion. Instead, the Tigers were able to convert when it counted and deserve a lot of credit for hanging on to that one. I'll say that this team has overachieved this season. No one thought they could finish as high as they did in ACC play and were a close call away from beating Duke in the ACC Tourney. I will say that I am disappointed looking back because Clemson had so many great opportunities that slipped through its fingers on multiple occasions. However, this group is a gritty defensive group that, with any semblance of an offense, would be an NCAA team. The fact that they have energized a more or less lethargic basketball fanbase should definitely be noted and appreciated. Clemson faces a good SMU team coached by a legend. A win there should provide momentum to a program filled with underclassmen. If KJ stays for his senior season, this team should be in prime position to get into the Big Dance next season and challenge for an upper spot in ACC league standings.
Spring football is in full swing and is going about as we expected. We told you a month ago that we thought The Chad would keep the quarterback competition going into the Fall. The word out of Clemson reinforces this item. All indications point to a Stoudt / Kelly battle in August with Deshaun Watson getting his share of time in spite of being a true freshman. There are similar questions at running back though the staff has more than enough than enough bodies to choose from there. We won't really know anything about the offensive line until Georgia. If this isn't everyone's biggest concern heading into Fall, it should be.
Germone Hopper's situation is very disappointing. This is a guy who pointed to this being his big opportunity and he was looking forward to filling the shoes of his predecessors. He appeared to be moving into this role well and would be called to help the offense significantly this fall. Instead, he misses a large portion of Spring drills because he cannot get his act together in the classroom. These guys are expected to at least live up to minimal academic requirements. With the resources available to these guys, there is no excuse for this, period. I understand that football players have more extracurricular items than most students but they knew the expectations when they decided to go to college and have to maintain those items. Dabo was absolutely correct here. This is a big letdown for the receiving corps and for team building in general. One just hopes that Hopper gets his act together and responds in a positive manner.
Speaking of receivers, Charone Peake was granted a medical redshirt after last season's early year ACL injury. This means Peake has two more years in a Clemson uniform. He would have been called upon for critical snaps last season and appeared to be moving closer to his high school hype prior to his injury. Additionally, Dodd and Watkins received a medical redshirt as well. This is big for Clemson as it staggers some attrition on the defensive front. Maybe this will force the coaches to do a better job of filling spots every year instead of bringing in classes of (insert position here). I've bemoaned this item and discussed the progression of the defensive front. It is critical that you don't go from all seniors one year to all freshmen the next...and I could go on and on about this topic.
I need to move on, else will run on and on about football. Clemson baseball has taken 2 of 3 so far and is looking for the sweep when play resumes today. A sweep over a pretty good Maryland team should give the guys some confidence and momentum--particularly following the disappointment against the Seminoles last weekend. Clemson has two mid-week games this coming week (Furman and Winthrop) before hosting NC State next weekend.
We are rapidly heading into the year's first major and two of the biggest names in golf are struggling with injuries. I did have an interesting discussion on how difficult it is to root for Adam Scott. This is not because he isn't a good guy or has done anything in particular to piss anyone off. I believe we agreed that there was just something in the way. Dude is an excellent player and is pressing for that number one spot. I believe a bit of the inability to jump on the bandwagon is related to the long putter. It is just difficult for me to mentally cross that hurdle. Unlike others, I don't dismiss accomplishments attained via the long putter or anchoring equipment but was pleased to see the anchoring ban. I would have gone further (possibly requiring, for example, the putter to be the shortest club in the bag) but definitely support the concept that anchoring any club is not in the intent or spirit of the game. Fortunately for most, this rule will not be effective until next year. I will be very interested to see how this ruling effects some of the world's greatest players (including the seniors).
NASCAR is in Martinsville this weekend. This is another of the tracks I like to watch the Winston Cup guys hit up. Short track racing is exciting. I only wish there were a couple more of these instead of the cookie-cutter tracks that have emerged from the 1.5 to 2 mile D-shaped oval track building trend of the past 15-20 years. This gives us something interesting and unique to watch.