Football practice has started, and we can all be thankful for that. In this time of unrest before the kickoff of the season, I tend to get a bit nostalgic about the past.
But the more I think I know, the more I realize that I really don’t know.
I have no idea if C.J. Spiller is going to be a great running back. 365 days ago, I thought we were being fed a bunch of hype about a kid that ended up skipping practice to go home and see his mama. That kid was James Davis, who turned out to be the most valuable offensive player on the 2005 team. I know I was wrong about Davis.
I have no idea how to run a radio network. I’m sure that running a network in a profitable way is a tough job that requires a great mind and steely business savvy. But I sure did like the Clemson radio network better when they sent the Tiger Tailgate Show to the away games. The Tiger Tailgate Show used to be an institution that was the envy of the entire conference (and nation for that matter). Clemson fans gathered at away games where the Tiger Tailgate Show was broadcast in large numbers. I vividly remember a game in Raleigh in the mid 80’s where nearly 2,000 Clemson fans gathered around the tent where the show was being broadcast. What is done for home games in 2006 on the Tiger Tailgate Show is still far beyond what is being done at most schools. But hosting a Tiger Tailgate Show from Greenville when the team is playing in Raleigh or Tallahassee seems absurd to me. I feel sorry for the hosts, all of them relegated to busting their tails to do a great tailgate show, and then having to sit and eat wings and watch the game on TV. If WCCP, a local radio station in Clemson, can afford to send me to away games to do a Pregame Show as a lead in to the Tiger Tailgate Show, then surely a large national network can do the same for their show. Don Munson and his crew deserve a better fate.
I have no idea if Will Proctor will be as good or better than Charlie Whitehurst. Charlie was a special quarterback that struggled through a year with a terrible offensive line and another year with a bum shoulder. What he could have been at Clemson is more than what he was, but he was still a very special quarterback. Proctor comes in with a resume that includes impressive spot duty and a spring game (in 2005) where he lit up the world. Replacing a 3 ½ year starter is never an easy proposition, but Proctor at least has something he can hang his hat on as he tries to replace a guy in Whitehurst that did more things right than he did wrong.
I have no idea if Coach Bowden thinks this team will be great or not. Coaches are very hard to read, and Bowden keeps his feelings closer to his vest than most coaches do. But Bowden seems very much at ease with himself and his team, probably for the first time since he has arrived at Clemson. The comments and demeanor that Bowden has right now reminds me of how he handled himself while at Tulane. When it became apparent that Clemson was after Bowden in 1998, I started paying attention to what Bowden was saying about his Tulane team. Bowden’s mannerisms, confidence, and calmness resonated in those interviews. And I think I detect some similar vibes this off-season from Coach Bowden.
I have no idea if Jacoby Ford can run as fast as lighting. The more you read about this kid, the more you would think he should be on the Olympic track team instead of sweating through preseason practices. I continue to wait and see as to whether Ford, and this entire receiving corps, will be an asset to this team. Fans talk about speed. I look at production. We have a handful of receivers that look like great players, but disappear from one game to the next. I thought Aaron Kelly was too skinny to be a procession receiver a year ago. He proved me wrong some games, and I was validated in others. Stuckey was as visible as an elephant in a room one week and as visible as an ant in the room the next. Rendrick Taylor has a whole position created for him and his bulging muscles. My concerns at receiver, however, continue to get washed away with preseason hyperbole about how fast these guys are and how big their muscles are. I’ll wait until I see their productions instead of gawking over their biceps.
I have no idea if reseating is going to happen next year or not. Every indication is that something is coming down the road, all of which is causing nervousness for just about all involved. But bringing equity and fairness to any system seems to make perfect sense in any other business model. If you have a problem with equity and fairness, then I would suspect that you are getting your seats and parking pass because of inequity and unfair dealings? That should not be the way things are run and I, for one, am grateful that IPTAY is taking the initiative to make some tough decisions that no doubt will anger some.
I have no idea if this is the best offensive line since Danny Ford’s lines in the late 80’s or Ken Hatfield’s lines in the early 1990’s. When you have a bunch of returning starters and plenty of players with playing experience providing depth, optimism should be high. But when was the last time the offensive line at Clemson played like one of those lines from the late 80’s or early 90’s? As good as Clemson ran the ball last year, I’m not sure we dominated another team the way we did back during the years where we won ACC Championships. Can we control the line of scrimmage this year against good teams to the point where we beat them down in a humbling experience? If so, it will be the first time since those Danny Ford lines of the late 1980’s.
I have no idea if Clemson can beat Florida State in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are very good at home, even over the past few years when they have been average at best on the road. Clemson has not won in Tallahassee since 1989, and the losses since then have not exactly been nail-biters. What I do know is if the Seminoles beat Miami in Coral Gables in week one, Clemson has no option but to beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee if the Tigers are going to win the Atlantic Division. A 2-0 FSU team, with a tiebreaker over Clemson in head to head, is going to be too much to expect to overcome. A 2-0 FSU team would have to lose two of their last six ACC games and Clemson would have to win six conference games in a row for the Tigers to leap above the Seminoles into Jacksonville. And that is assuming Clemson beats Boston College the week before the FSU game, which is obviously nothing that can be assumed. So Clemson fans ought to wear their Miami hats that first week of September in hopes that the Hurricanes can beat FSU and give Clemson a mulligan possibility for the trip to Tallahassee.
And finally, I have no idea what this team can really do this year. I normally like to predict a win total prior to the start of the season. I’m usually within one game either way of being correct, not that it is a great accomplishment to do that. But this year, I hesitate to even try and predict. For the first time in a long time, I think Clemson has a shot to win the ACC title. But for all of that optimism, I can also see a 7-5 team fighting to stay out of a trip to Boise. It seems so hard to try and pinpoint exactly where the expectations should be for this team. Logic tells you this may be the year, but having not won a title in 15 years leaves some bitter doubt on my tongue as I look through the crystal ball.
So I’ll low-ball it. 8-4 with losses to FSU, Wake (why not!), VT, and Georgia Tech. Mercy, I hope I’m wrong (especially about Wake Forest)!
Then again, I really have no idea, as I have proven over and over again.