|Hood: Time to Preach||Tweet|
|by David Hood -- Senior Writer - Thursday, March 21, 2013 10:07 PM||
Warmer temperatures and sun-splashed mornings and afternoons beckon us after a winter of clouds and rain and gray skies. Basketball – at least for Clemson fans – is over until another winter sits on the horizon.
Baseball is starting to heat up, but even the hint of long, lazy summer days or the hot, humid nights spent cheering on your favorite team give rise to the feeling that football really isn’t that far away. The knowledge that even as professional baseball hits its halfway point, its All-Star game stands as an augury that football camps will be opening soon.
That’s why, on a cool, early spring Thursday morning, with no college baseball game being played and the NCAA Tournament something I only care about because of my bracket, thoughts turn to late August, September, October and November. It’s why message boards are already beginning to show the rumblings of Clemson-Georgia smack talk. It’s why we care when way-too-early projections and predictions are posted.
As we peer into the crystal ball of 2013, there are high hopes for this Clemson team, hopes that the program will once again play for an ACC Championship, play in a BCS Bowl and, if the stars align and perfection is found on the journey, perhaps even greater heights.
Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
View Full Profile has recruited well; the program is at the forefront of national talk, and a big win over LSU in the bowl game has heightened expectations for a program that appears to be on the precipice of greatness.
However, the program hasn’t arrived. Not yet. There are still things that need to be accomplished, and there are things that we as fans and writers would like to see changed. I know, I get long-winded in my columns, but as my friend Vickie McKee tells her husband Allen about his Sunday sermons, ‘Stop telling us how late it is and just preach!!”
So, it’s time to preach. As the son of a preacher – my dad has been preaching for 63 years this spring – I feel like I preach a little bit.
Here are some things that I personally would like to see this season that go beyond wins and losses and recruiting. These are just a few of my thoughts, and I am sure you all have your own thoughts, and I would love to see them.
*Toughness and a nasty demeanor – Believe it or not, as a writer and someone who hangs around media types and in press boxes, I sometimes think I hear more about the ACC and how it’s a finesse league than the average fan. Let’s face it, the perception in this part of the country is that ACC teams play their games in prom dresses and heels, while SEC teams are decked out in hobnailed boots, overalls and eat Red Man chewing tobacco for lunch. Even the win over LSU hasn’t changed a lot of that perception. Some will say that Clemson didn’t physically dominate the SEC Tigers, that they just wore them out. Well, if you wanna change that perception, do something about it.
And, like many preachers, I’m going to use an illustration here. Let’s all go back to the Clemson-South Carolina game in Death Valley. As many of you so painfully remember, the Tigers were driving early in the fourth quarter, and running back Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC
View Full Profile crossed over midfield and was met rather violently by South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger threw a shoulder into Ellington, then posed over the prostrate Ellington and flexed his muscles, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
I can say this, without any doubt or any equivocation, if I had been one of Ellington’s teammates and I was on the field for that play, Swearinger would have woken up looking out the earhole of his helmet. In fact, I’m probably getting tossed from the game at that point because I would have been out to do major damage. Why? Because you don’t do that to my teammate, in my stadium, in this rivalry. Ever. And get away with it.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in the context of the game and what was at stake, it’s better to let the officials police the game and live to fight another series. But I don’t think so. Not to mention, taking a shot like that or watching your teammate take that shot and walking back to the huddle does nothing for your reputation.
Look, I get it. I’m a hot head. The competitive fire doesn’t burn within me, it rages. Ask people who have played ball with me in the past – I’ve almost come to blows during softball and basketball games. I’ve had my own teammates want to kill me. Ask the umpires at Heritage Park in Simpsonville who blew an infield fly call against my team last fall – I can get caught up in the heat of the moment (I later apologized. But they were still wrong.)
With that in mind, I texted some former players about the situation in order to get the opinion of someone who played major college football. Am I wrong? Am I looking at this differently than I should? One former Clemson offensive lineman told me that Swearinger’s headgear would have been rearranged. Another told me he would have been kicked out of the game for sure, but then said that sometimes in the heat of battle you don’t see things like that happen and aren’t aware until someone points it out afterwards. Another former player said he might have waited one more play, then exacted some justice.
Let’s face it, if a player like Swearinger plays against you, you hate him. But if he plays for you, you love the attitude and the physical style of play. I don’t condone dirty hits, and I don’t condone a lot of unneeded posturing, but I do condone answering an incident like that, and answering in a positive and forceful manner.
In other words: Protect this house and protect your teammates. We all want to see the toughness and the nasty defense. We all want to see the kind of defense played here in the 80’s and 90’s. I ran into Levon KirklandLevon Kirkland
# 0, 0
View Full Profile at lunch the other day, and he thinks we are close to getting that swagger back. We all want it back.
And it doesn’t start with the coaches, folks. Something that basketball coach Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
View Full Profile said Wednesday struck a chord with me – he said that when a team is coach-directed, it sets up for failure. I know for a fact that a lot of those Clemson teams passed that attitude and toughness down from player to player. There was an expectation that the game would be played a certain way. It’s time to bring that back, and I think players like Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 285
View Full Profile and DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams
So. Defensive Tackle
#99 6-1, 285
View Full Profile and Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
View Full Profile are the kind of players to bring it back.
* It’s time to see beating South Carolina as a priority, not just one of the goals -Dabo has five goals set up for the team to see prior to each season, and they make perfect sense. Win the opener. Win the division. Win the league. Win the state title. Win the bowl game. However, all five haven’t happened in the same season under Swinney, not yet.
However, there are some out there that believe beating South Carolina isn’t as important to Swinney as it is to the fans, that he concentrates more on winning the ACC than he does beating his rival. And in a way, that makes sense, because more of your national perception and rankings are more closely tied into what happens in your league – you don’t get into a BCS Bowl by beating South Carolina, but you do by winning your league.
The week of the rivalry game, Swinney says all of the right things and talks about the importance of the rivalry and how he understands what it means to the state. I think he gets it, and his passion shows through when he talks a little smack with Steve Spurrier. I know the coaches get it, because I was with them in the tunnel outside of the locker room following last year’s game. There was genuine pain and disappointment there.
However, when we start doing preseason interviews in July and August, the talk will invariably turn to the season’s goals, goals that will include winning the division and winning the league and maybe even playing for greater glories.
That’s great. Fantastic. Glorious. Rah rah rah, and go team.
What would I like to hear? I would like to hear that the goal of this team is to start out playing well, and then get better each and every week so that when the last regular season game of the season arrives, this team is playing at peak performance. I want to hear that this team’s goal is getting to that week with the thought in mind that it is a must-win game.
Do that and the rest of the national stuff should take care of itself. Yes, Georgia is the most important game of the season when it is played. Yes, Syracuse is the most important game of the season when Clemson plays up in New York. Georgia Tech will be the season’s most important game when they arrive in Clemson in early November on a Thursday night. But sitting out there, just on the horizon, should be the thought that beating the team in the midlands is the goal.
I know, I’m wrong. National goals and league goals are far more important than beating the rival. But four in a row? That’s enough. Time to turn the tide, and time to start talking about it in August, not just the week before the game. And that smack talk? It works only when you win the game.
I’m done preaching for now. Those are my two things, and I would love to see what you think.
|David Hood can be reached at email@example.com||
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