Monday Notebook: Scholarship numbers in flux, the Gamecocks await the Tigers
|Monday, November 22, 2021, 9:00 AM- -|
Two years is a long time to wait for rivalry football.
Clemson and South Carolina will renew acquaintances Saturday night in Columbia when the Tigers (8-3, 6-2) visit the Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5) at 7:30 pm in Williams-Brice Stadium (SEC Network). The last time the teams met? It’s been 721 days since the Tigers defeated South Carolina 38-3 in Columbia. The teams didn’t face off last season because the SEC decided to play only conference games.
Clemson has won six in a row in the series and has outscored South Carolina 266-108 in that span. Take out the 35 scored by South Carolina scored in Clemson in 2018 and those numbers look a lot worse. Clemson leads the overall series 71–42–4 lead in the series. Clemson holds a 43–29–2 advantage in the Modern Era (post-WWII), and Clemson leads the series 12–7 in the 21st century. If you want to go a little deeper, Clemson has won 16 out of the last 23 meetings.
The Gamecocks are a bit of a mess offensively but still have some playmakers. Senior ZaQuandre White has emerged as a threat in the running game and is averaging almost seven yards per carry (81 rushes for 563 yards, 6.93 per carry). Kevin Harris has 113 carries but has just 462 yards. Josh Vann is the main receiving threat, while quarterback Jason Brown is solid if not spectacular.
South Carolina is ranked 111th nationally in total offense, averaging 330 yards per game of total offense. They had just 306 yards against Auburn last weekend. The Gamecocks are 48th in total defense and have some dudes along the defensive line but have been gashed at times in the run game this year.
For Clemson, I think the recipe is the same one they used to beat Wake. Run the ball inside and outside and play good defense.
Everybody is wanting to know where Clemson stands with the scholarship numbers for 2022, especially in light of the announcements Sunday evening that Jake Venables, Jaelyn Lay, Tayquon Johnson and Darnell Jefferies have decided to either leave the game or transfer elsewhere for playing time. Swinney said that he isn’t sure about defensive end KJ Henry – who will have an NFL decision to make – but expects corner Mario Goodrich to enter the draft.
Let’s leave it like that for now – assume Henry is staying and Goodrich gone – and I have the Tigers at 19 open scholarships for next season. One of those, I assume, is going to be given to quarterback Hunter Helms. Does that change anything for the 2022 recruiting class? I am not sure. I was told a week or so ago that the number might be a few north of 15. There are 13 currently committed, so the Tigers have work to do, especially with the early signing period in less than a month.
However, none of this takes into account guys like Andrew Booth, kicker BT Potter, and potential transfers either after the season or after the spring. It’s not too hard to imagine attrition perhaps at quarterback, at wide receiver, along the defensive line, linebackers, corner or safety, depending on how several feel about playing time. If the Tigers sign 15 or 16 or 17, but then have four or five more players head out after the season, we could see the transfer portal come into play.
This offseason might be the most-watched since Swinney has been at Clemson. As we’ve learned this season, you can’t have too many quarterbacks or running backs or linemen.
Playoffs and coaching carousel
Florida and Dan Mullen parted ways Sunday, and that means there are some pretty good jobs open across the country. Florida, LSU, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington St., and TCU are all very attractive jobs, and there are now some smaller schools (Troy, FIU) that are looking.
Swinney was asked if the “playoffs or bust” mentality is causing programs to not stay with coaches long enough.
"I don't think there's any question about that. It'll just get worse as the playoffs expand,” Swinney said. “Everything is about the playoffs now. It becomes all about that. There are 130 teams and only one team that can win it all. A lot of teams can have great seasons and a lot to be proud of."