CLEMSON -- There may have been an off-season in college football at one
time. These days, the only thing that dims the talk of the next season is
With that in mind, the 2001 season starts in 13 days. When the Clemson
coaches return from the Gator Bowl, there will already by plenty of
questions. Not the least of which is whether cornerback Alex Ardley, who led
the team with six interceptions, will be returning for his senior season or
if he'll enter the NFL draft.
"Yeah, they've been talking to me about it - coaches, parents," said Ardley
It's been on the mind of Clemson defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, who
expects an answer soon after the team returns from the Gator Bowl. If Ardley
doesn't return, he'll lose three quarters of his defensive backfield. It's a
defensive backfield that relied mostly on four players last season - Ardley,
Darrel Crutchfield, Robert Carswell and Charles Hafley. Two others that had
figured on playing some during the season - Brian Mance and Eric Meekins -
saw little action in the final half of the season.
If Ardley leaves, only Hafley would return from the group of four players
that accounted for 83 percent of the plays in the defensive backfield. By
the end of the season, Herring and his defensive backfield coach Jack Hines
were relying mainly on the four players. Meekins and Mance combined for just
nine plays in the South Carolina game.
"We were hoping Mance would step up, but his consistency was not where it
needed to be," said Hines. "We decided to go with Crutchfield and Mance's
urgency toward playing well increased. He's still not playing at the level I
would like him to play at, but at least his concentration is better."
Other than Mance and Meekins, Kevin Johnson will come back next season.
Johnson played just 48 plays this season, which Ardley doesn't understand.
"They need to put him on the field, I think," said Ardley.
But the one player that has impressed Ardley the most is red-shirt freshman
Ryan Hemby. "He reminds me of myself coming up," said Ardley, who has
started every game since stepping on the field as a red-shirt freshman in
1998. "I had to go to the scout team and check Tony Horne. Hemby's going to
be alright. He's had to check some good receivers this year."
Hines agrees with Ardley about Hemby. "Hemby made more improvement in his
man-to-man coverage ability," said Hines. "I feel comfortable with his
However, it still leaves the staff with the question of whether Ardley will
be back. If he does leave, Hafley will be in the defensive backfield with
Mance, Meekins, Johnson and Hemby. Redshirt freshman Ronny Delusme will also
likely see playing time.
Ardley said that because of the questions from the coaches and family, he
has given it some thought. "I'm going to try to talk to somebody after the
bowl game, I don't know," he said. "I've thought about it. Everybody's been
like, 'What are you going to do?' I haven't really said anything. I want to
come back to get my degree. I don't have that many hours left. If I came
back, I would be up here just chilling."
So is everybody else until he decides if he's coming back.