Plyler Interview: Recruiting Coordinator David Blackwell
David Blackwell is a native of Greenville and a graduate of Berea High School.
Coach Blackwell Interview 02/02/05
Plyler: I know you guys have to be happy about this class.
Blackwell: Yes, we're extremely pleased with it. It is always a relief when that
last fax comes in and you know you're done.
Plyler: With the exception of a few, you guys really did not have to worry too
Blackwell: Yeah, we felt pretty confident going into the morning with about 90%
of them because they are strong character guys, and they have been with us a
long time. We know them so well. There is always a little nervousness,
especially when it doesn't arrive right when you think it would. It was a good
day, everything went pretty smooth, no big surprises, and obviously we did not
lose anybody. We did get Antonio, which was exciting to finally close that one
out, we have been it for a long time. Ron West was relentless in recruiting him.
And did a nice job of keeping us in the game the whole time and was able to
close it out, so he did a nice job for us on that one.
Plyler: Talk about the two linebackers you may have a chance to coach next
Blackwell: We had both of those young men in camp at the same time, and I had a
big ole smile on my face when camp was over, said if I can get those two guys I
would take them right now and shut it down and not recruit another linebacker.
We were able to get them, Josh is a guy who probably won’t get as much publicity
today or tomorrow as Antonio gets because he committed so long ago. But Lord
knows I appreciate him coming on as early as he did, and have the character and
strength to hold that commitment as long as he did. They are both exciting
football players athletically they have size, they were heavily recruited.
Antonio is going to get a lot of publicity for being a signing day guy. I don’t
want to take anything away from Rendrick Taylor, Josh Miller, James Davis,
Thomas Austin, Barry Humphries, the guys who jumped on board a long time ago.
Lord knows they had to fight, had calls coming in all the time trying to talk
them out of us for eight or nine months. I really appreciate all of those guys
Plyler: Lets talk about Demerick Chancellor, where do you think he'll start out
at and what do you see in his future?
Blackwell: We recruited Demerick as a running back. Coach Burns coming out of
spring really liked him, we offered him, then his senior film came in this year
and he became a guy who really skyrocketed up our board. He is a different style
running back than James Davis is, so together it forms a really forms exciting
combination. James was head and shoulders top guy on our board, we had a couple
guys from North Carolina right there after him, and a few other guys but
Demerick skyrocketed up to the top four. The fact that he was so versatile
catching the ball out of the back field and having such speed and size makes him
a really great compliment with James. I know when Coach Spence got here and was
watching film they were his two favorites on film. That is exciting for us to
get the ones you target. You never get all of them but we were excited to get
both of those, and then you get Demerick's brother. His stats speak for its
self. The guy had 23 career interceptions and he’s also a very dangerous return
man, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and returned a punt for a touchdown
this year. He’s a fearless defender, plays with a lot of confidence, and he’s
very physical. A lot has been made about his size, he’s 5'9 1/2" 165 to 170 lbs,
but he'll flat stick you. He has a knack for making big plays, and he had six
touchdowns this year on defense counting his returns. We are excited about both
of these young men.
Plyler: Let me ask about Terrell Smith, out of Alabama, any idea where he'll
get his first snaps when it comes to fall camp next year?
Blackwell: Yeah, he's going to play wide receiver starting out, no question.
Coach Swinney is really high on him as a wide out. One of the things when you
look at this wide receiver class, we've got two big guys in Terrell and Rendrick,
that are big athletes that are really physical that can run. And they are
really smooth receivers. Then you have your flashy like with T.J.and then
Grisham who is the speed guy. So its really a nice blend of athletes there at
the receivers position. And we are excited about all of them.
Plyler: Talk about Durrell Barry and Paul Muse.
Blackwell: Durrell is a guy that we placed last year, we were extremely excited
about him as an instate guy from Fort Dorchester. Immediately went up to Fort
Union and within a few days of being up there the coaches there were calling us
telling us how special he was. They said he was one of the best they had on
their team. Paul Muse was a guy we had at camp, really athletic. Both of those
guys with what Coach Spence likes to do, have an opportunity do some great
things here. One of the first things Rob said to me after we got here was that
we're going to have to adjust our numbers a little bit in recruiting because he
wants more tight ends on the team. He likes using tight ends and getting them
involved. We were too far in at that point, we had two committed and we felt
good about that. We were too far in with our coordinators and new schemes, but
we'll be able to adjust a little next year on some needs that we have that are a
little different than what we have right now, it will be a smooth transition.
Plyler: It’s been said that this is one of the best looking offensive lines
that Clemson has signed in a while. They look like a lot of the offensive
lineman we grew up watching at Clemson.
Blackwell: There’s no question. One thing that stands out the most about this
group is that they are huge. We had Thomas and Barry here this weekend; Thomas
has slimmed down some due to wrestling, he’s down around 280. Barry was at 295
lbs. They are the shorter ones with Thomas being 6'5" and Barry being 6' 3 1/2".
Corey is 6' 7", Quentez is 6' 4", Jamarcus is 6' 5". They are big guys, but
they are athletes. These guys can move their feet and they can bend so it’s a
nice group. They committed along time ago we shut it down, I was a little
nervous that we shut it down so early in the offensive line because we had these
guys committed up. I kept asking in meetings, everybody sure these guys are
solid, because we were having to turn away guys. It’s always scary when you turn
away guys, if we don't hold on to one of these guys. But, they hung in there
with us the whole time, and Lord knows the character of these guys is something
I think people are going to see. They are really a strong character group of
Plyler: What is the status of Corey Lambert, as far as work outs go, when he
can be cleared, how does everything work for him here in the future?
Blackwell: As soon as we get him cleared through clearinghouse than he'll be
able to work out in our weight room. He's a guy that hopefully we can get over
into our summer school, and get him going right away. We anticipate him being
cleared. It just takes a little time to get things through clearinghouse. We
could have pushed some things through, but we hit a point where we would be
starting him too far behind in school so we made the decision not to. We did not
want to set him up for failure academically. We would not do that with any of
our signees, where you are bringing them in three weeks behind class, that's not
fair to anyone. So we thought the best thing was to wait and bring him over in
the summer. He is only going to miss fifteen days of spring ball and we feel
like we can catch him up pretty fast.
Plyler: Let’s talk about some of the big bodies up front.
Blackwell: You look at the national championship game and you look at how many
great linemen that those teams have planted on both sides of the ball. It gets
really exciting when you're great upfront on offense. You can line me up a
tailback and run the ball and I can get three and half yards of carry. If you
add that up every three plays you're moving the chance. You put a guy like James
Davis, Demerick Chancellor or one of the running backs we have, Reggie
Merriweather, behind that and you have a chance to do something special. The
same thing is true upfront on defense. It’s no secret that the last two years as
we progressed through the season the d-line grew up, we became a great defense,
a much better defense a more dominating defense. I'm a firm believer in winning
Plyler: Talk about those guys in the back 7 or so.
Blackwell: Kavell is a guy who is real versatile. We really like him as a
player. Went under the radar a little bit during recruitment because he was an
early commitment. At the time he was committed he was being heavily recruited,
we'll probably start him off in safety and he can grow into a lot of different
things, outside linebacker possibly depending on how big he gets. One of the
neat things about this class is they're top line guys. We did not drop below
what we perceived to be our top line. Hopefully we are right on our evaluations.
If we are it’s going to be a heck of a class. We really won’t know that until
two years down the road. We're real impressed with Sadat Chambers, think he’s a
real versatile athlete. Again just really classy young me, a great group of
students, so a lot of positives about this class.
Plyler: It sounds like you had a lot of your prospects recruiting for you
Blackwell: Yeah, those guys are amazing. That's one thing that I love is that
they bought into the program and they took ownership and said we're apart of
you, this is our team. When you have guys like Quentez and T.J. doing that it
really helps, and even the guys that are committed, I kept hearing how hard the
Clemson commitments were recruiting at the Shrine Bowl. That's an unselfish
thing for players to do because they are recruiting to help the team, sometimes
maybe they were hurting themselves, recruiting more competition for themselves,
but when that happens that's when you get it headed in the right direction.
Plyler: Let’s give you a chance to brag on your staff.
Blackwell: No question, the whole staff, even the secretaries, sacrifice an
awful lot on recruiting weekends and things like that. The girls in the office
do a great job for us. We had to activate Billy Napier to go on the road, and he
did an outstanding job for us during the month of December. What that meant was
nobody came off the road. Our guys were on the road the whole time. The whole
staff did a great job, obviously Burton Burns did a great job with James Davis.
Ron West was relentless in recruiting Antonio Clay, Brad Scott with Thomas
Austin and getting him in early. And Brad did a great job with the other
offensive lineman. That’s what you see with our staff, we have a lot of
unselfish guys. It’s not how many guys you sign, its getting the best and the
ones you want. And Brad was hey let me help on these offensive lineman, who
needs me. He was always going to see Barry Humphries or Corey Lambert or
Jamarcus Grant and Qunetez Ruffin. Our guys are really unselfish and I think we
looked at the big picture as far as where a guy was ranked on a recruiting
board, you know you may have this guy ready to commit but let’s try and get the
one above him. And we lost some kids doing that, but that's part of the game.
The end result I think the whole staff is pretty happy with what we did.
Plyler: Were you able to buddy recruit because you had so many early
Blackwell: Yeah, and in fairness they have done that around here before. It’s
not something new we were just able to do it a little bit more this year. We
openly talked about it and tried to do it more this year only and because we had
some success with it, it’s getting a little more publicity. We tried to get
involved this year with phone calls with coordinators and position coaches early
in the process and I think the more people they know the better it is. Our
coaches do a nice job with that throughout the season. Coach Burns did a great
job with me with Demerick, getting in there on the phone early, and he knows him
as well as he knows me. That makes it easier to recruit a guy, I think since we
have been a little more successful this year might play more into that.
Plyler: Were Coach Hobby and the two coordinators able to help you out coming
in late in the process?
Blackwell: No question, the nice thing with that situation was everyone came in
with what can I do to help, point in me in the direction you need me to go, tell
me where you want me to go and what you need me to do and I'll do it. Coming in
that late there's some things from a numbers standpoint that we'll have to
address, different mentality. Being as late in the recruiting process instead of
we need this and this, it was what can we do to help get what we got. We'll sit
down after signing day and recruit some safeties defensively because things
we'll be doing defensively needs more of a true safety. There will be a lot of
things still similar, Coach Spence likes using a tight end, and wants to recruit
tight ends which is something we're doing. I love recruiting tight ends but I
like moving them into other positions. And were going to have to recruit some to
keep them there too, and I don't have any problem with that at all.
Plyler: What does Coach Koenning want to do defensively?
Blackwell: I don't know about that yet, we'll get more into that this week,
fixing things where we think they should go. A lot gets made out of letters, I
think last year we had a Mike, a Jack and a Whip for our three linebackers. This
year we'll have a Sam, a Mike and Will. In Pittsburgh we had Sam, Mike and WIll, at
Carolina we called him a Buck instead of Will. The letters are usually
different, we called it a rover last year and we're calling it a cat safety this
year, we called it a defensive end last year we're calling it bandit this year.
I don't see it being a John Johnson type bandit position with what were looking
at. But as it evolves it could become that more. It’s still mostly four man
front, just the eagle terminology. There will be some things change I'm sure as
we move the personnel around, but it won’t be as drastic as people think it will
Plyler: Tell us about the schedule that you guys have for the next couple of
Blackwell: We actually leave tomorrow. We have the high school closing in Myrtle
Beach this weekend, have Sunday off and start meeting Monday offensively and
defensively. We'll have to be pretty good here until spring ball just because
the terminology will be a little different. All the coaches have coached before
so it won’t be a big deal for the coaches, but the terminology will be different
so you have to meet a lot. Get your personnel in the right place, get your
terminology straight, and start moving yourself in that direction to prepare
yourself for spring ball. There will be a significant amount of meetings, more
so than usual because you've had turn over on your staff and everybody has to
get comfortable with the terminology. Defense will probably be lined up the
same, offensive will probably be the same, but we might call it something
different than we did in the past, just getting all of that squared is what
we'll be getting on over the next couple of weeks.
Plyler: Are you guys already junior recruiting?
Blackwell: Coach Bowden was on the phone today with a couple of juniors. They
can call him but he can't call them, and starting that process. Already had a
few today and have several lined up for calling tomorrow. We are already full
speed in that direction, it never ends and it never stops. With early
commitments guys are making their minds up early and you have to get on them
early, and work harder and longer. That's the nature of the beast.
Plyler: Congratulations, I know it’s a really exciting day for you.
Blackwell: We're excited, but like I said before, you're never too high, never
to low. We'll see in two years how good this class really is. You can't put all
of your eggs in one basket. We're pleased with the quality of the person we've
gotten in this class. And I think that says something about the young men we're
recruiting and the direction we're heading. Obviously the character part is
important but they have to be able to play to. I think this is a really strong
character group of young men. And I think its going to be fun to watch them over
the next few years.