CLEMSON, SC -- Mickey Plyler, host of "Plyler on Sports" (5-7 on WCCP 104.9 FM in Upstate SC) had Clemson Offense Coordinator and Quarterbacks' Coach Rich Rodriguez as his special guest on his show recently. Below is a transcript of the interview.
Evaluate Woody Dantzler’s performance in the Spring.
He was number one coming in, but I think the push by Willie Simmons and Matt Schell helped him elevate his game. He had a couple of scrimmages where he played as well as any quarterback I’ve had, and that includes Shawn King. So if he can keep getting better in that respect, we are going to be really good. But I think Willie, when he is healthy, and Matt Schell will continue to push him. And Woody knows if he slips, then somebody else is going to take his job because the job is open week to week. But there is no question Woody Dantzler had the type of spring that we expected that he could have and makes us really excited about the future.
How has Dantzler improved?
I think he started to learn to study the game a little bit. Not just understand what we want to do offensively, but how defenses are going to react to that. When you can anticipate your decision beforehand and know what you want to do with the ball particularly in the passing game, then you are going to be a better quarterback. I think his thing is, he is getting more comfortable with what we are doing which he should be. This is his third session – The first spring, last fall, and this spring. So our expectation was for him to take up that mental part and do a little better with it and he did a great job of that. And if he continues to do that which I expect him to do, then I think Woody can be a special player.
Evaluate Willie Simmon’s performance in the Spring.
I think Willie was really doing well and pushing him (Woody) until he had a problem with the ankle. When he had the problem with the ankle, I think it slowed him down a little bit. Willie has a certain feel for the game and a certain understanding that comes naturally which is going to really make a special player. Now he is a little frustrated as young quarterbacks get typically when they try to overcome an injury. They become frustrated and revert to bad habits. I think Willie, when he is healthy, will continue to push Woody Dantzler and we will have at least two guys and hopefully three guys that we can win with.
Evaluate Matt Schell’s performance in the Spring.
Matt is a guy who has come along. It’s his third session in the system and he was one of the pleasant surprises of the spring. He had to either prove it or not in the spring whether he could play or not. I think he proved that he can and he is going to give us a great situation there. I think Matt Schell is going to keep getting better as will the other guys. And when he does that, Matt is going to be good enough to win with.
How you feel about your depth at quarterback?
I think you got to have at least two at every position, especially at quarterback, because those guys are going to take some hits. The other thing I noticed about that position is Woody is the only guy that actually has been in a game and took quality reps.
Where the year before at least, Woody had been in a big game even though it wasn’t very successful, he had been in the game. So whether it is Willie Simmons or Matt Schell, those guys are really totally inexperienced. So, you would like for them to not have to be forced right into bat to do that, but hopefully their focus is more on what I am supposed to do on each play as opposed to there is 85,000 watching me or whatever the case may be.
Is quarterback experience important particularly in your system?
There is so much to learn, and not because you touch the ball on every snap, but
particularly in our system where our quarterback is like a point guard in basketball.He’s always got to be on top of his game. We make no secrets about it. We tell the quarterbacks, Day 1, we are going to be as good as you are. If you are no good then we will be no good on offense. So that type of pressure is what we try to put on them in practice and hopefully they can handle it. Most good ones they want that pressure. I think our guys will and they will respond okay.
Will it be diffcult to recruit a star quarterback given your current depth at quarterback?
I think with most of quarterbacks, there is a certain level of impatience out there. They want to play right away. They want to be a four-year starter. When they get in a system like ours, they realize, hey there are other guys that can play as well. And as we keep getting better, I think our recruiting classes keep getting better. We will always have competition. And there you have a great situation. If you have a great quarterback in every class, and if the guy in front of him or the guy behind him is the starter and he starts to slip, then you can put another quality guy in there. That’s what we want at all positions. We don’t want the guys to feel comfortable and say, I’m going to start regardless because there is no competition behind me. And when we can create that at every position, then we will be special like the Florida States.
What are some of your concerns going in and coming out of Spring practice?
Depth was a big question mark, especially up front on the offensive line. I don’t think we’ve had enough depth at tackles and I still don’t. We got to have some guys step up at offensive tackle. I think tailbacks were a concern because those guys have not practiced healthy. When they are healthy Rambert, Zachery, Jasmin and those guys will be fine, but when they are not, then obviously it makes a big difference.
Tight end might be our biggest concern offensively, because Cyrgalis was suspended. LeMay was hurt at the end of spring, and then behind them we have a 200 pounder named Morgan Woodward who does a great job, but he is small. Then we have a true freshman coming in and everyone knows it is tough to play as a true freshman. So that’s probably our biggest concern, but a lot of people say you don’t use the tight end much. Well last year we used them probably about 40-45 snaps a game. Some of it in short yardage, but still it has become a big weapon for us. If we can get that depth and because we play 10 straight games without an open date, then I think we will be in good shape.
How do you feel about the high expectations for this coming year?
Sometimes I think the expectation levels might be unrealistic just because you have a certain amount of starters coming back. All that means is you have enough talent to win six games again which everybody knows is not going to be acceptable to any of our players or coaches. But I think if those guys coming back are better than they were last year and the schedule is more favorable because of seven home games, then you should win more ball games. We don’t want our kids to start looking too far ahead like we ought to win nine or ten or anything of that nature. We need to take the same approach we took at Tulane our second year- ‘Hey let’s be as good as we can be and just play every ball game, and then see what happens at the end’. Those kids stayed focus and I think our kids will do the same thing. If you start looking too far ahead, then you are going to stub your toe.
How will the NCAA rule changes affect your offense?
The only interpretation we’ve got is, if you huddle up, then break the huddle and then change personnel, it could be a penalty. Or in some cases, we will run our short yardage people on the field at the last minute and then change formations, that could possibly be a penalty. But our base offense is really just the two-minute drill. So they would have to change the game to change what we do and really try to slow it down. But I don’t think they can. And for the most part, one little phase of our offense might be under interpretation, but I still think that is unclear.
Did some other college coaches come in and see what you guys were doing on offense?
I talked to some guys from Purdue. They were going to come in, but we just talked on the phone. The Northwestern staff came in and some other college staffs came in. Penn State was going to come in which is kind of flattering, but we just talked on the phone.
I always try in the off season to look at some other teams and see what they are doing. I talked a lot to the Marshall coaches, since they had success and looked at some of things they are doing. But we are really trying to focus in on our system. We added a few wrinkles here and there offensively, scheme wise. I think our players have picked up what we do and we hope we will just be better at executing next year.