Rich Rodriguez Ready To Put A "Death" Grip On The Clemson Offense

by - Correspondent -
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There's a gleam in Rich Rodriguez's eyes and nervous laughter in the crowd at the Newberry Touchdown Club.

He's talking about "the ring of death." He's smiling, expecting his audience to laugh along with him while he talks about his football players in "the ring." Nobody is smiling and laughing like Rodriguez at the moment. Considering the stories that came out of spring practice, maybe some are afraid he's going to form a ring of death inside the Old Newberry County Courthouse, where the meeting is being held.

"Our practices were open during the spring, and maybe that wasn't a good idea," he said. "Some of the things that were coming out of the coaches' mouths weren't things that we wanted people to hear."

When he talks about something called the ring of death, anybody that has seen practice knows that the players in the ring probably would rather be dead at that moment.

"We watch the tape of the practice," said Rodriguez. "And if we saw someone loafing, he gets in the middle of a circle of players and says, 'My name is so-and-so, and I let the team down three times today. I loafed three times.' Then everyone in the circle has to do three up-downs."

That's three times that the players fall chest first to the ground, and then quickly get back up. Then they repeat the process. It sounds infinitely easier than it actually is. After about five up-downs, arms can't push the body off the ground and legs can't help much either. In football circles, it's a common remedy for laziness, or missed assignments, or most anything the coach is mad about.

"Well, this past spring we had this little wide receiver - I won't mention his name - and he got in the middle of the circle and said, 'My name is so-and-so and I let the team down 25 times'," said Rodriguez. "I thought they were going to kill that guy."

Rodriguez laughs. Some in the audience aren't sure if he's serious.

He's serious all right.

"You get used to a lot of it," said quarterback Brandon Streeter. "In the spring the coaching staff used intensity. Most of us got used to it and understood that they used intensity to make sure that we were focused. His philosophy on coaching is when you make a mistake, he can get after you and hopefully you stay focused. His main point is that you don't make the mistake twice."

Rodriguez, at times, looks like a madman on the football field. Off the field, he laughs and talks about his love for the game.

"Even though I look frustrated at times and it looks like I would rather be anywhere else in the word, this is the place, when we're playing ball, that's the best time for myself personally," he said.

Well, for Rodriguez his time is at hand. Starting today, the coaching staff goes non-stop until the end of the season. They say good bye to their wives and children until next year's national signing day, when this season really ends.

They're in meetings all day today and the rest of the week, taking time out to go to the South Carolina high school coaches clinic on Tuesday. Otherwise, they won't let anything else get in the way of preparing for the season.

"We look at every facet of the program," said head coach Tommy Bowden. "We lock ourselves up in the press box and look at every detail of the program during the week. Top to bottom."

After the top-to-bottom look at the program, the freshmen report on August 4. The upperclassmen report on August 8 and the first of the two-a-day practices is on August 10.

That's what Rodriguez is looking forward to.

"We want it to be brutal," he said. "We need hard, hot two-a-day practices.

"I watched a lot of Clemson games from last year and I was surprised especially at how some of the players didn't play with the kind of intensity that we need to play with on a consistent basis. Coach Herring's defense did, but offensively it's not so much what we do x's and o's wise, but how hard our team plays."

Rodriguez is determined to make sure the offense plays hard. "There's more than one reason why you go 3-8," he said. "Some of the players did not want to play the game at the right intensity."

The ring of death awaits those that don't.

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