CLEMSON, SC -- Mickey Plyler, host of "Plyler on Sports" (5-7 on WCCP 104.9 FM in Upstate SC) had Clemson Recruiting Coordinator and Wide Receivers' Coach Rick Stockstill as his special guest on his show Wednesday. Below is a transcript of the interview.
MP: Rod Gardner was the go-to guy last year. He seems to work as hard as anybody.
RS: That's one of the things about Rod. And I really appreciate what he does. He works hard. This is his third position since he's been here. He's worked hard this spring. He knows what he has to improve at this summer. If he does that, he'll have a phenomenal year. If he continues to improve, he'll have a chance to play on Sundays.
His strength and he's got tremendous hands. His leaping ability and his concentration on the deep ball. He's not a super fast guy. He gets his yards after the catch by breaking tackles rather than making them miss with wiggles. He's more a straight ahead guy with strength. But the biggest thing he need to work on this summer is perfecting his routes. Little things in his route technique is what he needs to work on. If he does that he has a chance to have a great year.
I think Rod is as good at catching and adjusting to the deep ball as any body. I coached Sean Jefferson and Central Florida and this will be his 12th year. But the thing about Rod is that he competes on every ball. All we ask of running backs and quarterbacks is that they complete on every play. Then they'll have a chance to be successful. He competes on every play. He also studies the game. He's a good, dependable person and he can catch the ball and run.
MP: Was the story true about his asking for the ball in the SC game?
RS: That's the only one that got publicized. He told coach Bowden to throw it to me. He kept his end of the bargain.
MP: Earlier in the spring we talked about Kevin Youngblood. Compare the two and where Rod was his freshman season.
RS: You can go back a year further than that. Kevin was always a receiver in high school growing up. Rod was a quarterback. Rod was a free safety when he first got here then he was an outside linebacker the next year. He really didn't catch the football until the last two years. Kevin is further along simply because Rod hadn't played the position before. Rod is a stronger athlete than Kevin. Rod was 205 when he got here and he's 210 now. He's gotten stronger because of Joey Batson in the weight room. Kevin has to get a stronger upper and lower body. Kevin is a more polished receiver for his age. Kevin is by no means polished, but technically, he's better than Rod at catching the ball because that's what he's done.
He's got deceptive speed because he has such long strides. He's tall and with his long legs the defense doesn't appreciate how fast he's running. His long strides get to you in a hurry. If he'll continue to work, he'll become a fine receiver.
MP: Bigger receivers are becoming a big part of the game. Talk about Matt Bailey.
RS: I think Matt has made as much improvement as any receiver we've got. It started with attitude. That's 100 percent better than it's been. I think he realized after two years that nothing is going to be handed to you. If you in there playing it's because you've earned our confidence. That light came on in the second or third week of last season. He got into game toward the end of the year. The biggest improvement was in his work ethic and his attitude.
MP: Talk about your other receivers, including the irrepressible Justin Watts.
RS: Justin is a guy that's not near as good an athlete, but nobody can beat him out. He's at the slot position as we call it. He had a good, solid spring. He's a kid that you wish you had 11 of because of his work ethic. He's always where he's supposed to be and he shows great effort blocking.. They can't beat him out because he won't let them.
With Jackie and Joe Don, they'll still be fighting it out in August. I thought Joe Don really had a good first couple of weeks of the spring and then he tapered off. We just moved him to receiver last August so it's his first full year at the wide receiver position. He's a dependable kid. He's got to improve some aspects of his game. If he does, then we'll win with Joe Don on the field.
Jackie's first couple of weeks were inconsistent in the spring. Then he was the most consistent receiver we had in the spring. He did great things after he caught the ball. He's a great effort kid. Behind Matt is JJ McKelvey. He's got so much to learn. He's never been at wide receiver. He's such a good athlete. He can be a solid wide receiver. He's got so much to learn. He could be a natural at free safety.
MP: Talk about the incoming receivers.
RS: They've all got ability, but they've got three days before the varsity reports and then two weeks to the first game. The speed of the game will surprise them. To say they'll be able to contribute in the first couple of games - that's hard. With eight receivers on scholarship, those guys will not let a freshman come in and beat them out in three weeks.
Derrick Hamilton is a special, special person. We've had to evaluate him more as a kick returner and basketball player. He caught two balls a game. He returned 16 kicks or interceptions for touchdowns. Then you watch him play basketball. He's so fluid. He can really be a special person and player for us. Probably on the outside behind Rod, Kevin and Matt.
Ronnie Thomas is a guy that's a slot guy - in inside guy that's smaller and quicker. A jitter-bug type that catches well. We're excited about the kids coming in. They will fit in well.
MP: Talk about Woody, Willie and Matt Schell.
RS: You know Woody had a really good spring. You could tell he's been in fights before. He reacted better than the other kids because he's been there before. There's nothing that compares to the experience you get being in the fire. Willie Simmons is going to be a phenominal quarterback. He's hasn't been in the fire and until you're in there Saturday after Saturday, it takes a quarterback time to develop and understand. It was his first time being involved in the offense like that.
If you look at the good programs no matter how good the quarterback is, it takes two years for the quarterback to feel good in the offense. Woody was a highly recruited quarterback and people said we'll he's not as good as we thought he was. Same with Willie. I know we live in a quick fix society. It's no different in athletics. Willie had a good spring early. Then he hurt his ankle. He need to take a day off, but never did and it never got better.
Matt has been a quarterback at the college level now for three years and he's going to be a solid player for us.
MP: What do the tailbacks look like?
RS: We really got hurt at tailback this spring. At one time Travis was not practicing and Bernard was not practicing. Chad wasn't practicing as well, so we did not have a tailback. Bernard Ramber and Travis Zachery can be good running backs. Bernard is a good running back leaning forward. In the South Carolina and Mississippi State game he showed people the potential he has once he gets stronger. Travis Zachery has phenominal hands. He's a good shifty running back. We'll be solid with those two guys. Chad has to be a back up at tailback and full back. Chad missed as much time as anybody this spring. He practiced maybe five days total. Keith Kelly and Terrence Huey will get a look early. You can't get enough running backs. I thought Spoon had a good spring. He's in the best condition since he's been here. If he wants to make some money next year he has to