Tiger Tidbits - Ball St. Edition

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – It’s time for Tiger Tidbits, the Ball St. edition. Or, we could just call it the insides of a cluttered notebook kept by a cluttered mind….

However, that can be for another day.

In the meantime, let’s get to the some of the little things we’ve heard and seen around Clemson over the past week.

*Clemson opened the season with a bang over Auburn Saturday night in the Georgia Dome, and while the offense managed to score points and put up yards by the bucket load, it was easy to notice the absence of receiver Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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With that in mind, and knowing that receivers like Charone PeakeCharone Peake
So. Wide Receiver
#19 6-3, 200
Moore, SC

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are just as fast or faster than ole Sammy, I wondered what was the biggest difference in a player like Sammy and some of the other receivers on the roster. I could have asked a coach, but that wouldn’t have told me anything. I could have asked another receiver, and again wouldn’t have learned what I really needed to know.

So I asked a Clemson defensive back, one of those guys that has to go up against the likes of Watkins every day in practice. His answer was something that was a little but surprising to me.

“A lot of guys are fast, but guys like Sammy know how to use their speed,” he said. “Sammy knows that he doesn’t have to run all-out all the time in order to be effective. So he may be running a route, and he is not at full speed. As a defensive back, you are trying to stay with him and you are both at the same speed, and then at the last second he just takes off and leaves you. He creates that separation that allows him to get open. Other guys, they run full-out as soon as the ball is snapped, and it is easier to stay with them. You can’t do that with somebody like Sammy.”

*Speaking of Watkins: We all know the new kickoff rules that allow the kicker to kick off from the 35-yard line made some of Saturday’s action a little boring. Well, I am hearing that once Watkins returns from his suspension, it is up to him on whether he wants to bring the ball out of the end zone or not, as long as it isn’t too deep. That should make for some exciting plays – some may be good, and some may be bad.

*It was interesting to see the Tiger mascot on the field Saturday wearing the No. 1 jersey. In the recent past, the Tiger has worn zero and there have been some factions that wanted the Tiger to wear the No. 1 again. In order to get a feel for when the numbers changed, I contacted former Tiger Michael Bays [who still works some home basketball games as the mascot]. Bays was the Tiger from 1994-97, and he said he actually had a No. 87 jersey when he first started. When the Tiger Cub came along, the Cub wore the big overalls before moving at some point to the ½ number and the Tiger wore No. 1. In recent years, that has gone away, so it was nice to see the No. 1 jersey back on Saturday night.

Bays said he checked with Wes Scruggs, and he wore 00 the year after Bays graduated, so the last time we saw the No. 1 on the Tiger was for the 1996 football season.

And just to let you know, Bays actually has a historical connection to TigerNet – he was TigerNet’s first live chat guest way back in 1994 when TigerNet was run out of Clemson House.

*I know you’ve heard by now that former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield was invited to speak to the football team Friday night at the team hotel. Holyfield was invited by Clemson student coach Keith Adams, and several of the Clemson players have given Holyfield’s talk rave reviews.

TigerNet caught up with Holyfield outside of Clemson’s locker room – wearing an orange Clemson hat someone had provided, and asked him what his speech was about.

“I just shared my experiences with them about winning and making adjustments. Life is about adjustments,” Holyfield said.

He also said he didn’t give another speech following the win.

“They were dressing so not really,” he said. “They did what they were supposed to do in a tough game. They minimized their mistakes and took advantage of the mistakes that the other team made.”

Adams has been helping Holyfield’s son with his football career.

“Keith is coaching at Clemson and he is helping my son out and getting himself together in football,” he said. “He asked me if I would speak them and I said sure.”

An interesting side note is that Evander Holyfield, Jr., ran track at Auburn in the middle of the previous decade.

*A notable presence in the tunnel of the Georgia Dome following the game was ACC Commissioner John Swofford, wearing a tie with Clemson’s colors. He was the first one to hug Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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as he entered the tunnel following the win.

*Defensive tackle D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-3, 335
Greensboro, NC

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made an impact during his time on the field Saturday night, and it made me think back to his recruiting process. If you remember, it came down to Clemson and Maryland for Reader’s services, and he was back and forth right up until signing day.

We got to spend a little time with D.J. Tuesday, and he said it was hard for people to understand his reasons for picking a school. Yes, the football program and playing time had a lot to do with it. Yes, the chance to play baseball had a lot to do with it. But he was also very interested in the academic side of things, and being able to go to a school in the Beltway was an intriguing prospect. He chose Clemson, and is studying Business Management. He even said he wouldn’t mind a career in sports journalism.

He told me that for some reason, people just couldn’t understand an athlete making a decision based on academics.

“I could have gone to an SEC school and just played football,” he said. “But my parents really want me to get a good degree. And I could have gone to Maryland and probably played right away and maybe even started. Here, I have a lot of talented players in front of me, and I might not even start until my junior or senior year. But that’s ok, because I know I am going to play and I am going to get a great education.”

*Andre Ellington had a fantastic night Saturday in the Georiga Dome, but according to Clemson Sports Information Tim Bourret, he only had 228 yards rushing, rather than the 231 that was originally posted. After reviewing the game film, one of Rod McDowell's third quarter carries - for three yards - was wrongly attributed to Ellington at the time.

*I was really pleased with Clemson’s offensive line play in the second half of Saturday’s game, and I asked left guard David BeasleyDavid Beasley
RS So. Offensive Guard
#68 6-4, 315
Columbus, GA

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what he felt tipped the game in the favor of the Clemson offense. His answer? Conditioning.

He also said something I love to hear from an offensive lineman – he knew they could run the football.

“We knew they were out of breath and that we could run the football,” he said. “We were telling Coach Morris to just run the ball, that we could run it whenever we wanted. We just felt like we were more physical.”

Music to my ears.

*And finally, in case some of you missed it, we spent Friday evening at Grayson High School watching Grayson take on Miami Central. I was supposed to write just a scouting report, but got a little off track. However, I think what we learned – away from the football field – bears repeating here.

The game featured four Clemson commitments – the Grayson Trio of Robert Nkemdiche, Wayne Gallman and David Kamara and 2014 running back Dalvin Cook of Miami Central.

However, before I get into the scouting report, there is something I think that Clemson fans ought to know. There has been a lot of talk in the national press about Nkemdiche’s decision to attend Clemson when so many more high-profile programs are after his services – he told me Friday night that Alabama is still coming hard. For those of us who are lucky enough to be around Clemson, we get it. Or at least we think we do.

However, none of us can know what is going through the mind of a 17-year old, and it wasn’t until after the game Friday night that I believe I got a glimpse into what the kids who make up the Grayson Trio see in Clemson.

I wore a shirt with a Clemson logo to the game, and felt welcomed from the beginning until the very end, and many of the fans wanted to stop and talk about the game, about Clemson, or about the commitments. It was after the game, however, that I really got a glimpse into what head coach Mickey Conn has going on at Grayson.

I spent some time talking to Gallman’s mother, and she said that Clemson and Grayson are a lot alike – fan bases that rally around the school and the students with a true sense of family. While I was speaking with Gallman’s mother, Conn’s wife and two little boys came over to introduce herself, and I was immediately struck with how much like Kathleen Swinney – Dabo’s wife – she happens to be. It is almost like the two are sisters, and Gallman’s mother said that Wayne had said the same thing.

Leaving the stadium – where I finagled a free burger – a group of people told us that they were going to make it to all of the Clemson home games next season, and I asked if they had kids who were going to school at Clemson. The answer was yes, but not in the strict sense of the word. They are just fans who think of all the Grayson players as their own, and they plan on making the trip to Clemson to see their “kids” play.

At that point, it really hit home that Grayson is much like Clemson – everybody knows everybody else and it makes you feel like a part of the same family. The old adage says there is comfort in familiarity, and with that in mind, it isn’t hard to see what the Grayson players see in a place like Clemson.

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