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Tag:Dabo Swinney
Posted on: March 7, 2012 6:07 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Clemson



Posted by Chip Patterson


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Clemson.

Spring Practice Starts: March 7

Spring Game: April 14

Three Things To Look For

1. Raised expectations. The hope of returning the ACC title to Clemson had driven Tigers' programs for two decades until Dabo Swinney finally delivered the crown in December. But after the 2011 team "broke through the walls," as Swinney put it several times, the expectations changed completely for 2012. Bringing back all of the primary offensive skill players but Dwayne Allen, and hiring Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables has made 2012 a BCS or bust season. No longer will Clemson fans hope to avoid a letdown, instead they expect to compete for hardware from opening day. Not even a record-setting blowout loss in South Beach could shake the confidence of a new-attitude program hungry for more titles.

2. Improving the offensive line. With Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Andre Ellington all back, the Tigers are set with All-ACC talent at the skill positions. However, troubles along the offensive line prevented the unit from clicking during their late-season slide in 2011. The success of the offense relied too heavily on individuals like left tackle Phillip Price, and this spring should be an opportunity for offensive coordinator Chad Morris to get some depth and a solid rotation along the line. Price and fellow tackle Landon Walker are gone, leaving center Dalton Freeman as the only lineman with any significant game experience. Conditioning should no longer be an issue for offseason practice, either, with one full year of Morris' system under their belts.

3. Brent Venables' impact. The Tigers return just six starters on defense, and have a huge need on the defensive line to replace All-ACC graduates Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch. Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables enters as one of the most praised (and highest-paid) defensive coordinators in the ACC, but will have his work cut out with this young group of defenders. On one hand, it might be easier to teach a new system rather than have to un-teach Kevin Steele's complex scheme. On the other, he could end up seeing the same youthful mistakes that plagued the Tigers in 2011. Venables will have all eyes on his defense in 2012, and getting through to his unit this spring will be essential for Clemson's success in the fall.

For much more on Clemson as they go through Spring Practice, including the Top 3 Position Battles for the spring, follow Travis Sawchik's Tigers' RapidReports. For more spring previews around the ACC check out Spring Practice Home.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:40 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 4:43 pm
 

NCAA denies redshirt for Clemson LB Steward

Posted by Chip Patterson

Clemson linebacker Tony Steward had his request for a medical redshirt from the NCAA denied last week, according to Tigers' head coach Dabo Swinney.

Swinney met with the media on Tuesday to discuss several team issues heading into Wednesday's opening of spring practice, and called the NCAA's decision "a shame."

A five-star prospect coming out of high school, Steward was one of the many true freshman to contribute immediately for the Tigers, but his action was cut short by a torn ACL in the fifth game. NCAA rules allow for players to redshirt for medical reason if they had played in 30 percent or fewer of the team's games in a season. While the fifth game put the sophomore linebacker over the limit, the school hoped only playing 36 snaps in those games would result in an exception.

Steward is still recovering from successful knee surgery to repair the damage, and will miss all of Clemson's spring practice. He is expected to be fully cleared to participate in team activities in May.

Another member of that same recruiting class will be returning to practice on Wednesday: sophomore running back Mike Bellamy. Bellamy showed bursts of potential during his freshman campaign, but the on-field time was reportedly limited by off-field conduct and attitude issues.

Bellamy received criticism from the coaching staff during the season, and was suspended indefinitely for violation of a team rule before the ACC title game in December.

"[Bellamy has] been doing OK," Swinney said on Tuesday. "This is a big spring for him."

Starting running back Andre Ellington returns for the Tigers, looking to build on a junior year that saw him collect 1,178 yards despite missing time due to injury. Ellington has had to miss time because of injury in each of his last two seasons, and there should be opportunity for Bellamy to move up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart this spring.

For more on the Tigers' updates heading into spring practice, check out Travis Sawchik's Tigers RapidReports.

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Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:24 pm
 

State rep. wants Gamecocks-Tigers required by law

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With every signal coming out of SEC HQ indicating the league is highly unlikely to follow the ACC's lead and pursue a nine-game league schedule, the 116-year intra-state rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson isn't in any immediate danger of being interrupted by the league's recent expansions. But one Palmetto State legislator has decided he'd rather not take any chances.

South Carolina state representative Nathan Ballentine has proposed that state law require the Gamecocks and Tigers to meet each year on the gridiron, continuing the nation's second-longest continuously played college football rivalry. The proposal will be examined by House lawmakers Wednesday, the State reports.

"I had a constituent bring it up to me, asking whether it was state law that these two teams play. It's not," said Ballentine, a South Carolina graduate from Lexington, S.C. "With all the conference realignment, we just wanted to make sure this annual game continues ... You saw Texas and Texas A&M ... No one wants to see that happen here to our two universities where families enjoy the annual game, and it's great for our economy."

Remarkably, the series has apparently been saved once already by state congressional fiat--according to Ballentine, no game was scheduled between the two teams in 1952 until the legislature stepped in.

But that's not argument enough for officials at either school, who agreed that the legislature's intervention at this stage is unnecessary. 

"Clemson would prefer to not have to legislate this issue," Tiger athletic director Terry Don Phillips said, "as I cannot conceive of a realistic scenario that would prohibit Clemson and South Carolina from continuing our football series."

Which makes us wonder--was this all a grand plot on Ballentine's part to prove to the two schools that they can agree on something? After the epic war of (misattributed) words between Dabo Swinney and (not actually) Steve Spurrier following this year's Gamecock beatdown, could the two programs have needed the reminder not to travel down the road of public in-fighting and back-biting that poisoned the rivalry between the Aggies and 'Horns?

To answer those questions: no, it wasn't, and no, they didn't. But as college football fans, we can understand Rep. Ballentine wanting to play it safe all the same.

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Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:08 pm
 

Clemson WR Joe Craig dismissed after arrest

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A rocky Clemson football career has come to an end for Tiger wide receiver Joe Craig.  

The Charleston Post and Courier reported Thursday that Craig was served with an arrest warrant Wednesday on charges of criminal domestic violence. Police were called to a university apartment early Sunday morning at which Whitney Fountain, a Clemson track athlete and the mother of Craig's son, told officers Craig had struck her.

Per the incident report, Craig told officers Fountain had started the confrontation and he had "shoved" her away to get her off of him.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dismissed Craig from the team Wednesday night. A rising sophomore, Craig caught three passes for 17 yards in his 2011 redshirt season.

A dual-sport athlete from Gaffney, S.C. who won state championships in both the 100- and 200-meter dash, Craig was recognized as one of the fastest players in the entire class of 2010 but struggled with off-field issues throughout his time in the Clemson football program. Craig was involved in a May incident with another Tiger track athlete, Marlena Wesh, that did not result in an arrest or filed charges but did force his suspension from the track squad and a three-game suspension to begin the 2011 football season.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 3:38 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:39 pm
 

Clemson assistants among highest paid nationally

Posted by Chip Patterson

Brent Venables made a very difficult decision to leave Oklahoma and accept the open defensive coordinator position at Clemson. But the school made the decision much easier, reportedly rewarding Venables with a multi-year deal that will reportedly pay nearly $800,000 per season. That figure would make Venables the No. 3 most-compensated assistant coach nationally in 2012, just behind Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

But Venables joins a staff that includes the nation's No. 1 compensated assistant: offensive coordinator Chad Morris. In December, Morris agreed to a new deal with $1.3 million annually over six years. With Gus Malzahn accepting the head coaching position at Arkansas State, Morris moved into the top spot.

"We are getting one of the top coordinators in the nation," head coach Dabo Swinney said in regards to Venables' arrival. "I appreciate the commitment from the Clemson administration. This hire shows everyone at Clemson wants us to be the best we can possibly be."

With the No. 1 and No. 3 highest paid assistants on the staff, there will be expectations for on-field results from the school. The Tigers just won their first ACC Championship since 1991. With this kind of investment from the school, competing for conference titles are now the norm. If Clemson is not in the ACC Atlantic Division title hunt each season with this staff, the fan base will let their displeasure known. After this kind of investment, no one will accept "Clemson pulling a Clemson."

CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik pointed out Clemson's 8-0 start as one reason for the investment in the football program. University president James Barker was impressed by the campus energy and increase in undergraduate applications during the Tigers' fast start this fall. Clemson is just another example of a school using their football program to expose the university on a national level.

For more on Brent Venables and Clemson, follow Travis Sawchik and Tigers RapidReports

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Posted on: January 16, 2012 12:12 pm
 

Brent Venables still with the Sooners, for now

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ever since it was announced that Mike Stoops would be returning to Oklahoma to join his brother Bob Stoops' staff, there have been questions about defensive coordinator Brent Venables' future at the school. Mike Stoops was officially announced as Oklahoma's new defensive backs coach and as the co-defensive coordinator along with Venables, but since the announcement, Venables' name has come up at a few other schools.

Last week Venables was reportedly interviewing with Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia after Jeff Casteel left the school to go to Arizona. Venables then took himself out of the running and left with Mike Stoops on Friday to do some recruiting in Florida. Instead of returning back to Norman, though, Venables then spent the rest of his weekend interviewing with Dabo Swinney about becoming defensive coordinator at Clemson.

There had been reports that Venables had accepted the Clemson job, but upon returning to Norman on Sunday, Venables would neither confirm or deny being offered the Clemson job.

According to the Tulsa World, Dabo Swinney still wants to interview former Miami head coach Randy Shannon and maybe a few others before making a final decision.

Whether or not Venables takes the Clemson job probably won't be known until later in the week, but the signs seem to be indicating that he's either set on leaving the Sooners. He has interviewed for head coaching positions many times while at Oklahoma, but he'd never interviewed to be a defensive coordinator at another school during that time. Now he's done so twice in the last week.

I just don't think that happens if he's happy with the idea of splitting his coaching duties with Stoops.

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Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 1:56 pm
 

DC Kevin Steele will not return to Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will not return next season, the school announced on Thursday.

“I have had a great experience at Clemson and feel good about what we have accomplished the last three years,” said Steele in an official release. “But, there are some other coaching opportunities I wish to pursue at this time.

“It has been rewarding to see this program grow to the point of winning Clemson’s first ACC Championship in 20 years. I want to thank the coaches and players who worked so hard these last three years. Clemson is a special place and I wish the program and the players continued success.”

Steele has served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach since 2009, and is considered one of the ACC's better recruiters. But Clemson's defensive performance in 2011 was less than ideal, coming to a head in the record-breaking 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.

No defense in bowl history has allowed 70 points in a game, especially on a national stage like the Orange Bowl. As West Virginia rolled off touchdown after touchdown - including five second-quarter scores - Steele stood on the sideline as the center of attention for an angry and frustrated fan base.

The Tigers ranked 81st nationally in scoring defense (allowing 29.2 points per game), only better than Duke and Maryland in the ACC. This coming just one year after leading the conference in the same category, and with all-conference defensive linemen Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch in the lineup.

“Although we were inconsistent at times with a young defense this year, overall we have been one of the best defenses in the country the last three years under his direction, head coach Dabo Swinney said in a prepared statement.  "I thank him for his hard work and dedication to our program and wish him nothing but the best.”

Steele is considered one of the bright defensive minds in the game, serving as executive head coach and linebackers' coach for Bobby Bowden at Florida State and two season's on Nick Saban's Alabama staff before arriving at Clemson. But Steele's schemes did not seem to work with the Tigers' young personnel, and Clemson was repeatedly burned for big plays in 2011 because of breakdowns in the linebackers and secondary.

Follow Travis Sawchik's Tigers RapidReports for more on this story, including potential replacements for Dabo Swinney's staff.

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Posted on: January 11, 2012 11:01 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 11:03 am
 

All-ACC RB Andre Ellington returning to Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

Clemson running back Andre Ellington has decided to return for his senior season. CBSSports.com's Travis Sawchik reports the all-conference running back announced his decision after a team meeting on Tuesday.

"Last year's success has me excited to enter the 2012 season as a Clemson Tiger," Ellington said.

Ellington rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, good enough for second team All-ACC honors and moving to 10th place on Clemson's all-time rushing list. The junior submitted paperwork to the NFL Draft advisory committee, but upon receiving a response has elected to put one more season on tape.

One factor that may have led to Ellington's return is the hope for a full season of health. Ellington missed four games in 2010 with a foot injury that later required surgery, then was nagged by an ankle injury during conference play in 2011. When the speedy running back is 100 percent, he is one of the most explosive running backs in the conference. But the injuries could be enough to keep NFL scouts wary if Ellington made the jump this season.

With Ellington back, 2012 will be the first time in school history the Tigers return a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher from the previous season. All factors contributing to Clemson's Top 15 ranking in Brett McMurphy's way-early Top 25 ranking for 2012.

Check out the rest of McMurphy's Top 25, and follow Tigers RapidReports for more updates on Clemson's outlook for 2012.

Get caught up on the early-entry announcements HERE, and all the latest rankings, mock drafts, and breaking news check out the NFL Draft Home

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com