Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Peach Bowl smack-talk dials it up a notch

This is interesting. At pregame press conferences Tuesday in Atlanta, there were verbal jabs both overt and subtle flying back and forth between Clemson and Tennessee. Kevin Burnett, a junior starting linebacker for the Vols, generated the kind of bulletin-board material coaches dream of:

''Clemson has been doing a lot of talking, and I think they are going to be in for a shock when they see what kind of team they're going to play,'' Burnett fumed. ''I know we're going to play a very (ticked) off football game.''

Burnett, one of the Vols' team captains, didn't stop there.

''I don't think they really believe they can win,'' Burnett said. ''They are talking themselves up and maybe they are talking themselves into a win. As of right now, I don't think they believe they can win.''

He also called out Clemson linebacker Leroy Hill, an All-America candidate, after Hill said he'd never heard of Burnett (more on Burnett's comments here):

''They have another linebacker that came out of high school with us, Kevin Simon,'' said Hill, when asked about Burnett. ''I've heard more about him. We'll just have to go into the game and see who plays better.''

Responded Burnett: ''Who is that guy? Who is he? You tell him to put on some pads and we can go out in the middle of the Falcons' stadium. We can hit, run, jump � whatever you want to do.''

There's a lot more. Just read the whole thing. And for more subtler smack-talking about recruiting, read this.

TALL ORDER FOR DEFENSE: The defensive squad played a huge role in Clemson's three-game win streak to close out the season. They'll really have to step it up against No. 6 Tennessee.

OFFENSIVE LINE MAKES IT HAPPEN: It was a question mark going into the season, and it struggled at times early on, but the Tigers' O-line has managed to get the job done.

NEW FACILITIES FASTER? Clemson is considering a joint venture with a private company to build the West End Zone project. If it comes to fruition, it could be construted two or three years sooner than previous plans.

That's awesome. I hope it comes to pass. We needed these facilities five years ago.

CLEMSON'S 'RUDY': The State has a nice profile of Tommy Sharpe, Clemson's undersized yet overperforming center who gained fame early in the season for puking on the football during the Georgia game, which resulted in a fumble. Sharpe caught a lot of grief for that, including from me. Sorry, Tommy.

WASHINGTON COMES AROUND: The State also has a good story on defensive tackle Donnell Washington, a player who came to Clemson with great credentials but only recently has begun to play to his potential.

RECRUITING EDGE? A Peach Bowl victory could help Clemson gain some ground in the recruiting wars against teams in the SEC. Right now, Tennessee has many more star recruits than Clemson does.

THAT POLLACK PLAY: Tennessee, still whining about not going to a better bowl, can't shake the nightmare play instigated by Georgia's David Pollack at the end of the first half of the Vols' 41-14 loss to the Dawgs.

Pollack killed us, too. So what? Boo-frickin'-hoo. Get ready for Friday's game.

NOTEBOOKS: Here and here.

NEW ACC BOWLS? Expansion could make it possible.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Vols' secondary will test the Tigers

Tennessee's tough defensive backs will provide a challenge for Clemson's tall, speedy receivers, according to the Anderson Independent-Mail. (More here.) Tennessee's pass defense ranks second in the SEC and 15th nationally.

PRACTICE PROBLEMS: Monday was not a good day for the Tigers on the practice field in Atlanta. (More here and here.)

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Clemson's players say preparations for this year's bowl game are much more focused than they were for last year's Tangerine Bowl fiasco.

HANG IT UP: Columnist Ron Morris of The State examines how a player-imposed cellphone ban helped the Tigers stay focused when difficulties arose during the season.

COACHES UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a nice story on the struggles faced this season by Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.

CURRIE AIMS TO DODGE VOLS AGAIN: All-star receiver Airese Currie could have signed with Tennessee, but decided to go to Clemson. Thank goodness.

ALABAMA WAS THE TURNING POINT: A five-overtime, 51-43 victory over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa was when Tennessee's defense really grew up.

CONSIDERING CLAUSEN: The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a long piece on Tennessee senior quarterback Casey Clausen, who has compiled an excellent record without winning a championship.

VOLS' WORKOUTS: Stories are here and here.

Monday, December 29, 2003

This Clemson is not like previous Peach Bowl Tigers

For one thing, the receivers are much faster, and the offense is more diverse. Tennessee seems to recognize this.

I've been to four Peach Bowls, including three in a row from 1996 to 1999, and I feel more confident about this year's outing than any of those.

TRANSFER TALKS: Former Tennessee receiver Michael Collins now plays at Clemson, and he shares his views on the game.

LEAKE GETS HONOR: Clemson linebacker John Leake will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 10.

MILESTONE LOOMS: Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is poised to join Phillip Rivers as the only ACC quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards in their first two seasons.

TOO MANY QBs? Clemson will have six signal-callers on the squad when fall practice begins in 2004.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

I'm back -- and I'm stunned

I return from a nice holiday trip to the Carolinas to discover that Bart Wright hasn't just jumped on the Clemson bandwagon; he's pretty much driving the damn thing now.

Wow. Isn't a plague of locusts next?

FAITH AND FOOTBALL: The State weighs in with its Tommy Bowden profile.

THE PUNCH: The State also has a nice story on Charlie Bauman, the Clemson noseguard who made college football history for getting slugged by thuggish Ohio State coaching legend Woody Hayes at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl.

I'll post more on Monday. Must rest now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Regular posting will resume in a couple of days. In the meantime, ESPN will be airing a Peach Bowl preview show at 2 p.m. today. Check it out, and have a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Tigers take it easy before heading to Atlanta

Clemson's coaches and players will take a short break before reconvening in Atlanta on Friday to begin final preparations for the Peach Bowl. (More here.)

GAME PREVIEW: Sports Illustrated has a short Peach Bowl preview posted on its Web site. Check it out.

WOLFPACK ROLLS: N.C. State demolished Kansas 59-26 Monday night in the Tangerine Bowl. Quarterback Phillip Rivers threw for a career-high 475 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Thank God he's gone after this season.

Monday, December 22, 2003

(UPDATED at 2:01 p.m.)

For Hill, Peach Bowl could be the capper

Clemson linebacker Leroy Hill, who has had an All-American-caliber season, hopes to put an exclamation point on his year with a win in the Peach Bowl.

PEACH BOWL MEMORIES: The official Clemson site has posted video highlights from the 1993 Peach Bowl, a 14-13 victory against Kentucky. Check it out.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

God and goalposts top Bowden's agenda

The Anderson Independent-Mail has a nice story on coach Tommy Bowden's faith and how it helped him get through a difficult, yet ultimately rewarding, football season.

LOVETT KNOWS THE VOLS: Clemson defensive coordinator John Lovett, who has worked at a couple of schools in the SEC, is familiar with Tennessee.

PLENTY OF TICKETS...NOW: The Peach Bowl will be able to accommodate all the Clemson fans who wanted to go to the game.

NOTEBOOK: Clemson will study game film of Tennessee today.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The State revisits stories it has written about four South Carolina athletes who have overcome tremendous personal obstacles. One of the stories includes a visit with former Clemson running back Javis Austin, blinded by a suicide attempt, who just graduated from college. Another is about former Clemson golfer John Engler, who was severely injured in a car crash that killed a West Columbia couple.

GOOD SESSIONS: Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer says he was pleased with his team's effort in pre-Christmas workouts for the Peach Bowl.

LEAK GETS HIS SHOT: Tennessee backup quarterback C.J. Leak, who faced Clemson a time or two when he was at Wake Forest, hopes he can secure an extra year of eligibility so he can be Tennessee's starting signal-caller next season.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Stockstill's hiring is the talk of the town

Everybody's got something to say about South Carolina hiring former Clemson assistant coach Rick Stockstill. (More here and here.)

Friday, December 19, 2003

Hamilton will return to Clemson in 2004

All-star receiver Derrick Hamilton has decided not to test the NFL waters and will return for his senior season.

Whew. That's good news.

STOCK GOES TO THE COCKS: Popular former Clemson assistant coach Rick Stockstill, who had a miserable season as East Carolina's offensive coordinator (NOT head coach; thanks, Jason) in 2003, has bolted from the Pirates and will be a receivers coach for the hated Gamecocks.

A lot of Tigernet posters seem to be really upset about this. I think that's silly. When you get down to it, coaching is a profession much like any other, and the competition for jobs is fierce. I don't really see how Stockstill could have come back to Clemson; his job has been filled by Dabo Swinney. So let's be happy for Rick, wish him the best -- and beat his players on the field. We'll shake hands and hug after the game.

BAD MEMORIES LINGER: Clemson's horrible 55-15 loss to Texas Tech in last year's Tangerine Bowl is serving as motivation for the upcoming Peach Bowl game against Tennessee. (More here.)

NOTEBOOK: Five players graduated this week.

FLYING TIGERS: Tennessee's defensive backs will have their hands full with Clemson's tall, speedy receivers. (I posted a different version of this story the other day, but Blogger ate it.)

ONE THAT GOT AWAY: The Knoxville News has a story on Tennessee defensive end Tony McDaniel, who nearly signed with Clemson.

SMOKEY VIII AILING: Smokey VIII, the bluetick coonhound that patrols the Vols' sidelines, will retire following the Peach Bowl. The 9-year-old dog has cancer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Where'd today's post go?

This is dicked up. I posted several items early this morning, hit publish, then logged off. No sign of any problem. However, when I checked my page later in the day, nothing I'd posted had published.

%&@# Blogger.


Anyway, here are a few items I've gleaned. I'm going to be very busy on Thursday, so this will have to tide you over until Friday.

BAD PRACTICE: Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said Wednesday's session was the worst so far in the preparations for the Peach Bowl.

JUCO SIGNINGS: Clemson has added defensive lineman Corey Groover to the lineup. He sounds like a good one.

ROCKET MAN: The Greenville News' Bart Wright compares Clemson's football season to a big, sparkly firecracker! Yay!

If Bart Wright be for us, who can be against us?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

(UPDATED at 2:42 p.m.)

All-America candidate Hill misses practice

Linebacker Leroy Hill has a bruised sternum, but he should be OK. Speaking of Hill, ESPN says he'll be a player to watch in 2004. Meanwhile, coach Tommy Bowden says the early practice sessions for the Peach Bowl have been going well.

VOLS SEEK RESPECT: The State examines Tennessee's quest to regain its prominent spot in the college football firmament.

THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT: Clemson linebacker John Leake says the Tigers could have a breakout season in 2004. With 16 starters returning, I'd say that's a pretty good bet.

NOTEBOOK: No practice today; the coaches are going to the Shrine Bowl banquet.

SHEDDING BAD MEMORIES: That's what Tennessee hopes to do in the Peach Bowl. And they're still ticked off that they are going to Atlanta instead of, say, Tempe or Dallas.

FULMER GETS RAISE: It must not have been that much of a disappointment for the Tennessee athletic department. Football coach Phillip Fulmer has been given a raise and a contract extension. He's now the highest-paid coach in the SEC.

BOWL GUIDE ONLINE: You can print out a copy of the official Clemson Peach Bowl media guide here.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Tiger offense, Vol defense: A perfect matchup?

This season, Clemson prospered by moving the ball, while Tennessee did best when it shut down the other team's offense. That could make for an interesting game in Atlanta on Jan. 2.

PLAYER DISMISSED: Clemson redshirt freshman cornerback Buddy Williams has been dismissed from the team. (More here and here.)

TENNESSEE UPDATE: Here's an item on the Vols' early practice sessions for the Peach Bowl.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Tigers practice for bowl, and, oh yeah, something else happened...

Wow. I fire up the computer this morning to learn about the snow storm that dumped about 4 inches on Northern Virginia and find out that U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein overnight! That's unbelievably great news -- the Saddam part, not the snow part. The snow part is gonna suck, because I've got to go to work today.

PRACTICE REPORT: The Tigers had a good practice session Saturday, according to coach Tommy Bowden. And here's a notebook.

DANGEROUS TIGERS: Tennessee is acknowledging that Clemson may be a pretty decent team, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

THE PAST & THE FUTURE: The Greenville News' Bart Wright has a column on the hiring of Sylvester Croom as head coach at Mississippi State. Croom is the first black head coach in the SEC, and Wright interviews Tommy Bowden about the landmark.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Happy days return to Tiger Town

The contract extension that coach Tommy Bowden signed in November has made both him and his players happier. (More here.)

PRACTICE UPDATE: Tigernet has a short report on Clemson's first pre-Peach Bowl practice session. Give it a look.

TENNESSEE SNAPS OUT OF IT: Well, it looks like the Vols are going to quit pouting about not going to a better bowl and start getting ready to play Clemson. Dang. I wanted them to keep crying into their coonskin caps right up until game time.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Fulmer: We wuz robbed by the BCS

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer and Clemson coach Tommy Bowden met with the media in Atlanta on Thursday to promote the Jan. 2 Peach Bowl matchup between the two schools. Fulmer made the accurate point that the sixth-ranked Vols got the shaft from the BCS. (Stories here, here, here and here.

The State's Doug Nye, a television writer, also blames ESPN, which has played a hand in the proliferation of postseason bowl games.

VOLS SELL OUT: Tennessee has sold its allotment of tickets for the Peach Bowl, the first time that's happened since the 1998 national championship game.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Peach Bowl ticket fiasco drags on

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story on the snafus at the Peach Bowl ticket office. Man, this is a big old mess.

ACC GOES BOWLING: The official ACC site has some good stuff about the league's upcoming bowl games. Go here and here for details.

WHITEHURST RANKED: According to CBS Sportsline, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is the No. 11 signal-caller in the nation. With the departure of N.C. State's Phillip Rivers (No. 2), Whitehurst should be the league's top returning quarterback next season.

CBS Sportsline also ranks Derrick Hamilton as the No. 20 receiver in the country.

And in more late-breaking player-ranking news, linebacker Leroy Hill, an All-America candidate, has been selected as one of the 100 top players in college football for the season that has just ended. (He's ranked 88th by College Football News.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Peach Bowl ticket woes continue

Thousands of Clemson fans who ordered tickets for the Peach Bowl are going to be disappointed. The Atlanta-based bowl way oversold tickets, and many people are going to be getting refunds. (More here.)

SAFER GOAL POSTS: Clemson will install collapsible goal posts in Death Valley. (More here.) The move was taken after thousands of fans rushed the field to tear down the goal posts following the victory against Florida State on Nov. 8. There were several injuries, and ESPN gave the incident national coverage in a piece on crowd safety at college football games.

HILL FOR ALL-AMERICAN: The SID's office has launched an All-America publicity campaign for linebacker Leroy Hill, who had a massive season. Check it out (it's in PDF).

PEACH BOWL CENTRAL: The official Clemson site has a nice page on the Peach Bowl. Give it a look.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Peach Bowl is a hot ticket for Tiger fans

Clemson fans are swarming ticket outlets in an attempt to land a seat at the Peach Bowl. (More here.)

IT'S A BIG GAME: The Greenville News says the Peach Bowl presents an opportunity for Clemson to beat one of college football's top programs. (As you can see from this list, the Vols own the eighth-best winning percentage in history.) And Tommy Bowden says his team will be motivated.

BREATHING EASIER: Speaking of Bowden, Clemson's coach says his new contract extension has made his job a little easier.

EVERYONE'S ON BOARD: All of Clemson's assistant football coaches should be with the team for the Peach Bowl.

A NEW ANSWER MAN: Jon Solomon, the former Clemson beat writer for the Anderson Independent-Mail, now covers the Tigers for The State. He has started answering questions from fans. Check them out.

Monday, December 08, 2003

It'll be an all-orange Peach Bowl in Atlanta

The Tigers (8-4) face the Volunteers (10-2) on Jan. 2. Here's what the media has to say.

CLEMSON COVERAGE: The State; The Greenville News; Anderson Independent-Mail.

TENNESSEE COVERAGE: The Knoxville News; The Tennessean; Maryville Daily Times.

PEACH PICKING: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a couple of interesting stories on the process the Peach Bowl uses to pick its participants. The shorter story is fairly straightforward. The longer one gets into detail about the selection process. It' includes this passage about Clemson fans:

And just like any other political process, there is a lot of lobbying on the eve of the big vote. In fact, as Peach Bowl executives find out, the Clemson fan base may have one of the strongest lobbies in the South.

Someone in the Tigers' camp got hold of the main fax number in the Peach Bowl office, and the machine hasn't stopped spitting out pages since 3 p.m., when the Gator Bowl officially selected Maryland and the Peach Bowl went "on the clock" to make its choice. So by now there are hundreds of faxes from Clemson fans piled up.

Most of the the faxes are quite simple -- just big, black paw prints on single pages. Some are open pleas to the selection committee to "do the right thing" by choosing the Tigers. Others are more cryptic, such as the ones with copies of $2 bills printed on them followed by the message, "Choose Clemson and These are Yours."

It's not really a bribe. Clemson has a unique tradition in which fans accompanying the team to a bowl destination use $2 bills -- often with big orange paw prints stamped on them -- to pay for everything they buy while in the host city. That way, it is reasoned, local establishments will know that it was Clemson money being spent in their town.

Clever constituents, these Clemson folks. Someone acquired the e-mail address of David Epps, the Peach Bowl's vice president for marketing and sales -- the "Ticket Guy" -- and they posted it with a link on, a Web site/chatroom devoted to Clemson football. From 4 to 8 p.m., Epps received 2,300 e-mails from the Clemson faithful. Under headings such as "Go Tigers!" "Underachievers vs. Overachievers" and "Tigers Love Peaches," Epps reads why the Peach should pick Clemson over N.C. State.

Direct phone numbers of Peach Bowl employees also were posted. Executive assistant Patti Young, who has worked for the Peach Bowl in various capacities for 33 years, returns to her desk after a brief dinner break to find 99 phone messages in her voicemail box. When the automated voice informs her of this, she simply hangs up and walks away.

A plug for Tigernet and a glimpse at our great fan support. All in all, not a bad story.

PEACH NOTES: The official Clemson site has posted some notes about the upcoming matchup with Tennessee. Check 'em out.

BOWL CENTRAL: Fanblogs has a comprehensive list of links for all of the upcoming bowl games. Give it a look.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Tigers to face Tennessee in Peach Bowl

It's official. Tennessee has accepted an invitation to play Clemson in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 2. The Vols (10-2) were in consideration for a BCS slot.

I'll post more on this tomorrow after the media reaction has set in. Until then, check out the official Tennessee Web site, here's a Tennessee blog, and here's the Vols' rankings in various NCAA statistical categories.

I think this will be a heck of a matchup and a great game.


Saturday, December 06, 2003

Once again, who will Clemson face in the Peach Bowl?

Today's SEC championship game between Georgia and LSU will sort it all out, but it's looking more and more like it will be Tennessee.

The Volunteers are fighting that bowl assignment with everything they've got. (More here.)

Friday, December 05, 2003

Columnist says Clemson coulda been a contenda

Check this out. The Greenville News' Bart Wright, one of Tommy Bowden's most relentless critics during the football season, writes something he would have ripped Bowden to shreds for doing at a press conference: pointing out how a couple of breaks against Maryland or N.C. State would have given the Tigers wins in those games and propelled them into the BCS.

Check out what Wright wrote after Clemson lost to N.C. State. He basically blames Bowden for the loss and insinuates that he really doesn't care, though today's column says you could blame the players for that loss. And here's Wright after the loss to Maryland. Note this line:

With all that on the table, the Tigers, who haven't been able to locate a consistent identity for a few years now, underachieved once again in a 21-7 loss to Maryland that didn't feel as close as the scoreboard suggested.

And what did Wright write today about the Maryland game?

If you were there for the game Clemson lost at Maryland 21-7, you know it was a game full of couldas and shouldas, a game that was surely not a blowout.

The most generous thing I can say is that Wright is inconsistent in his analysis. I'll leave it to readers to come up with an alternative explanation.

Welcome to the bandwagon, Bart.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Peach Bowl opponent is up in the air

Who will the Tigers play? It looks like Clemson won't be facing Florida in the Peach Bowl on Jan. 2. The Gators accepted a bid to the Outback Bowl, which carries a bigger payout. Tennessee is being mentioned as a potential opponent, though the Vols could be playing in a BCS bowl because of their No. 7 national ranking. (More here.)

Everything will be sorted out after Saturday's SEC championship game between LSU and Georgia.

LOOKING BACK: Here's a story about Walter Merritt Riggs, the man who brought football to Clemson in 1896. (Riggs Field, where the soccer teams play, is named for him. It was the home of Clemson football in the early days.) It's an interesting read.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Bowden didn't seek more money in new contract

He just wanted to make sure he would be here to stay for a while. In light of the abuse that's been heaped on him by the fans and the media, I'd say that's pretty remarkable.

Though there's no pay increase, the contract Bowden signed shows a mutual commitment.

If either side terminates the contract with five, six or seven years remaining, the other is owed $4 million in semi-annual payments over six years. The amount owed drops to $3 million with four years left, $2.5 million at three years, $500,000 at two years, and whatever is due at one year or less.

Under Bowden�s previous buyout provision, he would have owed Clemson approximately $2 million had he left this year with four seasons remaining on his contract. Clemson would have been responsible for $750,000 if it had fired Bowden.

There's more coverage of the contract here, here and here.

Here are the details of the contract, a comparison of the deal with the one USC coach Lou Holtz just signed, and a timeline.

HAPPY ENDINGS: Columnist Ron Morris of The State says Bowden's contract extension marks the end of a wild rollercoaster ride for the coach.

HAPPY FEELINGS: The Greenville News chronicles the reaction of Clemson players and fans to Bowden's contract extension.

RECRUITING BOOST: The Anderson Independent-Mail makes an important point in this story: signing Bowden will help recruiting dramatically.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

(UPDATED at 2:41 p.m.)

Bowden gets three-year contract extension

Tommy Bowden, recently named ACC coach of the year for the second time in his five-year tenure (see below), has been given a three-year contract extension that will keep him at Clemson through 2010. The extension comes with a steep buyout clause.

That's great news. I'll post more on this tomorrow.

ACC COACH OF THE YEAR: Coach Tommy Bowden is the third Clemson coach to win the honor twice. (More here, here and here.) The voting was close.

Monday, December 01, 2003

(UPDATED at 5:31 p.m.)

Bowden named ACC coach of the year

Congratulations, coach. You've earned it after a tough, rollercoaster season. Here's to many more. I'll post more on this on Tuesday.

CONTRACTS AND BOWL GAMES: Negotiations are continuing between coach Tommy Bowden and athletic director Terry Don Phillips. No word on when a deal might be reached.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Tigers will most likely be playing Florida in the Peach Bowl. According to some commenters at Tigernet, posters on the Gator message boards feel we're a subpar opponent. Well, here's Clemson's history, and here's Florida's history. Granted, Florida has enjoyed tremendous success over the past decade, but historically, the programs are fairly comparable. And, as Kevin of Fanblogs pointed out in a comment to this post, Clemson handily defeated Florida State; the Gators just lost to the 'Noles.

RIVERS HONORED: As expected, N.C. State quarterback Phillip Rivers was named ACC Player of the Year.

ACC BOWL WATCH: Besides Clemson, Maryland will play West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, Virginia will play Pittsburgh in the Continental Tire Bowl, N.C. State will play Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl, and Georgia Tech will play in the Humanitarian Bowl. As league champs, FSU is in the BCS, and could end up in the Rose Bowl.