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.

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