Sunday, December 4, 2011

Clemson coach Swinney can't be this naive

I hate spin. That's when a public figure responds to a media question with the most convenient answer, rather than the most accurate one.

But I'd rather believe Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was spinning Sunday night when he said he didn't have "any doubts'' offensive coordinator Chad Morris would stay, barring an offer to be head coach of a BCS football program.

I believe Swinney when he says there were weeks of discussions to increase Morris' compensation. I believe Swinney when he says Morris' goal is to be a head coach in a BCS conference.

But when someone as dynamic as new Ohio State coach  Urban Meyer comes calling, with the resources to pay a lot of money, you listen. Morris certainly sounded like he was assessing his options, following Clemson's 38-10 victory over Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.

Three years ago Morris was a Texas high school coach. Now he's among the hottest commodities in college football. He's that innovative. As I've written frequently, Morris applies a basketball concept -- forcing tempo -- to a football problem.

He believes anything short of 80 offensive snaps per game fails his quota. The idea is to exhaust and confuse the opponent.

He has great toys to play with in Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen. But to suggest that retaining Morris was a layup, well...

At best, it's spin. Sure hope it wasn't naive.

-- Rick Bonnell

The football principle that got Clemson back

Former Carolina Panthers general manager Bill Polian used to say there's a strikingly high correlation between which of two teams has fewer passing attempts and which of those teams wins their football matchup.

I can't imagine a better illustration of that than Saturday's ACC championship game.

The best thing Clemson does this season -- offensively or defensively -- is throw the ball. Tajh Boyd is the best quarterback in the ACC (despite some recent down games). Sammy Watkins is the ACC's best wide receiver and Dwayne Allen is the ACC's best tight end. DeAndre Hopkins is a big-time No. 2 receiver.

So in beating Virginia Tech Saturday 38-10, Clemson threw the ball 14 fewer times than the Hokies.

You run the ball because you can. You throw the ball because you must. Saturday, after scoring 21 points in 4 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, the Tigers had the luxury of running the ball.

You run with a lead to consume time. You throw with a deficit to conserve time. Running lowers your risk of a turnover. Throwing increases it.

So Clemson tailback Andre Ellington gained 125 yards, a 6.2 yards-per-carry average. Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson -- among the nation's best this season -- gained 32 yards and averaged 2.9 yards.

Wilson wasn't bad, he just never to got a chance. Clemson bunched up in the middle early (the football term is "in the box''), daring the Hokies to throw. Then Clemson had that third quarter explosion, and Virginia Tech running the ball became moot. Wilson got just 11 carries. As Hokies coach Frank Beamer said, the Tigers took his team out of what they do best.

That's good football, and somewhat unexpected the way the Tigers played of late. And that's a big reason why this team righted itself to go to the Orange Bowl.

--- Nobody asked me, but....

I'll be going back to the NBA beat now. I've enjoyed covering the unexpectedly successful Clemson football season.

I particularly enjoyed the coordinators. Chad Morris and Kevin Steele are different, yet similar. Chad is hyper. Kevin is reserved and intellectual. And when I parachuted into the Clemson beat, each one was helpful, articulate and sharp. I greatly enjoyed my chats with both.

Here's the contrast to all that: While Clemson was winning a conference title for the first time in whenever, freshman tailback Mike Bellamy was suspended for some unreported violation of team rules.

Not a single head in the press box jerked when it was announced that Bellamy wouldn't play. That's because he's consistently been high-maintenance.

I've seen these guys (the Panthers' Steve Smith comes to mind). They have just enough talent to believe they live by different rules.

I don't know whether Bellamy has run out of chances. It's no longer particularly on my radar, since I'm going back to covering the NBA.

But no matter how much talent he has, the coaches have to assess the damage Bellamy does to team chemistry. At some point, anyone is more trouble than he's worth.

-- Rick Bonnell

Friday, December 2, 2011

ACC championship game returning to Charlotte

ACC commissioner John Swofford announced today that the league's football championship game will return to Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium in 2012 and '13.

Swofford made the announcement on the eve of this year's game between Clemson and Virginia Tech in Charlotte, which has been sold out for several weeks. The game was also in Charlotte in 2010, also a sellout.

"I think it's pretty obvious that both last year and this year are tremendous successes in terms of this game," said Swofford. "They're back-to-back sellouts, and that's certainly very, very important to us."

Swofford said the decision to return to Charlotte was unanimous within the league and that the game was not opened up for bidding to other cities. The game was held in Jacksonville, Fla., and Tampa, Fla., before coming to Charlotte. -- David Scott

Clemson coach fires back at Steve Spurrier

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney agrees with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier that 'South Carolina is not Clemson.'

The quote came from South Carolina play-by-play man Todd Ellis, who said at the end of South Carolina's 34-13 win over Clemson Saturday: “As coach Spurrier says, we might not be LSU or Alabama, but we ain’t Clemson, folks.”

The quote was then attributed to Spurrier on the Twitter account of South Carolina's football office (@GamecockFB).