By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
During a radio talk show home Tuesday morning, a Georgia fan tried to make a case for firing Mark Richt if they lost the bowl game, and a number of threads on LSU sites are calling for Les Miles’ head.
None of that makes sense and on so many levels it’s not worth discussing, but had Clemson lost to LSU, in all likelihood some of you might have been similarly inclined.
So as the euphoria subsides and Clemson fans flutter black to earth, remember that the essence of the game boiled down to one snap, one kick and one point. If anything had gone awry, they would be looking for a sorbet to mask the taste.
Instead, Dabo Swinney cemented his grip on the program. And other than dealing with the occasional needle from a Carolina fan, that should be comforting enough, at least until after the Georgia game.
As thoughts turn to next season, a couple of things will gnaw until they’re resolved.
First, Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins have until Jan. 15 to file for the NFL Draft, and their bowl performances may whet their appetites for the pros.
Hopkins is near ready and may make the jump because the talent pool of eligible receivers isn’t deep. At best, however, he would be a second-rounder – NFLDraftScout.com rates him No. 6 at receiver and 42 overall – this year or next.
Boyd will play on Sundays one day, but he needs another season to mature and refine his game. His performance against LSU was sheer brilliance, but that was one game. He needs to do it again and again, and he needs to be in the conversations for the Heisman Trophy in September and October and to beat South Carolina in November so he’s in New York in December.
The tools are there for it to happen. Chad Morris seems to be on board as offensive coordinator for at least one more season. The line under Robbie Caldwell should be bigger, stronger and deeper, even without the gentle prodding of Dalton Freeman. Should Hopkins leave, nobody will be shedding tears for the remaining Clemson receivers. Sam Cooper may become the primary tight end, though Stanton Seckinger may emerge as an option. Replacing Andre Ellington may be the biggest challenge at running back, but Zac Brooks with Rod McDowell and D.J. Howard give Morris a good starting point.
A year ago Swinney was so disgusted with his defense that he fired Kevin Steele and hired Brent Venables, and the difference today couldn’t be more stark. Instead of coming off the worst performance in history, Venables can build off the unit’s best game of the year. Four seniors started against LSU. Replacing them shouldn’t be a problem. Although, was that Gaines Adams or Malliciah Goodman at defensive end?
And the kicking game may not be in better hands.
The road should be manageable but not without a few potential potholes.
The ACC, in a state of flux, may be awhile sorting out who’s playing and not next fall. The potential conference landmines on Clemson’s schedule are a home game with Florida State and trips to N.C. State, Georgia Tech and Maryland, assuming the Terrapins aren’t playing Northwestern or Minnesota that weekend.
A win over Georgia to open the season would bolster any flirtation with the BCS, but the remainder of the schedule may be precarious with South Carolina on the back end looming more daunting than ever should the Tigers reach Williams-Brice Stadium undefeated.
Even with all the talent and Swinney’s eternal optimism, the 2013 team may finish with no better record than this one.
That used to be enough.