By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Optimism for 2013 was triggered by a field goal as 2012 expired. As confetti settled on the floor of Sun Life Stadium, there were shards of disappointment.
Pity, though, because it ended nearly as well or better than most had a right to expect, and it shan’t be unreasonable to suggest 2014 could be similar?
Nobody truly – other than the delicately troubled – expected an undefeated season, though conversations frequently bent in that direction with “California Dreamin'” as the background music. Eight, nine wins seemed reasonable without Dos Andres – Ellington and De Nuke – but that was before Georgia Tech imploded.
As everybody anticipated, games with Jimbo and Them, and the Farm Animals (Dawgs and Chickens) were pivotal.
They will be again.
Beating Georgia brought back the swagger, but after Florida State and South Carolina knocked out some of the starch they were relegated to fighting on the undercard, like Brando complaining, “I coulda been somebody.”
It’s interesting to recall that entering spring practice there were holes in the secondary, along the offensive line and at running back. Going forward there’s promise – albeit rawer than sashimi in places – at virtually every position. There’s not a replacement for Sammy Watkins, but there are enough sure hands and swift feet to make the offense formidable. Vic Beasley did not appear from thin air, though there’s a mystical hip-hop quality to his story, from running back to tight end to linebacker to Sack Master V.
Admit it. You’d been willing to mortgage both the pickup and the boat to bet against Rod McDowell’s odds of topping 1,000 yards.
You also probably thought Jameis couldn’t be that good that soon, but there’s a Cam and Cassius quality that makes it difficult to deny his appeal and skill.
You might have expected the streak to end at four straight, and now it looks like a skid mark that can’t be bleached.
So, consequently you were probably convinced Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde would run through the defense like Sherman sprinting from Atlanta to Savannah with Zippo to light the fire.
Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
At 11-2, seventh in the best poll, this was a team that deserved respect. Perfection eluded nearly everybody.
One of the more appealing aspects of college football is the cyclical 3- to 5-year churn of new faces, fresh talent and intriguing personalities, and this could surpass 2009 when the quarterback drama percolated until Kyle Parker ended it during the spring, even the next year when he took the Colorado Rockies to the deadline before deciding to remain for one more season.
Statistically there’s not been a more productive quarterback at Clemson than Tajh Boyd, but with the game continuing to encourage scoring and offense it’s not farfetched to believe some of those numbers may be topped sooner than later. Steve Fuller set a standard that elevated him to the Ring of Honor. Boyd has some work to join him.
Nobody seems concerned by Johnny Manziel’s size so Boyd’s height may be the excuse of the moment, but when NFL scouts look closer they’ll wonder about his ability to identify defenses, see the field and make choices after the snap. None of them will question his commitment, diligence or courage.
Intrigue with the dual-threat potential of Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson may not be sufficient to push them ahead of Cole Stoudt on the depth chart. Stoudt has embraced the role as a senior leader. He seems cool and unflappable under pressure, has completed 72.3 percent of his 119 passes and threw only one interception.
Despite losing Watkins and Martavis Bryant the passing game should be more balanced with the returning talent, the freshmen on campus and the emergence of tight ends Stanton Seckinger and Jordan Leggett as dependable playmakers.
Same on defense where there’s plenty of talent on the line and at linebacker to step in for the defections.
Beyond quarterback, the best sub-dramas will be at running back – a position to Dye for – and corner and kicker. Cat was dependable with an understated brilliance and may be appreciated more after he’s gone.
So, its eight months to kickoff, and a win in Athens to start would be a huge bump for the program, Beating JW and the Noles in Tallahassee would be like pulling the plug on the speakers at a rock concert. And Steve’s still in Columbia, but with Jadeveon, Conner and Bruce gone that smirk should disappear.
Don’t be surprised if it’s back to Miami for New Year’s with a 9-3, 10-2 record.
Anything more would be a Stoudt order.