CLEMSON - After Danny Ford shared some fond memories from back in his day as Clemson's head coach, his mood shifted from lighthearted to serious with a simple change of direction.
Ford was asked, simply and succinctly, about the Tigers' five-game losing streak to South Carolina.
"Oh, lordy, mercy. Well, certainly we don't like it," Ford said. "I don't think anybody likes it. But there's nothing really you can do about it."
Ford recalled a bank in nearby Anderson which would put the winner's logo on top of its building for the entire year following the rivalry renewed.
"If Clemson won, they'd have a Tiger wooden thing up there. If the Chickens won, you'd have a Gamecock," Ford said. "You have to remember it for 365 days. And you have to do that nowadays too."
For his part, current head coach Dabo Swinney - who was in Miami on Wednesday for the Orange Bowl Kickoff Party - hasn't necessarily de-emphasized the Tigers' rivalry against South Carolina, but also refuses to place that game's importance too much higher than the others.
To Ford, even wins against Florida State or LSU or Georgia don't wipe away the sting from losing that final regular-season game to the team two hours down the road.
"Of course, the bowl game can get your mind off it a little bit. But when you go and raise money and go to IPTAY meetings, that's still important to talk about, that people want to know," Ford said. "With South Carolina winning the amount they've won in the last several years, that makes it tougher for the people of Clemson to swallow. But they'll get over it, and it'll turn when they decide to turn it."
Both Clemson and South Carolina have won at least 10 games in each of the past three years, a feat only seven schools have reached from 2011-13.
"It doesn't take away the 10 wins at all, because that's a great accomplishment. But it doesn't make you happy," Ford said. "I'm not speaking for (Clemson's current) coaches, but if we had won 10 games and lost to (USC), we wouldn't have a happy offseason."
In a way, the program reaching its heights from the 1970s and 1980s has made it harder on the present-day Tigers when they don't beat the Gamecocks because the expectations have raised.
"All except two or three games, they're doing really, really well. They earned that right to be in that position; now they just got to take that next step forward, and it will come," Ford said. "When? And you hope it comes when they're still winning 10 games. That will circulate again too. It's gonna turn. It always does. It always will if you live long enough. Nobody can win forever."
He's coming back
Players reaching the end of their third years at Clemson will start facing the same question. So far, the Tigers are 1-for-1 on commitments to return to school.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who was named honorable mention all-ACC by the coaches, will be back in the trenches for the Tigers in 2014.
"It's really not my main focus right now. I get to focus on being a better player through all these bowl practices, the bowl game and year-round training. I'm not worried about trying to find an agent for the NFL, so it's good not to worry about all that right now."
Jarrett, who ranks third on Clemson in both tackles (77) and tackles for loss (10), will not even submit his name and paperwork for an approximate draft grade, which juniors are permitted to do without declaring their departure.
"I thought about it, but I came to the conclusion (not to) because I knew I was coming back for my senior year after this year," Jarrett said. "When it's time for me to leave, I feel like I'll make it. I really don't need the opinion of scouts if I know I'm not going to leave right now."
USA Today released its new database of college football assistant salaries, and Clemson's group of Swinney's nine assistants is the third-best-paid staff in the country ($4,212,150 combined) trailing only Alabama and LSU.
As it's been well-documented in the past, offensive coordinator Chad Morris' $1.309,650 is the healthiest paycheck in the country among assistants. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables' $800,000 salary is tied for eighth-highest.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, left tackle Brandon Thomas and defensive end Vic Beasley were named first-team all-ACC via the coaches, as released Wednesday.
Watkins, a unanimous all-league pick, was also named a first-team All-American by USA Today. Beasley was second-team All-American.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd made second-team, behind Heisman favorite Jameis Winston. The third team included six Clemson players: running back Roderick McDowell, right guard Tyler Shatley, linebackers Stephone Anthony and Spencer Shuey, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
Joining Jarrett with honorable mention were wide receiver Martavis Bryant and defensive end Corey Crawford.