In Thursday's edition of The Post and Courier and online at PostandCourier.com, read about why the Clemson coaches have insisted on a countdown clock to the South Carolina game Nov. 29 - punctuated by a painful reminder of the five-game skid.
SUNSET, S.C. - Ten notes, news and nuggets from The Reserve at Lake Keowee, our annual beat writer pow-wow with all ten Clemson coaches (listed in order of when I spoke with each man):
1) Running backs coach Tony Elliott: Jay Jay McCullough (6-3, 235) could possibly be used as an H-Back or even a short-yardage plunger, though he remains primarily a tight end.
"He could be a guy that could get in there. We'll have to work a little bit on his leverage, getting low behind his pads. But he's a 240-pound guy that played running back in high school. If we go to him, it's going to be more flexibility without changing personnel, being able to motion him back in the backfield."
2) Defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks: Don't forget about Carlos Watkins, who was involved in a one-car accident the night after the North Carolina State game last fall and missed the remainder of the season with deep leg bruises.
"We all forget, Carlos Watkins started against Georgia last year as a sophomore. I really feel Carlos is getting back close to 100 percent. Very unfortunate deal; he played really well on Thursday night before all that happened up in Raleigh. It's been very much a work in progress to get him back. At times, he felt like he was, but I didn't. I've tried to go back to film of him playing against Georgia or North Carolina State, and say hey, here's what you were. You've got to work back to that."
3) Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, on Clemson's sacks allowed . . . which according to an intensive offseason study by the offensive staff, is a bit deceiving:
"When the season's over and you see 30-something sacks, all y'all wanna run over me in the parking lot. But when we do that intensive study, we found that our offensive line gave up 15 of 'em. Which y'all don't see, y'all don't write about that. In my guys' defense, that's pretty good. How many games we play last year, 13? Huh, I ain't no mathematician, but that's a little more than one (per game.) As many times as we throw the ball, that's pretty good."
4) Defensive coordinator Brent Venables: playing the disrespect card.
"Apparently, people on the outside don't think a whole lot of us as a team. A lot of people don't think we're a top-25 team. And that's fine. But to me, that's an indictment on, well, they think we lost two guys and that's our whole team. They're questioning everybody else, and they don't think much of them. . We've got to lot to prove and we've got to earn a lot of respect."
5) Defensive ends coach Marion Hobby: did he ever fear Vic Beasley wasn't going to return to Clemson?
"Back and forth. You know, back and forth. I couldn't say 100 percent. I couldn't say he wasn't, he was. I was trying to be as neutral as possible. Told him to pray on it; Vic is a God-fearing man. Any time he breaks down the defensive end meetings, some form of that slogan, being blessed. I knew he would make a good decision."
6) Defensive backs coach Mike Reed: Jayron Kearse doesn't necessarily have a strong grip on the free safety spot. Jadar Johnson and Korrin Wiggins are in contention.
"Nobody's set. I don't believe a kid should get it in his mind he's made it, he's arrived. I don't want a kid to get into that lull of, I've already made it. No, you haven't already made it. It goes game to game, week to week, practice to practice. ... That's a great problem I have, is to sit down and say, what combination gives us the best opportunity to be successful?"
7) Wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, on who might break out this year as a receiver:
"He didn't participate a lot in spring ball, but Charone Peake is that guy who's been waiting in the wings. He happened to be part of one of the most talented wide receiver classes in Clemson history. So he's kind of been waiting his time, and he was prepared last year to have that breakout season, and then he gets hurt. Having a whole another year of rehab and preparation, you can see that look in the eye that Charone's ready this year to go be a highly-productive player. He's paid his dues."
8) Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Danny Pearman: Adam Humphries is probably taking back his punt returning spot, but he'll field competition from Martin Jenkins and Mackensie Alexander. Yes, the freshman cornerback could have a chance to get the ball in his hands.
"Humphries is probably our most consistent player on offense, if we had to pick one kid that's our money guy. Just because he had one bad game, I'm not going to throw him to the curb because of that. In saying that, we worked some other kids there this spring; I'd say Mackensie Alexander showed signs of being a really good returner for us. Martin Jenkins, when he's healthy, he's been a good returner."
9) Offensive coordinator Chad Morris: Deshaun Watson isn't just Clipboard Boy. The word from my friends on the beat (I missed Morris' group session) is he declared Watson would play against Georgia in the season opener.
In speaking to me, Morris said of Watson, "He's going to be special. He's driven, he's very smooth, he's very calm. He's a guy that's going to play. He's going to play. The last thing we're going to do is sit here a year from now going, who's your next guy? Just like Cole got to play, Deshaun's going to play. That's natural."
10) Head coach Dabo Swinney, on his favorite part of being a major-college head coach:
"I've always been a relationship guy. I love the opportunity that this job gives me to meet people, share with people, impact other people's lives, the opportunity it gives me to give. I love that. As the head coach, I get to set the temperature on the thermostat, so to speak. I get to chart the course, and make critical decisions, and make sure that we have the culture the way it needs to be."