Monday, October 13, 2008

What Clemson needs to fix.

Clemson's the new hot topic, seeing as they just fired/resigned their head coach Tommy Bowden after a 3-3 start to a season that saw them ranked in the top ten in preseason polls. Many people have applauded this move, stating that with the kind of talent that Clemson has, his performance simply has not been good enough. Nine straight bowl eligible seasons and a 72-45 record in his time at Clemson.

My question is, what kind of talent do you really think Clemson has? Do people really think that Clemson has the kind of Talent to match up with major conference championship calibur teams?

Talent is really just a measure of potential. It does not always make a good player, but it does make a good draft pick. So recent draft picks is a good way of measuring what kind of talent a program has been working with in recent years.

Over the last four years, Clemson has had 13 players drafted. This puts them at Sixth in the ACC, behind Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina State, Florida State, and Miami.

Let's look at some of the output of some of the perennial powerhouses. Oklahoma has had 24 players drafted in that same span. Texas has had 21. Michigan has had 19. Ohio State has had 23. USC has had 31. Florida has had 17. LSU has had 22.

What kind of teams have had a similar talent level over the last 4 years? Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oregon, Stanford, and Louisville have all had 13 players drafted over the same span. Together, those 6 teams, in 24 attempts, have 1 conference championship between them. They are also a combined 22-16 this season, which basically averages out to 4-3. Also, with the exception of Oregon, all of these teams have stumbled recently with coaching changes. These are the talent peers of Clemson. This is no longer the 1980s.

Tommy Bowden was not a coach who was going to take Clemson to the BCS promised land. But I don't really think that was a place Clemson is capable of going to. He's pretty much a face value coach, give him a mediocre team, and you get mediocre results. But he was consistent. And in college football right now, consistency equals money. Those eight bowl appearances netted the ACC over a million dollars in prize money. With Tommy, you knew what you were getting. Now, Clemson has opted to roll the dice.

I don't like the move. Coaching changes after a successful season tend to faceplant. I would not be surprised if Clemson falls apart completely the next few seasons. Especially if they hire some retread coach, which, after the dismissal of Bowden, might be all they can get, as the hot names, like Bronco Mendenhal and Will Muschamp will be able to take their pick of the vacancies. Clemson's best bet, assuming that they can't get one of those two, might be an unorthodox one.

Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator of Tulsa. Orchestrator of the number 1 offense in college football, averaging 603 yards and 53 points per game. The first step to set the table for him is the benching of Cullen Harper, a senior, in favor of the more talented and less experienced freshman Willie Korn. Get him some experience. Also, do whatever it takes to keep CJ Spiller on campus. Those two, along with receiver Jacoby Ford, will provide the initial nucleus of a new offense Malzahn can build. Clemson has already decided to scrap this season. Don't be surprised if they drop out of bowl contention entirely, which would have been unlikely with Bowden. All Clemson can do beyond that, is pray.


TOPolk said...

"Tommy Bowden was not a coach who was going to take Clemson to the BCS promised land. But I don't really think that was a place Clemson is capable of going to."

While it's unclear if you're talking about the BCS Championship or just the BCS bowl games, I felt a need to challenge this point.

A BCS Championship? Right now? No way. Given some time and the right coach, very possible - especially with all the parity in college football right now. The BCS games themselves, extremely possible.

I may be a little biased, but when you look around and see teams like West Virginia, Kansas, Illinois, and Wake Forest playing in BCS Bowls any school worth their salt would be crazy not to go "why not us?" I agree with you in saying that with Tommy, Clemson knew what they were getting. A 7-5/8-4 season with a trip to either Atlanta for the Peach Bowl or Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl. The money from those games is good, but you can always do better.

Sure, we could settle for mediocrity, but I think we've done that long enough. Last year's 9-4 season was great and with the talent we had, there honestly was no excuse for us not to do just as well if not better this year. Apparently, Tommy managed to find a few and here we sit at 3-3 and without a head coach. Do I applaud the move? Eh, I'm kind of indifferent, but I can completely understand the reasoning. A change needed to be made unless we wanted to keep spinning our wheels.

Will we land a big name coach? Who knows? Honestly, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, I am confident in the administration doing what needs to be done in order to move the football program forward. We've done it education, we've done it in research, and we've done it in basketball. Honestly, I can't imagine a situation (other than cash, which we're not hurting on either) where the powers that be drop the ball here.

It'll be an interesting 6 weeks (or longer), but I think in the end Clemson won't come up snake eyes.

The Renaissance Man said...

If you look at the teams you listed, you'll realize that they were mostly one shot wonders. A fairly soft schedule allows a team to pop in unexpectedly. Aside from West Virginia, who is more talented than any other team you listed, none of those teams were expected to go to a bowl game, much less a BCS bowl. They got hot on a weak schedule, and snuck into a BCS bowl. Look at where those teams are now. Kansas and Wake Forest both already have three losses, Illinios already has four. None of them are going to go to a BCS bowl this year. They're back right to where Clemson has been, middle of the road.

The problem with getting rid of Bowden is that Clemson is saying that going to a bowl game every year is not good enough. They're demanding regular competition for BCS bowls. They're presuming themselves to be on a level with the top teams in the country, when the team has shown nothing that suggests that they're at that level. No coach with a bright future assured, would willingly walk into a situation like that. It's a career killer.

By looking at the teams that sneak into the BCS, and saying, "We should be doing that" is flawed. Clemson is already doing that. If you look at the big picture on the teams like Kansas or Illinois, you see that the BCS bowl is an abberation. The norm is 7 or 8 wins and a bowl. Exactly the road that Clemson was on, they just hadn't hit the favorable fluctuation yet.

TOPolk said...

"The problem with getting rid of Bowden is that Clemson is saying that going to a bowl game every year is not good enough. They're demanding regular competition for BCS bowls."

Exactly. And it's not so much we're demanding competition for THE BCS Bowl -- just the Orange Bowl. A game where the ACC Champion is guaranteed to go to. Once you consider the state of the ACC and our lack of a dominating team, it makes since to go after that game if for nothing other than the paycheck.

The last three years, Clemson has been one game away from the ACC Championship Game. A result of losing games we shouldn't. Considering Tommy's history of doing that, a change was needed.

I'll agree with you on Kansas lucking out last year (especially with how strong the Big XII is currently), but almost any solid team from Big 10, Big East, and ACC has a legitimate chance of getting into a BCS Bowl. In any given year, Maryland, Wisconsin, or Louisville has just as good of a chance in getting to their respective bowls as North Carolina, Michigan State, or Pittsburgh.

In regards to your very last point, I agree wholeheartedly in doing everything possible to keep Spiller on campus. His "big play" ability makes him our wildcard. If he plays in the Georgia Tech game or was healthy for the entire Wake Forest game, we don't lose those games. It's not good to hang your hopes on one player, but right now he's our brightest star.