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Discussion in 'DVU' started by Krombopulus Michael, Jan 11, 2017.
That is a great article! Like grace raynor level stuff.
Clemson's staff parted ways with Cordarrian Richardson in December. In the summer of 2016, Clemson's staff told Philadelphia running back
D'Andre Swift (now at Georgia) they didn't have room for him because of their commitment to Richardson.
My son goes to school with a four star WR with offers from all over. I run into the kid's mom periodically, and she says the same thing - she wants him to go to Clemson, and if we offered his recruitment would be over.
Couldn’t take swift because we still had Cordarrian?
Fucking stupid although etienne is a beast.
Look at uga taking cook and white. Take all the studs and let it sort out
"Clemson hasn't been tested like they're going to be tested against this Alabama defense."
Auburn beats Bama.
Based on average of five major power rankings, Clemson's offense has been tested against 5 top 25 defenses. Alabama's defense has been rested against 2 top 25 offenses.
It just means more
Hunter Renfrow no longer catches teams by surprise. They still can’t stop him
Hunter Renfrow was one of the most popular players at Clemson’s media day for the Sugar Bowl this past week as TV cameras and reporters crowded around him to get his thoughts on the upcoming matchup with Alabama.
Renfrow smiled and answered questions about how he was able to score a pair of touchdowns in each of the past two national title games against the Crimson Tide, including the game-winner last year.
“Just two years ago at this time, I don’t think I was even invited to this little (media day) thing,” Renfrow said at one point. “I think I was a starter but they probably invited Deon (Cain) or somebody like that. It’s been cool to kind of see it snowball over time.”
Renfrow isn’t just receiving more media attention now than when he was a freshman. The junior is also getting more attention from opposing defenses.
He has turned into Clemson’s most reliable weapon and Kelly Bryant’s favorite target when the Tigers need a big play or a third-down conversion.
Renfrow was almost an afterthought on Clemson’s talented and deep receiving corps early on in his career, but that’s certainly not the case now.
“I think for him there’s no doubt his first year or two he was kind of surprising people on the scene. Now he doesn’t surprise anyone,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Now his play allows us to get other guys open. A key play against South Carolina, on third down, they decided to double team Hunter and we threw the ball to Tee Higgins in man-to-man coverage on the other side on a sky route.”
Of course just because teams pay extra attention to Renfrow, and at times put an extra defender on him, doesn’t mean they can stop him.
The Myrtle Beach native had four catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina, despite the Gamecocks clearly setting out to stop him.
“As a wide receiver I think the biggest compliment you can have is be a guy, when the other team knows the ball’s coming to you, and maybe they know what route you’re running, and you can still get open,” Scott said. “Hunter’s done that time and time and time again.”
Alabama will likely have a game plan to stop Renfrow as well, particularly after his success against the Crimson Tide the past two years.
“I’ve told him he probably needs to be lifting double here over the next few weeks because the first time they get a chance to take a shot on him they’re definitely going to get everything they can,” Scott said.
But as Renfrow has proven all year, just because a team game plans for him doesn’t mean they can stop him.
Renfrow leads the Tigers in catches with 55, is second in yards with 571 and second in touchdowns with three.
“I definitely do (think they’ll be gunning for me). I thought they were going to be last year as well and they kind of played kind of over the top some and let me get free. So I’ll be interested to see,” Renfrow said. “But at the end of the day, my job is to get open. I’m not going to do anything I haven’t done before. I’m just going to do what I do, do what I do in practice and try to be myself.”
Good news on Renfrow....he’s not going pro. Snippet from the Greenville News:
CLEMSON – Given the professional success of his predecessors and his history of big plays against Alabama, Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow could easily be a candidate for the NFL Draft next spring.
But he has at least two good reasons to remain at Clemson.
“I’ve got too much golf and hunting to do in the spring to leave early,” Renfrow said.
Birdies and turkeys notwithstanding, Renfrow may be just as NFL-ready as any Clemson wide receiver in recent history.
But he’s quite content, thank you, to remain a college student and maintain his status as a “regular guy,” even while autographing magazine covers and leading the team in receptions.
“My life hasn’t changed too much,” Renfrow said. “Clemson’s a small place. It’s not New York, so I’m just who I am and I get to hang out with my friends every day – and that’s pretty fun to me.”
Why Clemson's Austin Spence is just as important in playoff run as older brother Alex
By Grace Raynor email@example.com min ago
CLEMSON — Alex Spence’s life changed a lot on Sept. 20.
It was Boston College week earlier this season for the now-No. 1 Clemson football team. The Tigers were midway through the week in their preparation and practice was winding down. The time came for the two-minute drill, a staple at the end of every Wednesday practice, and Clemson kicker Greg Huegel reared back for a routine kick.
All of a sudden ...
“It was a freak accident,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “A defensive player rolled into him after his kick. He walked off the practice field and we hoped it was just a strain or a bruise, but the tests revealed a torn ACL.”
Seething in pain Huegel lay there as dozens of Clemson players held their breath, wondering what might be the ultimate diagnosis for their two-time All-ACC kicker.
Then, in the middle of the chaos, it hit Austin Spence.
“My first thought obviously was about Greg. Concern for him. I really was worried, I saw it happen,” the backup Clemson long snapper said.
“It didn’t hit me until after I saw him just laying there for about five minutes. I was like, ‘Wait ...
‘“Alex has to go in now.’”
His older brother.
‘He knows how to react’
By now, both Spence brothers are aware of the chatter that is out there about Alex, the elder of the two and Clemson’s starting kicker in Huegel’s place.
Raved about by Swinney for his ability to hit the 50-plus yarders in practice, Alex missed a pair of field goals in a 27-24 Syracuse loss. He is seven of 12 on the year.
At times, he has struggled with nerves.
But what the outside world does not know about 22-year-old Alex’s up and down ride this season is the supportive role 20-year-old Austin has played in it.
The two are roommates, living off campus together with their Goldendoodle dog, Maggie.
If Alex is the methodical, often-times-particular brother who likes things done a certain way, Austin is the more goofy, laid back presence that helps keep Alex even-keeled.
If Alex is reserved, Austin is more outspoken.
Alex has a near 4.0 cumulative GPA at Clemson as a finance major and the only B of his life came in freshman English. He obsesses over his grades and with the most recent semester’s round of final marks in, his cumulative GPA is a 3.97.
“I (don't have a 4.0) but I do have a 3.0,” he laughed. “It’s a losing battle.”
Of everyone on Clemson’s team — staff included — it is Austin who knows exactly how to console Alex or keep him positive when adversity strikes despite each of them having such different personalities.
That is why Austin, who is a reserve as a backup long snapper behind Patrick Phibbs, is just as crucial in Clemson’s College Football Playoff run next month as Alex is. Ever since the Syracuse game, it has been Austin who has had the perfect formula for making sure Alex is in a good mental space each day the Tigers come to practice.
It is a delicate balance of little-brother criticism when it comes to the technicalities, combined with a heavy dose of positive chatter and a decent amount of silence.
Sometimes, Alex simply doesn’t want to talk. The Syracuse game and the days following it when Swinney brought in Charleston's Drew Costa as a walk-on to help the kicking competition were two of those instances. And that's OK.
“Austin knows how to talk to me. He’ll say very little. It’s kind of like, ‘Let me move on with myself.’ He knows how to react whenever things go wrong because he’s been with me my whole life,” Alex said. “Whenever I get frustrated about things, he knows how I react and how I handle it. He knew how to take care of me.”
But make no mistake: Austin can be defensive, too.
He has not been on Twitter since September, but he assumes the reviews on Alex are a mixed bag. To the fans who type malicious content behind the comfort of their computers about his older brother, Austin has a message:
“You know what?” he began, “at the end of the day, they’re not the ones on the field making the kicks. They’re the ones sitting in the stands eating popcorn and just watching. Their opinion carries no weight.”
It seems feasible this matchup pitting No. 1 Clemson against No. 4 Alabama could come down to Alex Spence and the kicking game.
On New Year’s Day, the two teams will meet for the third time in as many years when they square off in the Sugar Bowl of the College Football Playoff semifinal.
As it stands now, Alabama is a three-point favorite to win and head to the national championship, according to Las Vegas odds. This time last year, when Clemson knocked off the perennial Crimson Tide, it was by a four-point margin that came down to a last-second touchdown. Two years ago, Alabama won by five.
Having started the last 10 games as Clemson’s go-to kicker, Alex Spence seems to now be in a rhythm in the way he prepares, the way he carries himself at practice and how he manages his nerves come game time.
On Dec. 3, against Miami in the ACC Championship game, Alex drilled a 46-yarder against the Hurricanes to smash his previous career long field goal by 16 yards.
He knows what this game means to Clemson, he knows the fans have had their polarizing opinions.
But regardless of what happens a week from Monday in New Orleans, there will be a group of people who will always make sure he knows how much value he has been to this Clemson team in Huegel’s absence. Football is not Spence’s ultimate goal — he wants to be a corporate financial analyst and has a dream job in particular of working for Delta. Stepping into the role he has this year, Alex knows Swinney and his Clemson teammates have appreciated his efforts all year long. His parents have been in the stands every game.
“I’m excited for him,” Austin said. “I’ve seen him working as a backup, he comes out here every single day of the offseason. He never stops working. So I knew he’d be ready when he got the job.
“I want us to make the kick every time. I want him to make the kick at the end of the day.”
So our kicker is a head case. Awesome
Not going to lie, that’s what I got out of it as well.
Didn’t we know that before the article?
I just thought he sucked
Well in his defense...all kickers are head cases.
Been thinking all season if we have to rely on him to win games in the playoffs we are fucked. A close game is going to be hell on my well being.
Isn't Huegel jogging now? Can't he kick short field goals?
Hunter Renfrow: Clutch on 3rd down, even better on others
Just ask any play by play announcer or color analyst that's seen Clemson play, and they'll be sure to tell you: Hunter Renfrow is superb on third down.
The trend started early, as Renfrow had 3rd down receptions for first downs in both touchdown drives in Clemson's 14-6 victory over Auburn.
Clemson Sports Talk
"Big Game" Hunter
There's no disagreeing that Renfrow is clutch on third down as 16 of his 19 receptions on 3rd down have resulted in first downs.
But news flash- Renfrow's even better on the other three downs.
As a matter of fact, third downs rank fourth (out of 4) in every category of Renfrow's statistics below, except first downs (and a tie for explosive plays).
Renfrow has more catches, a higher completion percentage and more receiving yards on first down. His greatest yards per target and yards per catch come on second down.**
Targeted more than any other Tiger on 3rd down, Renfrow has a high percentage of converting those into first downs, and that's crucial in keeping drives alive and winning games. The kudos are warranted, but don't limit him to being a "3rd down receiver".
The security blanket, go to guy, clutch, "Big Game" Hunter, take your pick or make up your own, but Hunter Renfrow is good on every down.
For the most part, this past Thanksgiving was pretty routine for nine-year-old Will Swanson.
Like many Americans, he spent the majority of the day with his family, but it was the surprise visitor waiting for him when he returned home that made the holiday one he'll never forget.
Before the holiday, Will, an avid Clemson fan, sent handwritten letters to a few Tiger football players, introducing himself, wishing them well and asking for any memento they could spare.
“I don’t think I looked at it or read it, but I do know he was working on it himself," his grandfather Randy Hahn said. "The only help he asked for was the envelope and stamp.”
Among those players who received letters was backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper, who was spending his first Thanksgiving away from his home in Georgia. The redshirt freshman planned to eat dinner with close friend Matty Rich and his family and noticed Rich didn't live too far away from Will while reading the boy's letter.
So rather than simply mail Will the wristbands he asked for, Cooper opted for something a little more personal.
“It was Thanksgiving and I was really in a giving mood," Cooper said. "I’m really thankful for all the things that God has blessed me with so I wanted to deliver the wristbands to him and hang out with him for a couple minutes.”
So Cooper and Rich drove to the address Will listed on his letter and waited for him to arrive. Hahn was driving Will back home from a family member's house when he noticed Rich's car parked in the driveway.
Rich explained why they were there, and Cooper stepped out of the car to meet a speechless Will shortly after.
“It was the best day of my life. I was just in a state of shock," Will said. "The first thing I did was thank him for coming, then he handed me the wristbands and I asked my (grandpa) if he could go get a Sharpie and a football.”
Hahn whisked inside to grab said football, already ordained with signatures from Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware. Cooper signed the football, handed Will the wristbands he asked for and even played catch with him for a few minutes before heading off to dinner.
Will said he didn't quite get the full experience of Cooper's well-known arm strength, but it stuck with him nonetheless.
“Since I’m only nine, he didn’t throw it hard," Will said. "He kind of threw it like if Artavis Scott from last year was lined up maybe five yards away and was wide open.”
Hahn, who was a graduate student at Clemson during the Tigers first national championship season in 1981, was especially blown away by Cooper's gesture and took to Facebook to express his gratitude.
He doesn't describe himself as an avid Facebook user ("It was my first and only post," he laughed) and he said he only had 12 friends at the time; still, the post has more than 1,300 engagements and was shared nearly 200 times.
Hahn said the post was a way to thank Cooper just in case he forgot to in person.
“At this point, I just hope he knows how much we appreciate it," Hahn said. "My grandson is a Clemson sports fanatic. He knows more about Clemson than I do.
“He can’t imagine how much of an impression he made on him and Will’s been on cloud nine ever since.”
Will was in the stands at Death Valley for the Tigers' wins against Georgia Tech and the Citadel, and saw them win a third straight ACC Football Championship in Charlotte on Dec. 2. For Christmas, he received tickets to the Clemson-Miami basketball game.
If he wasn't already one before, Will is most certainly a Clemson lifer now — but he and his grandfather weren't the only ones touched by the experience.
"You could tell he was really excited because he was speechless, but at the same time I was happy for him," Cooper said. "I'm pretty sure he’s met a couple famous guys to sign balls for him, but for me it was a tremendous experience to go out there and just talk with him.”
“Obviously (Clemson has) got a championship-caliber program for what they do on the field with what Dabo has done and the culture he has created," Hahn said. "You can see the difference (off the field) … It’s a really, really good feeling now, seeing the way Clemson is.”
A year in the life of Clemson's walking, talking playoff hero
NEW ORLEANS -- Catching the game-winning touchdown pass to win the national championship made Hunter Renfrow a legend overnight and the Big Man on Campus as soon as he got back to Clemson last January.
Students stopped him for pictures. They asked for autographs. A professor even said to him, "I told you so!" after predicting Renfrow would catch two touchdown passes in the national championship game against Alabama.
Then Renfrow started walking around with defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, he of the legendary split during the championship celebration, and the Big Man on Campus proved to be no match for the (much) Bigger Man on Campus.
"Usually I'll get the attention," Wilkins said with a wide grin Thursday at the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. "Then I'll call him out and be like, 'Hunter Renfrow! Hunter Renfrow, come here!' He doesn't really like that, so I'm always doing that to him."
Is it because the living, breathing championship hero no longer gets recognized now that a full year has passed since his record-book performance?
Wilkins shakes his head.
"When you see a 300-pound, 6-4 Christian and barely 6-foot, 150-pound Hunter Renfrow -- I stick out before he does," Wilkins says.
We pause here to correct the record: Renfrow weighs 180 pounds.
But therein lies the rub: Bigger players have always stood out far more than Renfrow, whether strolling on campus or lining up on the football field. It is why Renfrow did not get any major scholarship offers out of high school and decided to walk on at Clemson, opting to take his chances against receivers, linebackers and defensive backs with more size and recruiting stars next to their names.
Players like Renfrow generally have to make up for their smaller size with something else. Renfrow came into Clemson with a work ethic that would serve him well. But he also focused on technique and fundamentals as a redshirt freshman. Everything you see today, his disciplined route running, his strong hands, his smarts, the trust his quarterbacks have in him, are all a direct result of one very inconvenient truth: Nobody thought he could do it.
"It's been surreal and it's something I wouldn't trade for the world," Renfrow said. "I've got another year next year and another playoff this year so hopefully we make better memories."
We pause here to allow Alabama fans to scream in unison, 'Nooooo!'
Still today, it seems unfathomable that a loaded Alabama defense filled with NFL prospects up and down the two-deep could not stop Renfrow in consecutive championship games, allowing him 18 total receptions for 180 yards and four touchdowns.
"Renfrow's a guy that I feel like people underestimate until they get against him," said Clemson linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, whose job is to defend Renfrow every day in practice. "He just keeps you very honest in your technique. You can't keep your eyes in the backfield. You have to keep your leverage. The hardest things is getting the ball out of his hands. Believe it or not, he has very strong hands."
Rewind for a minute, though. Why is Renfrow underestimated considering all he has done?
"I mean look at him," O'Daniel said. "No disrespect to him. He's not a guy you'd expect to make four touchdowns in two national championship games."
Perhaps a bit of underestimation could be forgiven in their first meeting. Renfrow went into the matchup with 23 total catches.
Minkah Fitzpatrick onto him after halftime. Renfrow finished with 10 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns in the Clemson loss.
Surely Alabama would figure this out the second time around. But, again, focused on slowing down the deep threats on the outside, Renfrow became the best option for Deshaun Watson. He made one catch after another, in a virtual replay of the last time they saw him on the field.
On the decisive game-winning touchdown catch, the coaching staff called the play "Crush" just for Renfrow. As he stepped to the line, he envisioned the grass on the practice field back at Clemson to calm his mind. Perhaps he also remembered he scored the first touchdown in the spring game on the exact same play call.
Up in the stands in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, more than 50 Renfrow family members screamed and hugged in jubilation. Tim Renfrow, the family patriarch, coached Hunter in high school and first introduced his son to the sport. When Hunter was a child, Tim fashioned him a field goal post out of PVC pipe on Christmas. Hunter would kick footballs through the uprights, pretending he had just won the national championship for Clemson.
But his first real exposure to football came in the front yard with his brothers and Tim, as they practiced the triple option with a cluster of trees as the backdrop.
"My dad would have us go down block on the trees," Renfrow said. "I remember throwing the football in the air, touching as many trees as I could and then catching it."
Tim Renfrow had been an NAIA All-American at Wofford College, just 60 miles away from Clemson in Spartanburg, South Carolina, playing football and baseball. In a twist that seems incredible still today, Wofford opened the 1981 season against Clemson -- and only because the Tigers needed a last-second replacement to fill a vacancy Villanova left when it decided to drop football.
Playing in Death Valley, Tim Renfrow started at defensive back and had an interception. Some 36 years later, his son helped deliver the first national championship at Clemson since ... 1981.
"I knew Hunter was talented, and I knew he had some ability, but you don't ever know," Tim Renfrow said. "He was undersized, but he was an athlete and I knew he loved to play. We felt very comfortable about him getting an opportunity, and so he got to go in and work and get better. We're all just so proud of him. So blessed."
Life had changed in an instant for Renfrow, whether he realized it or not. Think about the most iconic championship game plays in recent memory. Most players are in their final collegiate game, and though they have an opportunity to revel in the moment on campus, this has been a yearlong celebration for Renfrow -- both at Clemson and back home in Myrtle Beach.
For a self-described shy guy, avoiding the spotlight has now become unavoidable. Renfrow recalled once crying and hiding under desks in kindergarten because he was scared to be around so many kids. But now? He smiles for every photo and autographs every picture. When the people who know him in Myrtle Beach stop him, he has a conversation with them, no matter how long it takes.
"It happens everywhere he goes," Tim Renfrow says. "That's part of the deal. We always tell him if you dropped that pass, you wouldn't have to worry about it. Be thankful."
Renfrow certainly is, but he also hopes there is more to come. Because in this third matchup between Clemson and Alabama (Monday, 8:45 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN App), the spotlight remains on Renfrow as he matches up against All-America safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Asked how Alabama planned to game plan for Renfrow this year, defensive back Levi Wallace said, "I can't disclose that information."
But there is no doubt Alabama wants to limit Renfrow this time around.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow against Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is the matchup to watch in the Sugar Bowl.
"We don't want any receiver to do well against us," Wallace said. "We base our secondary off stopping the pass. But he's a great receiver, he makes really great catches, runs really great routes. We have to focus on that this year."
Still, the Alabama defense faces the same conundrum as the past two years: focusing on Renfrow means leaving guys such as Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloudand Tee Higgins more opportunities for bigger plays down the field.
Renfrow said he is interested to see how Alabama will play him, but also added, "It's not going to change what I do. It's not going to change how we attack them. Our coaches do a great job. They have plans for whatever they bring."
If that means another big day for Renfrow, then he's ready for it.
Used to it, even.
Because he’s going to leave ASAP for Bama right?
Can fun-loving Clemson handle being college football's new villain?
NEW ORLEANS — Only one team in this College Football Playoff has a slide in its football facility, let alone a bocce-ball course, miniature golf and a bowling alley. Clemson has earned its fun-and-games reputation.
Inside those doors the Tigers have often returned to a serious topic: Since his promotion nearly a decade ago, Dabo Swinney has talked of changing the narrative of college football, and more precisely Clemson’s place within that narrative. He tweaked that message toward a more specific slant during a team meeting this week, telling the Tigers that his goal was never to make his program the Alabama of the Atlantic Coast Conference but to make it so Alabama was seen as the Clemson of the Southeastern Conference.
“That was his vision and that rubs off on the players, that becomes our vision,” said defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. “That’s what we strive for.”
Adding one win upon another, culminating in last season’s national championship, Clemson has altered its place in college football’s hierarchy. Dismissed for decades as an underachiever, the Tigers are now national powers, one of the few programs capable of annual championship contention. But Alabama is Alabama — the program everyone wants to be, and undoubtedly a program currently one hair ahead of everyone else in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Clemson included.
The Sugar Bowl could change that. Throughout Swinney’s tenure the Tigers have achieved certain markers — a double-digit win season, an ACC title — but constantly felt the need to do so again and again, aware that reputations, like cruise ships at sea, need time to turn. Beating Alabama for the second postseason in a row could lead to an even more seismic shift: Clemson may wrestle away from Alabama the title of college football’s dominant program.
“Just because then we would be the alpha,” linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said. “People would be talking about Clemson like they do about Alabama this day and age. That’s just what comes with the territory when you take down a program like that.”
For too long the Tigers have been compared to programs in the SEC. It might only be fitting that a reputation first constructed upon a key win against that conference — a victory against LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl that co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott called “one of the starts to this run that we’ve been on” — would be cemented with another postseason win against the SEC, and a second win in a row against the Crimson Tide.
“It’s a game to solidify that we can be the top program in the country,” said wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud.
It’s true that Alabama wears the belt as college football’s gold standard, but that designation is always temporary — it can be rented but never owned, and must be earned every season. In the past five years, Alabama owns 62 wins, one national championship and two championship-game appearances. During the same span, Clemson has 61 wins, one national title and two title-game appearances. Five seasons is a generation in the world of college football. The reputations of both teams hang in the balance at the Sugar Bowl.
“Why not us? Why can’t we be the team that sets the standard,” said cornerback Ryan Carter. “To do that you’ve got to cut the head off the snake. And the snake is Alabama. They’re the top program. Everybody wants to be like Alabama.”
Ascending to the top of the college football pyramid comes at a cost, as Alabama can attest. The Crimson Tide have long been the sport’s black hat, an impervious Goliath. In comparison, plucky and upstart Clemson has been cast as the good guys; even after taking last year’s championship, that dynamic is at play leading into the Sugar Bowl. Can the fun-loving program handle life as the villain?
The Tigers have some practice, but only to a point. Clemson certainly has worn a target since taking the title, if not since supplanting Florida State as the powerhouse of the ACC. The program lands every opponent’s best shot. That’s still different than the next step: Taking the Tide’s place would cause Clemson to go from celebrated to a unique level of negative attention. Wearing the crown carries along a new set of responsibilities.
Clemson Tigers cornerback Ryan Carter. (Photo: Jeff Blake, USA TODAY Sports)
“The more you build up …,” Scott said, trailing off as a reporter provided the response: The more you’ll be torn down. Among active programs and coaches, it’s a way of life only Alabama can understand.
“In a way, I think we’re ready to embrace that challenge,” Carter said. “If we end up being the villain, then so be it. We’re ready to embrace everything that comes with that.”
Alabama has proved that the only way to survive under those conditions is to never deviate from what brought you there, to not budge one inch from the blueprint. Saban and the Crimson Tide have been unforgiving in their commitment to perfection. Any adjustments and modifications have been subtle tweaks; the program has left it to the competition to adapt.
“Alabama is going to be Alabama regardless of what happens in this game,” Swinney said. “Alabama ain't going away, I promise you.”
But his messages to Clemson aren’t too different, if delivered in a different package. Since last January, Swinney has called Clemson not the defending national champions but the attacking national champions, because the Tigers had to go out and take it. Saban tells the Tide to dominate what they can control. A quote by George Washington Carver tattooed to the walls inside Clemson’s indoor practice field reminds the Tigers that doing the common in an uncommon way “will command the respect of the world.” Chasing the Tide meant emulating the Tide in one respect: Clemson, like Alabama, is addicted to the process.
It’s brought the two programs into direct conflict. Unlike other challengers during the Alabama dynasty, Clemson has backed the Tide into a corner. Avenging last year’s loss would give Alabama breathing room and effectively table the debate for another year. Even without adding a second national title in a row, a Clemson win in the Sugar Bowl would cast the Tigers in a new light – as the pace-setter in college football, the program everyone else loves to chase.
“Our focus is just writing our own script at Clemson,” Swinney said, “and trying to just do something that's never been done and never been done at Clemson, and maybe never been done in college football.”
NEW ORLEANS — It’s no longer a family Christmas gift for the Davis family to be together attending a Clemson bowl game. Now two sons of a Tigers legend are helping provide yet another happy holiday season for all the program’s fans as the family once again remains together at the game.
For years, tickets and travel to the team’s bowl would be an annual present for J.D. and Judah Davis “even when they were 8-4 or 7-5,” Judah said. “So this recent success has really been a great time to be a part of it, the best decade in Clemson football, and I’m proud to be here.”
The 21-year-old twins are a pair of junior linebackers and the sons of Clemson legend Jeff Davis, who played the same position as the All-American captain of the 1981 national champions and was later inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor 14 years later after a successful NFL stint.
Saturday, the whole trio was on the New Orleans Superdome field as part of Sugar Bowl media day.
“I think he’s really enjoying it because who could’ve ever imagined your sons would play at the same school you did and win a national championship, and have a chance to win another one,” Judah Davis said.
Judah has mostly played special teams this season while J.D. has enjoyed a breakout season that’s seen him bust into the defensive rotation and even earn four starts. He ranks eighth on the team with 48 tackles, including a team-high eight with 1.5 for loss in a victory over Florida State.
“I knew the way I’d been working I’d have a chance to put my name on the map like my father,” J.D. Davis said. “To be able to do it at the same school he won a national championship at being a captain, it was a dream of mine and seeing that becoming realized has been very enjoyable.”
It was a strong answer to those who were critical of the Davis brothers, saying their scholarships were based more on their father’s legacy than on what they’d shown on the field at Daniel High School.
“Their journey is totally different than mine,” Jeff Davis said. “I was embraced. They were somewhat shunned because they were my sons and some people felt like they didn’t deserve to be provided with a scholarship. So there’s nothing greater for me than for them to go out onto the field and not have to address it in the papers, but they address it on the field.”
Earlier this season, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney got angry over implications he’d simply helped out an employee at the college (Jeff is a longtime assistant athletic director for player relations) who was also a legendary former player in addition to being Swinney’s former neighbor.
“I love Jeff Davis, but I like my job better,” Swinney said. “Isn’t it awful some of the comments young people have to put up with because of ignorance and people’s own agendas? It really is sad. That’s the world we live in, though. I’ve watched these guys grow up and sometimes you see things other people don’t see. We don’t have two better winners on this team than J.D. and Judah and they’ve earned their opportunity here.”
As J.D. Davis walked around the Superdome on Saturday morning, he looked into the empty stands and said, “It’s really starting to get real seeing the Clemson paw up there in the stands and the seats where all the fans are going to be.”
J.D. Davis said proving people wrong was only a small part of aiding his improvement and success, adding, “you just have to remember who you are. I know I deserve to be here, so I just think of it that way and ultimately that’s why I’ve been able to rise to the occasion.”
And what an occasion it is in New Orleans this week with Jeff once again enjoying a front row seat not only as his alma mater tries for a second consecutive national championship, but watching his kids have a solid part in that success.
“It truly is fulfilling, amazing, incredible, so many adjectives I can use and probably all of them would probably fall short,” Jeff Davis said. “To really experience having the opportunity to see J.D. and Judah thrive at my alma mater is truly a blessing for me and I have to pinch myself.”
J.D. Davis laughed when asked which side his mother would take in dinner-table arguments regarding who played on the better Clemson teams and other friendly family competitions between father and sons.
“I’m thinking she’d go with my dad; she’s protective of him and she doesn’t let us give him too much trouble. And he’ll always come back with some way to end up on top. I can never beat that guy. But he definitely has been proud of our success and he’s enjoying it just as much as when he was playing.”
I remember thinking that this was the signature win we we lacking. Boy did I not have a clue how many more we’re on the horizon!