Talk to me ...
Greg in Washington, D.C., writes: Heather, reading some of the stories about Dave Clawson coming out of the Wake Forest spring practices, the inevitable comparisons to Jim Grobe have brought to mind a couple of questions: First, did the program really get that stale under Grobe? The on-field results and consistently mediocre recruiting over the previous four or five years sure seemed to indicate that complacency had inundated the program, but there were never stories about a lack of turnout at workouts and lateness to meetings (which is the implication behind the stories that all of a sudden the players are springing into action with Clawson at the helm). I guess everyone thought that Grobe was too nice a guy to come right out and say that he lost the edge? Or maybe we're just in the midst of the typical "change of culture" story that occurs whenever a new coach arrives? Second, how do you think that Clawson is balancing the "new sheriff in town" routine, which runs the danger of getting old and losing the team (see Randy Edsall at Maryland), with truly instilling a winning attitude by providing clear expectations and the support/instruction necessary to achieve them? Thanks, as always, for your insights.
HD: I don't think Grobe ever lost his edge. Don't forget that Grobe's name was once associated with openings at Arkansas, Michigan and Nebraska, but he opted to stay at Wake Forest and continue to build something. Wake's decline was a combination of factors, and if anything was going to change after last season, I thought it would have been the offensive coordinator position. To me, Wake's two biggest problems the past few years have been finding an offensive identity and a slide in recruiting. Granted, all of those things fall back on the head coach, but I don't think it was a matter of complacency within the locker room or Grobe's ability to coach on game days. They didn't have the answers, talent or depth to combat injuries on the offensive line, and never really settled on a scheme that worked for them. They also set a standard they couldn't maintain with the 2006 team. Dave Clawson will run into similar challenges regarding recruiting at Wake Forest, but he's doing exactly what he has to do and should do to get this group to buy in. I don't think he's in danger of "losing the team." It seems like they are ready to embrace the change and want to be better. Wake Forest can definitely be better, and should be a more consistent bowl team, and every now and then surprise a Florida State or Clemson. Grobe proved that. Now it's up to Clawson to not only prove it again, but to maintain it.
Jim in West Friendship, Md., writes: Who wins the QB competition at Clemson? Also, can they compete with FSU this year, or this a rebuilding year after losing Tajh and Sammy?
HD: First, let me ask you a question. I live in Maryland, too, and I swear I see more Clemson paws on cars, hats and T-shirts around here than the Terps. (Well, OK, maybe not that many, but it seems unusually high.) What gives? As for the quarterbacks, not even Dabo Swinney knows that answer, and I sincerely doubt he will until the summer. I thought it was a great idea to let the QBs go live in the last scrimmage to help separate them and see how they respond, and I also think we'll know more after the next scrimmage, when Cole Stoudt will get a chance to handle the opening drive. As for competing with FSU ... heck yeah, they'll compete. Clemson should still be a Top 25 team and the No. 2 team in the ACC. The Tigers could have a better defense than FSU this year, and at the very least, it should be an elite defense that keeps them in the hunt for the ACC title. My vote goes to reload, not rebuild.
Jason in Miami writes: How many games will the Canes win this year? And after FSU, who seems to be their toughest opponent?
HD: I can't even get past the season opener against Louisville, Jason, as far as predictions go. I have no idea who's going to win that one. If it were at Miami, I'd pick the Canes, but on a Monday night, nationally televised, Louisville's first game in the ACC? That might be your answer right there to the second question, especially considering what happened in the bowl game (*shudders). There's also the Thursday night game in Lane Stadium. A trip to Nebraska. Oh, and don't forget Duke did win the Coastal Division last season and can do it again. I think the Canes win at least seven games, but I still don't see them taking the leap from good to great. Ask me again after Week 1. I think that game against Louisville will tell us a lot.