August 29, 2015

Brent Venables and Jeff Scott seeing progress in their respective units (VIDEO)

Clemson is closing in on its season opener against Wofford. One week from Saturday the Tigers and Terriers will tangle in Death Valley. After the Tigers Thursday practice co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott and defensive coordinator Brent Venables gave detailed updates to the media. You can check out those comments below. [Read more…]

Commentary: Clemson’s handling of Battle leads to questions about Reader

Dabo Swinney  is very protective of his players and the Clemson brand.

Dabo Swinney is very protective of his players and the Clemson brand.

There is a fine line between protecting your players and deliberately misleading people and Clemson and Coach Dabo Swinney appear to be sliding right up to that line, if not crossing it. When a school issues a press release about a player’s departure from the program you expect it to be vague, to use terms like “violation of team rules” or “conduct detrimental to the team,” but you do not expect to get an explanation that isn’t legitimate.

Clemson issued a press release on June 25th indicating Isaiah Battle planned to enter the NFL supplemental draft, citing family reasons. Here is the second paragraph of the school issued press release quoting Battle:

“I have some family matters to address, with a child due this summer, and I feel it is in my best interest to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft,” Battle said. “I want to thank everyone at Clemson, especially Coach Swinney and the assistant coaches, for what they have done for me the last three years. I also want to thank my teammates. They have all had a big impact on my career.”

It didn’t take long for TheClemsonInsider to report the real issue, a marijuana citation that was the final strike for Battle. Battle didn’t just wake up one day and realize that he had a baby on the way and decide that needed to leave Clemson, he had not choice because he had been kicked off the team. According to the TCI report, Battle had “no money in the bank” with Swinney.

Again, it isn’t uncommon for coaches to be vague and elusive about player departures, it is, however, almost unheard of for a school issued press release to mislead people by citing an inaccurate reason for a player’s departure.

A few weeks after the release we asked Swinney directly if Battle’s departure was related to a discipline issue. Swinney said in part, I am very proud of the progress that Isiah made and that we made with Isiah, I am very proud of that. I wish we could have finished it off, but listen there’s always dynamics that come into play and decisions are made and I respect those things. Listen, I am happy for him.”

You can listen to his full answer here:

AUDIO: Dabo Swinney On Battle

It is understandable that a coach wants to protect a player. That is nothing new. But issuing a release citing family reasons when it is discipline related is not protecting a player, it is misleading a best, lying at worst. And you don’t think the Rams and every other NFL team knew the real truth of why Battle suddenly entered the supplemental draft? Of course they did. NFL teams know everything about a player before they decide whether or not they want to draft him. Misleading the media and public didn’t help Battle’s NFL chances, it just hurt Clemson’s credibility.

Which brings us to D.J. Reader. Like Battle,  it is a complete headscratcher as to why a senior starter, who was one of Clemson’s representatives at the ACC Football Kickoff last month, suddenly decided to leave the football team. According to Swinney Reader decided to “step away from football for a while” because of “some personal issues he has to deal with.” The release is eerily similar to the Battle release in June. Having two of key starters leave a team for personal reasons shortly before the start of the season is extraordinarily unheard of. And while the explanation given in Reader’s case very well may be legitimate, it is being called into question because of the lack of accuracy from the school issued release involving Battle.

When Dabo Swinney was asked directly if Reader was facing a discipline issue he said “No” and got annoyed.

“This is, again, a decision he made for some personal things he’s dealing with,” Swinney said. “There’s nothing else to say, guys. I’m not going to answer any other questions about D.J. Reader. I put a statement out. Don’t ask me another question about him. I want to talk about the guys that are here on this team, period to end. …I’ve answered your questions, I’ve made a statement, there’s nothing else to say.”

I want to believe Dabo, just like I want to believe a Clemson press release when I get it.  Hopefully, in the case of Reader, we are getting a true and accurate reason for his departure from the team. (And hopefully Reader will be able to successfully work through whatever issue he is going through and return to the team.) Unfortunately, if the Battle scenario is any indication, there might be another more plausible explanation why a senior starter left the team less than two weeks before the season. It is a shame that Clemson has created an environment where the media can’t trust a school issued press release and the head coach’s explanation.

Dabo Swinney gets testy explaining D.J. Reader’s departure (VIDEO)

Dabo Swinney isn't going to say anything else about D.J. Reader.

Dabo Swinney isn’t going to say anything else about D.J. Reader.

Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that he has “no idea” when or if starting defensive tackle D.J. Reader will return to the team.  It only took a few follow up questions on the issue before Dabo had enough. Swinney shut down a question inquiring if this was a discipline issue then shut down the topic completely.

“No. This is, again, a decision he made for some personal things he’s dealing with,” Swinney said. “There’s nothing else to say, guys. I’m not going to answer any other questions about D.J. Reader. I put a statement out. Don’t ask me another question about him. I want to talk about the guys that are here on this team, period to end. …I’ve answered your questions, I’ve made a statement, there’s nothing else to say.”

Despite the fact there have been a handful of players find trouble during the offseason, Swinney said he doesn’t think it’s been a bad summer; on the contrary, he said it has been a great summer, sans a few bad apples.

This off season a total of six Clemson players have either quit, been suspended, dismissed from, or left the team for personal reasons.

Clemson tackle D.J. Reader takes leave of absence, cites personal reasons

D.J. Reader

D.J. Reader

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney announced Tuesday that senior defensive tackle D.J. Reader will be away from the Clemson football team for a period of time.   Reader was listed as a starting tackle on the preseason depth chart.

“D.J. Reader has decided to step away from football for a while,” said Swinney.  “He has some personal issues he has to deal with at this time.  We are not sure when he will return.  We will support him any way we can.  This is no different than a player being lost for a period of time due to injury.

“We will move forward  at the tackle position.  We have many players who will do an outstanding job in the defensive line.”

“We are excited about preparing for our 2015 journey that starts September 5 with the opener against Wofford.”

Sophomore Scott Pagano and freshman Christian Wilkins will be strong candidates to move into a starting role at defensive tackle opposite Carlos Watkins and Roderick Byers.  Redshirt freshman Jabril Robinson and  first-year player Albert Huggins will also be candidates for playing time at the tackle position.

Reader is a fourth-year senior who started one game last year, but played 250 plays and had 27 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.  He is a veteran of 38 games over the last three years.

Tigers turning the page to Wofford (VIDEO)

Deshaun Watson at Monday's press conference

Deshaun Watson at Monday’s press conference

Clemson has turned its full attention to preparation for the season opener against Wofford September 5th.  The Tigers had their final full scale camp scrimmage last week and the coaches have a good feeling for who is ready to play, and who is not.

Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Monday running  back Adam Choice, who is coming off an ACL injury, is one who is not ready to play and will be redshirted.

Elliott and several Tiger players, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, met with the media Monday morning.

[Read more…]