CLEMSON – I love making lists. I hate being wrong. I can’t have my cake and eat it too.
Predictions are doomed to fail; it’s just part of prognostications. For every great call, there’s a history of whoopsie-daisies that serve as the untold story. Just like I tell anybody who brags about taking home a few hundred from the casino last night, I’m thinking, “that’s great, but how much was your down payment the past six trips to get there?”
To that end, it should come to no surprise that when I was asked to make a “Top 12 Most Important Tigers in 2013″ list back in the summer, when I’d only seen one Clemson game live in person (the 2012 opener, when I covered Auburn) and a few games on tape, I spent weeks carving out the perfect list, balancing sensible picks with dark horses and long shots.
I named 12 players. Seven were good picks. Five were, um, not. Sounds about right.
If you want to see the profiles I wrote on each player, here ya go:
Good picks: Boyd, Watkins, Shuey, Beasley, Humphries, St Anthony, Jarrett. (If anything, Grady was too low.)
Bad picks: Watson, Blanks, Alexander, Timothy, Leggett.
I guess in fairness, I rolled the dice with the wrong true freshmen: Alexander’s been hurt and will redshirt, while Leggett’s been “lazy” and should have redshirted. Little did I know Jayron Kearse would have made a much bigger impact, and Mike Williams and Shaq Lawson would play larger roles. Watson’s been a backup DT you don’t need to write home about, Timothy’s sorta kinda lost his job at right tackle, and Blanks has been uneven and unhealthy as a correlating trend to Kearse’s emergence.
With the benefit of hindsight, here’s my revised Top 12 Most Important Tigers:
No. 1 QB Tajh Boyd (192-292, 2,620 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT; 7 rush TD): Durr.
No. 2 WR Sammy Watkins (66 rec, 982 yards, 7 TD): Double durr.
No. 3 DE Vic Beasley (15 TFL, 10 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles): He might get drafted before either or both of the top two guys next May.
No. 4 DT Grady Jarrett (51 tackles, 7 TFL, 13 QB pressures): He’s the reason opponents’ yards-per-carry has dropped half a yard (4.18 in 2012; 3.69 in 2013.)
No. 5 LB Spencer Shuey (83 tackles): The epitome of a football player.
No. 6 LB Stephone Anthony (89 tackles, 4 sacks): Honestly, 5 and 6 are interchangeable. Pick your favorite. I prefer Shuey, but only slightly.
No. 7 WR Adam Humphries (31 rec, 393 yards, 2 TD; 15 PRs, 161 yards): Wouldn’t have made this list if Charone Peake never went down.
No. 8 RB Roderick McDowell (131 rush, 677 yards, 3 TD; 18 rec, 107 yards, TD): I can’t write it enough; as the running game goes, goes Clemson’s offense.
No. 9 SS Robert Smith (53 tackles): The steadying influence on the back end.
No. 10 C Ryan Norton (only new OL starter in 2013): He’ll have to set the tone for toughness against South Carolina.
No. 11 FS Jayron Kearse (27 tackles, 3 INT): Maybe this is too high – it stinks leaving Martavis Bryant (29 rec, 522 yards, 3 TD) and Corey Crawford (14 QB pressures) off my new list – but Kearse is the poster boy for Clemson’s long-term secondary potential.
No. 12 CB Bashaud Breeland (53 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 3 INT): Gets credit for making plays when the camera’s on him. Probably doesn’t get enough credit for what he does when it’s not.