ESPN, Steele: Clemson projected to start No. 16 in AP ranks

BY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – It’s not really an insult to insinuate Clemson won’t start the 2014 football season in the top ten just because that’s where the Tigers finished in 2013.

No Tajh Boyd, no Sammy Watkins, no reason for national pollsters to believe from the get-go Clemson’s an automatic national title contender. By no means does that mean Clemson won’t be; it’s just the Tigers will have to prove their mettle (and two of their first three games, at Georgia and at Florida State, provide wonderful tests.)

With that in mind, college football preseason magazine guru Phil Steele released his projected Associated Press top 25 on ESPN.com Wednesday for when the season opens. He ranks Clemson No. 16 to start the year.

Wrote Steele, “The Tigers are coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons, highlighted by their No. 8 finish last year after the Orange Bowl win over Ohio State. They do suffer massive losses at the skill positions (quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins), but they are not short on young talent.”

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You, again: Clemson baseball schedules 1-gamer with Liberty

BY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – Looking to replace a rained-out game vs. Maryland two weekends ago, and beef up the non-conference slate, Clemson announced Tuesday a newly-scheduled game with Liberty at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, April 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Liberty’s an all-too-familiar face: the Flames (25-8) knocked off Clemson (20-11) twice 8-3 and 3-1 in last spring’s NCAA regional at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C., ending the Tigers’ season. Liberty is coached by Jim Moran, who previously served 11 years on Ray Tanner’s staff at South Carolina. Clemson is 2-5 all-time against Liberty.

Tickets are available on ClemsonTigers.com for free by filling out an online form, or for $5 via general admission.

The No. 14-ranked Tigers are facing off with Georgia this evening, before a 3-game ACC series at No. 2 Virginia this coming weekend.

-AB

Deshaun Watson (collarbone) out 3 weeks, will miss spring game

BY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – It’s going to be quite a longer wait for fans to get their first look at true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson in a Clemson uniform.

Watson, a 5-star prospect who enrolled early in January, suffered a slight crack in his collarbone at the end of Monday’s scrimmage at the indoor facility, which will keep him out of uniform three weeks.

That means Saturday’s spring game will feature senior Cole Stoudt and sophomore Chad Kelly, with a dash of walk-on Nick Schuessler, at the controls of Clemson’s offense.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney wasn’t even aware of Watson’s injury until after the scrimmage when media asked him questions about it. Other players had mentioned Watson was holding his wrist on the way out of practice.

“This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring,” Swinney said. “Fortunately, this is not a serious injury. I hate that he will miss the Spring Game; I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley.

“But he will be fine by the time summer workouts start again in May. He does not require surgery.”

-AB

Brandon Thomas tears ACL in training

Brandon ThomasBY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – Former Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas absorbed a major blow to his 2014 NFL Draft stock, tearing the ACL in his right knee during training Thursday.

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Caplan Monday afternoon. Thomas’ agent, Tom Kleine, confirmed the bad break to The Post and Courier, saying Thomas had already completed “seven or eight” individual workouts with separate NFL teams and had several more scheduled.

“As you can imagine, he’s kind of running the gamut of emotions. Training was going great,” Kleine told the Post and Courier. “We’re just still in the process of notifying teams. Will it affect his stock? Probably.”

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Brownell’s ultimate objective for Clemson basketball? “To build a brand, to build a spirit, to build a culture of commitment”

BY AARON BRENNER
abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

NEW YORK – Seated among three more famous head coaches nationally at Monday’s pre-NIT semifinal press conference in Times Square, Clemson’s Brad Brownell didn’t pass up the opportunity to be the funniest of the four.

“(Emcee Fran Fraschilla) mentioned we’re very good defensively. We pretty much have to be because we’re pretty lousy offensively,” Brownell wisecracked, in a refreshing moment of self-deprecation. NIT officials in the room ate it up; even reporters couldn’t stifle their chuckles.

“So we’ve got to figure out some ways to keep some games close and win ‘em late. We’re hoping to do that against Coach (Larry) Brown’s team.”

Brownell also launched one-liners on the team’s first shootaround in Madison Square Garden – “we had half of them acting like Carmelo Anthony shooting jumpers in MSG today” – and their plans for free time in New York City – “If there’s any money in their pockets (later), I’d be surprised. I hope we have enough guys back to field a team to play (SMU) tomorrow night.”

No matter how tonight turns out, and no matter how Thursday turns out if Clemson makes it that far, Brownell can relax a little bit and smile at how this season.

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