March 29, 2001
Below are Reggie Herring’s answers to the selected questions that you submitted this past week to “Ask The Tigers”. ClemsonTigers.com would like to thank you for all of your questions submitted. We would also like to thank Reggie for his time and sincere effort with “Ask The Tigers”. ___________________________________
Reggie, I just wanted to know how you feel about our defense in the upcoming football season? How well are they matching up in practice against that Tiger offense? GO TIGERS!!!!!!!! Jeff Cooper Florence, SC
“I would say that defensively, the attitude has been excellent this spring, the commitment of the players to build a defense and become a team is an ongoing process, a day-to-day process. We have had our moments this spring, offense has had their moments and we have had our moments. I’d say that our kids are growing every day and becoming more competitive. We’ve got a lot of new faces and it is a tremendous challenge for us defensively. But the kids and the coaches have accepted the challenge. We’re not a full-strength on defense, but the offense isn’t either, but the bottom line is that we have been very competitive this spring. And I can tell you that ‘that’ Tiger offense is going to be fine and so is ‘that’ Tiger defense.
Reggie, Do you have any concern about the lack of weight on the line?Joe Dunn Columbia, SC
“Well, you have to tell me what your definition of too much weight in line, and what is too light. It depends on what kind of philosophy you have on defense and what you are trying to accomplish. I can assure you that FSU’s defensive line probably averages 265 to 270 max. When we were at Auburn, and had 3 first round defensive linemen at Auburn, I know our policy was to never let them get over 275. To rush the passer, to be full speed every snap, to be effective up front, you can’t carry excessive weight. The game has really changed, so therefore I don’t know if anybody has any d-lineman that are much over 280. And when you look at Jovon Bush at 320, Donnell is 320, Polk is 295, Nick Eason who will be starting inside for us is 275. Then you’ve got Khaleed Vaughn at defensive end who’s 265 as an end, I actually think they are ideal weight for division 1 football. I think that it is a misconception, probably generated by our own comments, but if you notice some of the coaches after they play us, they would reflect what I am saying now. If Jovon Bush dropped 20 or 30 pounds, and Washington too, they would be quicker and more effective. We are having a tough time keeping their weight down. I understand your concern with the question, but I don’t think it should be a concern. I think we are on average with everyone else. I’d like them to play a little faster.
Reggie, Clemson football has come a long way in a short time. Do you think the fans have an unrealistic expectation about where we are and where they think and want us to be today?Billy Johnson Hilton Head, SC
“I would like to say we are running the cleanest program in America. Period. Bar none. We are doing it in an honorable fashion. I understand the impatience. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t happen overnight. You cannot get an accumulation of great talent and have your program in place overnight unless you inherit it. The 80s are gone. And that is something that people need to deal with. Now we have to have a different outlook. Not to drop your expectations because we raise and coach them to compete and win at the highest level, and we go in with the mindset that we are going to win every game, and that is our goal. I think that if everyone will remain positive, and have an honest outlook, and be honest with yourselves, I don’t think it takes a Phi Beta Kappa to look out there when Florida State or Virginia Tech is out there in pre-game warm-up and say to yourself “hey, their talent level is better than ours”. Now, we have kids that go out and compete at a high level and are extremely competitive, which I am proud of that. Georgia Tech, we should beat Georgia Tech, and to be honest with you Georgia Tech might have better talent than we do right now. Whether you want to accept that or not. How did that happen? Well, they raised the bar and have done a good job. But Georgia Tech themselves are not at the level of Florida State. But we have to continue to build on what we have and be competitive every game, which we have done for two years with the exception of Florida State last year. That was a nightmare of a ballgame, and that is one of those games that you just forget about and move on, because there was NOTHING to learn from that except humility. And we have come too far to sit there and dwell on one ball game or the way the Georgia Tech game ended. But this program since the 80s is on as solid a ground, academically, recruiting, foundation, attitude, commitment, it is on as solid a ground as it has ever been. Now what we’ve got to do is build on what has happened in the past two years and continue to build and make the Clemson people proud.
Reggie, Clemson has promoted a great recruiting year. What did it accomplish to improve/enhance the defense this year?Timothy Hackett Columbia, SC
“I think this is important that not only Clemson people, but the alumni and fans of any school needs to know, that the all the hoopla means nothing until you see who actually shows up on campus. That is the measuring stick and that remains to be seen. If we get the ones in that have signed and we are supposed to get in, then we have done a good job. Now there are some that we have signed knowing they are not going to qualify and we will place them in a junior college, so that they somewhat feel obligated to come to Clemson in two years, if they are good enough when they complete junior college. And we did over-sign this year for that reason. So keep that in mind, don’t think we are going after the wrong kids, we’re signing them for a purpose, it is a system. Everybody that wants to be competitive has to do this. Pinckney for South Carolina is a great example. They signed him out of high school knowing that he would go to junior college and he has come back and done a good job for them. We are going to the same thing with several of them this year. I think that next year you are going to see some outstanding blue-chip type players that we are going to have a chance to get back on campus that we have signed a year ago and placed in a junior college, so the rewards of doing that are going to be reaped a year from now. But to answer your question, we signed quality defensive ends, big bodies across the front. How many we get in is the key. We have got half of them qualified right now, and the other half have a chance. At the linebacker position, I think that the three that we have signed are probably three of the most talented kids that we have signed here since I have been here as a group. So I am really excited about the potential and the quality that we signed at linebacker. And two of the three have qualified and the other one is very close. In the secondary, I think we got outstanding, and I mean outstanding safeties coming in. The corners are not ‘great’ corners, because the great corners got gobbled up by the top ten programs in a hurry, and the other ones are playing running back or wide receiver and you hope one day to move them over. But we did sign quality, solid division 1 corners, which I think all of them will be solid competitive football players for us. But the great ones out there are usually playing wide-out and they just fall in your lap. But next year I think we have a great chance to sign some tremendous corners. Also, with Mance improving every day this spring, and with Johnson and Hemby, I think we will be a little better at the corners as long as Mance can replace Ardley as a cover guy.
Reggie, I appreciate your hard work for Clemson. In your opinion, if we had played more zone last year, would that have minimized some of the big plays we gave up? I thought we were pretty good against the run.Greg Owens Greer, SC
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for asking that question. Well, we went back and evaluated all the big plays we gave up last fall, and low and behold, contrary to your eyes in the stands, 70-80% of the times we got beat on big plays we were in zone. There were only 2 times that I can tell you that we got beat on big plays when we were in man, and it was not press-man, it was loose-cushion man. So, contrary to what you were seeing, even when we were blitzing linebackers, most of the time we were rolling to a very safe, three deep cushion zone, and we were getting run by. It was just poor decisions by a couple players rotating at one position. And let me please reiterate that you have to really look deep into our season and look how it went. But I can refresh your memory and tell you that after seven games through the season we were #1 in the country in total defense. Where are big plays started was the last three or four games, and really the South Carolina game, we didn’t give up any deep balls. And when you look at GT, we only gave up one deep ball. With 6 minutes to go against Tech, we had held an offense that scored 20 something points against FSU, and averaged 400 something yards a game. With 6 minutes left to go we had held them to one touchdown and 3 field goals, and we’ll feeling pretty good about ourselves and then with 6 minutes left, our corner, in zone, gave up a 70 yard bomb and just got flat run by in zone to give up a touchdown. And then of course the infamous last drive, where we dropped two interceptions in our hands where the game would be over. Then on the last play, protecting the endzone in 3 deep, the corner falls down, and the guy makes a great play, but regardless the corner falls down. If he is just standing there, the ball hits him in the head. And we didn’t get it done on the last drive. And I would also like to add that the defense did score 14 points to keep us in that game. So I think there was a lot of bashing going on, and I take responsibility, being the coordinator, not getting it done, and I take responsibilities of defeats. But if you want to be critical, and we will except criticism, I think you really need to do research and find out why. But I want you to know that I am glad that you asked that question, because I think the perception is that we gave up a lot of big plays because we were in man. But this year we are not going to play press-man unless we are inside the fifteen yardline due to the loss of so many secondary guys, and we will play a little more zone this year. But whether you are in zone or man, if a wide receiver runs a take-off, ultimately, you are responsible for him. And where most of the deep balls came from is corners losing their cushion and getting the coverage broken. But thanks for asking so that I could clear that up. And know that we are constantly evaluating what we are doing and trying to come up with the right formula to make Clemson a winner.
Reggie, Earlier in the year, I read where you were hyping Eric Meekins. Why didn’t he play more last year?Landis Williams Piedmont, SC
“Another great question. That is the biggest mystery of Clemson football last fall. Let me tell you why I was hyping Eric Meekins. During two-a-days, Eric Meekins was playing better than anyone we had back there in the secondary. Then all of a sudden, when the season got going, his performance dropped, his focus dropped, his body language, he wasn’t playing as fast or as hard. He totally disappeared from this football team. The only thing we have to go by is how they work on a day to day basis. And I really thought Eric was going to have a breakout year. But Eric himself, if you talk to him, he would tell you a variety of reasons why he lost focus. We did question what was wrong with him, and I am not going to go into it, but had an accumulation of personal problems that he said affected his focus with this football team. But right now he is out there working hard this spring. He’s got a ways to go, he’s trying, he’s more focused. He has the ability, and some how some way we have to find a way to get it out of him. He has the capabilities, but Eric has to respond also, and right now we are working on that with Eric Meekins.
Reggie, I’ve enjoyed watching the old 4-3 defense these past seven seasons. How much of an advantage will the 4-2-5 give the young defense? Thank you and good luck next season.Eric Sprott Clemson, SC
“A great question and this gives me a chance talk about adjusting to your personnel. Your players are ever-changing. We lost five front people, we lost our whole secondary with the exception of Hafley. We have young guys filling in those spots. We have some experience at linebacker with the first three starters. We have some experience in the line with Khaleed Vaughn playing last year, McNeal, and Eason. But I think the biggest job for us this spring is evaluating the talent we have and trying to get the best 11 on the field. You would not want to put, just for the sake of a scheme, people on the field just to say that you are running it. You have to evaluate your personnel. We really have been a 4-2 team the last two years more than we have been a 4-3 team just because of the body-types of Braxton Williams and Altroy Brodrick. What it will allow is us to use our more safety types, which we have. I just think the 4-2 gives us more flexibility. We will be able to play more zone with better athletes and play more man with better athletes, but with a safe, two deep shell look. We’ll try to give the offense more fits. More hiding and disguising. I think at sometime you will see us do a lot more 3 man stuff out of 4-2 and drop and end off in coverage. I just think overall, without getting too into schemes, we are not going to play as much press-man, but we are going to have more flexibility. We will be able to raise a young incoming freshman safety in 3 safety system a lot quicker than we can raise a young defensive lineman that is not ready for the big time. We can get away with just athletic ability even if they don’t have the experience.
Reggie, Please talk a little about the new “Star Safety” position you will be employing this year. How does it differ in what you have done in the past, who do you see playing it, and will it help in pass protection against teams that like to throw the ball 40 times a game? Go Tigers!Joe Redlinger Pittsburgh, PA
“Well, the 3 safety system is no different as what Virginia Tech does, and I use them as an example because they are exceptional on defense. It gives you more flexibility. You are playing a true nickel package. Don’t get carried away with names, you can call it anything. It is a position where you can blitz a guy, you can man-cover a guy, you can drop him in zone, you can stun him, but it is a safety position that is interchangeable with the other safeties. But there are just a lot more of those body-types to recruit. Instead of having to worry about your base package and then shifting over to the nickel, your nickel is your base package. There are multiple ways with a 4 man front to beef up and still be able to be very physical against the run. We have really been playing a form of it. But I think that there is now a trend toward this and I think that we are somewhat ahead of the times and that we already have a jump on what is being phased in, and that is multiple looks, nickel packages, stunt ability, great pressure packages, at the same time you can back off and play a mix of zone coverages. And this whole thing has taken what I consider a very young defense and has given us a chance to be competitive against our offense this spring and has sometimes given them fits. But don’t let the star get overblown, it is a nickel position. It is a 3 safety position that is incredibly flexible. We are just trying to give our kids a package that allows us to be competitive. There are very few teams, Florida State, Miami, Florida, that are recruiting year in and year out the potential pro first round draftees, that can line up in a basic 4 man rush zone coverage every snap, every now and then bring five. There are few millionaires, there’s a bunch of middle class, and a bunch of poors. And Clemson right now is in that upper-middle class, trying to get into that millionaire status, but it’s not going to happen overnight. So we have to be creative, I call it creative financing, and we are ahead of the times defensively.
Mr. Herring, I love the fire you have coaching and teaching. I think your the best defensive coordinator in the country. What do you do to relax? Johney Williams Columbia, SC
“I appreciate those comments and your attitude. In my seven years coaching here, I have had some very proud moments as a Clemson Tiger, and I have had some big disappointments also. I have been here seven years. I have been here longer than a normal student. I have spilled a lot of blood and a lot of sweat here. I love Clemson University. It is more than just a job to me. I have seen kids come and go. I feel responsible for raising a lot of these kids, and there is a tremendous amount of care and want to for these kids in this program to succeed. And I want everyone to know that it is not just a job for me, it is a way of life, and I do share the same passion and care about this program just as much as anybody that has ever walked on this campus. With that in mind, we will do everything in our power to make you proud and all Clemson people. I would say that the only relaxation as a person and coach is to go home and be with my family. My children and my wife are, so to speak, the only way out for me, because I do, and all of us coaches do, carry our jobs on our backs. Politically, we say that we don’t take it home with us, but we do. As a coach you have many sleepless nights, trying to figure out a way to improve. You carry it around 24 hours a day. The coaching profession is one that will totally eat you alive if you don’t have any outlets at all. There are not many jobs in this world where you have 80,000 people critiquing you every Saturday. Really 365 days a year. You are not going to make everyone happy. It is human nature and it’s understood that you are going to get criticized and you are going to get praised. You have to keep it in perspective. You can’t get too excited and you can’t get too down. There are peaks and valleys. There are people that are going to hate you and there are going to be people that love and care about you. So it is a tough job in that sense, but you have to stay focused and go on, and nobody twists our arms to do this job. Nobody makes me be a football coach. I do it and I love it. You have to roll up your sleeves and do everything as passionate and as hard as you can. I don’t know if I really answered your question, but I did want to make you aware that we expect criticism, and we appreciate anybody that will take the time to support us and have the same passion as we do about this school. I really don’t know if there is a way to relax. Some coaches play golf, some fish, I personally just like to go home and be with my family. Watch my kids grow, try to be involved in their sports and academics, study with them. Relax and be with the family.
Reggie, Was that the funky-chicken we saw in the locker room on the Tommy Bowden Show after the South Carolina win? Jay Collingsworth Waycross, GA
“To be honest with you it was a very poor imitation of the funky-chicken. I think at some point in time, we have to show a human side as coaches. As hard as we challenge our kids and as much pressure as we put on our players and ourselves in this business, I think at some point in time, you have to stop, and when you’ve got the chance to celebrate, you have to just let it go. And you have got to just experience life, and the heck with “political correctness”, or the “somebody might be watching”. I was just saying the heck with everything. That was a very exciting moment. And if I hadn’t had a back operation, I probably would have tried a flip. That was one of those games that couldn’t have been any sweeter. To be playing your arch-rival, at home, to have them having it won, celebrating, having us down, thinking it’s over, the disappointment, then to rip it right back away from them, then to take it the way we did it, was a true testimony to our kids never quitting, Clemson people never quitting. It was just a time to say “let’s have fun”. And we had fun in that locker rooom. That was a moment when all the hard work paid off.
Next week’s “Ask The Tigers” will have a special format. Stay tuned to ClemsonTigers.com for the announcement.
April 18, 2019