CLEMSON — 22 days from now, Clemson will hit the Georgia Dome floor for its final game of 2012 – a highly-anticipated Chick-fil-A Bowl showdown with No.9 LSU.
23 days from now, that focus will shift to 2013 – and, specifically, who will comprise the Tigers’ 2013 roster.
Boyd was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches’ Association and won ACC overall and offensive player of the year honors from ACC writers and coaches. Hopkins was a first-team All-ACC selection by both coaches and writers, and was named a second-team All-American by CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Lindy’s and Phil Steele.
Boyd has stated that he’ll wait until season’s end to discuss his options with his family, but he is not believed to be a first-round selection.
Hopkins is Clemson’s all-time career receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns leader. He has 69 receptions for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He has set Clemson’s single-season receiving score record and is one shy of tying the ACC record. He needs six yards to pass teammate Sammy Watkins for the single-season receiving yards record. He is believed to be an early-round selection should he declare.
He wasn’t interested in discussing the topic following Clemson’s first bowl practice Saturday.
“Negative, negative,” he said when asked if he’d thought about his future plans.
Would he discuss them with his family following the bowl game?
“No, no, no,” he replied. “I’m not talking about that.”
Once the season ends, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will meet with every player, and will discuss NFL prospects in appropriate cases.
His job? Provide the most accurate information possible, whether it hurts his program or not.
“ I’m just a fact man,” Swinney said. “Here’s the facts, here’s what people say, here’s your decision. My role is to support them in whatever decision. If they want my opinion, I’ll give it to them. But they’re grown young men. It’ s a decision each person has to make on their own, because they’re the ones who have to live with it.”
Swinney tells players that “if you’re not a first-round pick, it’s in your benefit to go back to school.”
As for Hopkins?
“I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Swinney said. “I personally think he’ll be back at Clemson but we’ll see. That’s a decision that hopefully he’ll make at the right time.”
Each player is different, Swinney said. Two years ago, tailback Jamie Harper surprised many by leaving ; he was a fourth-round pick of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and is completing his second season as a starting fullback.
“Some guys are just ready to go play on the next level,” Swinney said. “Jamie Harper didn’t care if he was a seventh-round pick or a first-round pick. He told me, ‘I’ve got to go to work.’”
Harper promised Swinney that he’d finish his degree, and did so last spring, paying his way for the spring semester.
Swinney says players who leave must understand the financial realities of the NFL. According to the NFL Players Association, the average length of a pro career spans just 3.2 years.
“People get caught up in these numbers that aren’t reality. It’s a tough business,” he said. “Guys are not in that league very long. The first contract is the most critical one. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get that second one.”
On the field, Clemson’s first bowl practice wasn’t up to Swinney’s high standards.
“The biggest thing I saw was a team that hadn’t practiced in two weeks. They were sloppy,” Swinney said. “Disappointed in our first day, to be honest with you. It’s going to take a lot better focus and energy than what they had today. They’ve got a lot going on (with final exams next week).”
“They’ve been off two weeks and I was just a little disappointed with the focus of a few guys. A lot of guys did a great job, but in a team setting it don’t take but a few to be a distraction and bring you down. We had a little of that today, kind of a cobweb of getting back going syndrome. I’m glad to get back on the field, get started with them.”
Freshman safety/linebacker Travis Blanks was named a second-team freshman All-American by Fox Sports. Swinney said he’ll move back to safety this spring with seniors Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks graduating.
“We managed him well this year, I think,” Swinney said. “We tried to develop him in a certain role. Safety is a position with some complication to it and he’s a good fit for that. He’s got good range, good ball skills and a highly competitive football player. I think his future’s very bright.”