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Three Rock Hill-related questions following Clemson football’s national championship

‘This team was special from Day One,’ Dabo says

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney reacts after the Tigers defeated Alabama for the national championship.
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney reacts after the Tigers defeated Alabama for the national championship.

How long will Kyle Richardson stay in the background at Clemson?

Former Northwestern Trojans head coach Kyle Richardson has been in the shadows at Death Valley in the nearly three years since he left Rock Hill to become an offensive analyst for Clemson’s coaching staff. His role is somewhat limited -- no on-field coaching allowed -- and one has to wonder how long an ambitious, young coach will remain on the sidelines (figuratively).

To be clear: The Herald doesn’t know if Richardson has had job offers to leave Clemson, or not. But it’s not a stretch to guess other college coaches in the industry are aware of him.

Clemson’s assistant coaching staff is one of the best-paid in the country. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables makes $2 million per year, while the Tigers’ co-offensive coordinators, Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, both make around $900,000. All three of those have been involved in numerous head coaching vacancies in recent years, but none has ventured out on his own yet.

Will Richardson be willing to wait his turn? Unclear. But it seems unlikely that head coach Dabo Swinney (who may have NFL opportunities soon) and the three coordinators will remain an intact quartet for much longer. And it’s not like Richardson is in a tough situation anyway. He makes undoubtedly important, largely unseen contributions. The Tigers just won their second national title in his third season with the team and he works in one of the most creative and successful environments in college football.

The question for the Belmont, N.C. native is whether he sits tight and waits for his turn at a bigger role with Clemson, or jumps at another opportunity at another school (should one arise)?

When will Derion Kendrick and B.T. Potter finally lose a game?

As pointed out by Joe Hughes, a sports reporter in Gastonia, N.C.: when was the last time former South Pointe standouts Derion Kendrick and B.T. Potter didn’t win a championship? Well, looks like it was their seventh grade year of middle school.

The true freshmen from South Pointe know nothing but winning. They last lost a game in September, 2016 when the Stallions fell to Maryland private school powerhouse, St. Frances Academy. Kendrick and Potter have been involved with 41 straight wins since, whether at South Pointe (which won the final 11 games of 2016 and all 15 in 2017) or with Clemson, which was 15-0 this season.

Both Kendrick and Potter played roles as Clemson true freshmen.

Potter handled kickoff duties and was immediately effective, knocking 69 percent of his 114 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. In the national championship game against Alabama, Potter hit seven of eight kickoffs into the end zone, critical against dangerous Alabama return men. With kickers Greg Huegel and Alex Spencer graduating, Potter should have a clear shot to win the full-time place-kicking (including field goals and extra points) job next season.

And Kendrick contributed as a rookie even amidst the Tigers’ immensely talented, and crowded, wide receiver group. “D.K.” caught 15 passes for 210 yards and returned 13 kickoffs for a 23-yard average, making him sixth on the team in all-purpose offensive yardage. He should have more chances to get on the field next season with slot receiver extraordinaire Hunter Renfrow departing.

One thing Kendrick didn’t do this season? Reach the end zone. Can’t imagine that scoreless skid will last too far into the 2019 campaign.

The Herald's Bret McCormick wanted to get to know South Pointe - and future Clemson - kicker B.T. Potter. So he challenged him to a kicking contest.

What will Logan Rudolph make of his shot at more playing time this coming fall?

Clemson is losing at least six defensive linemen this offseason, meaning increased playing time should be on the horizon for former Northwestern Trojan standout Logan Rudolph.

Rudolph is a linebacker/defensive line hybrid, what’s sometimes called an edge rusher, but he hasn’t played a lot of football in recent years. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound redshirt freshman missed most of his senior year at Northwestern with a shoulder injury, then played a few games as a true freshman at Clemson before taking a redshirt to get his damaged shoulder fixed. He played in 14 games this season, registering 13 tackles and playing 141 snaps.

Clemson’s defensive line will look markedly different in 2019. Christian Wilkins, Chris Register, Austin Bryant and Albert Huggins all ran out of eligibility, while Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell are leaving early for the NFL Draft. Lawrence and Huggins are defensive tackles, while the rest are either ends or utility DLs.

The Tigers will return Xavier Thomas, the freshman pass-rushing machine. Sophomore defensive end Justin Foster will also likely return; he played about 20 more snaps than Rudolph this season. K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll played in just five games combined this season, and the Tigers have three incoming freshmen defensive ends. Rudolph’s work ethic and unhinged, QB-attacking playing style should put him in position to win some of the snaps that will be vacated by the departing six Tiger d-linemen.

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