Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tigers vs Tigers

I've been asked all week by everyone I work with and even passing acquaintances in the hallways who see me wearing Clemson or LSU gear which team I'm really pulling for next week or who I think will win. Well the orange in my blood is pretty thick and no one will be able to unseat Clemson as my first love, even though my time at LSU was quite memorable and I do sometimes wish I could go back.

Of course I watch each game of both teams and have for many years now, so I know them both pretty well, but I believe Clemson will win the game in the end. However, this is a tall order, for either squad. They match up quite well overall.

In every close game between two good teams, things like turnovers and special teams are obviously huge. It was with us and Ohio State, it was when we lost to Alabama in 2015 (thanks Jayron Kearse!), and it will be again. But I think the game will really come down to winning individual matchups. I don't think it'll be schemes from Venables or Aranda, from ScElliott or Brady, it'll be the Jimmies and the Joes. Can you line up and whip the guy across the line more often than he does you?

That's really it in football.

Looking back over this season, LSU has had "it" pretty much all year. You can tell by how the team gels and how they fight to win a game. Clemson showed me we had "it" back in 2015. I knew they were going to get there at the end. The story just didn't work out that year for Clemson, so now we have to make sure it doesn't work out for LSU this time.

LSU's offense is much like the West Coast offense, but run out of a spread formation and shotgun. It also emphasizes attacking the middle-of-field coverage vs ours, which is more of a perimeter attack. However, they do a great job spreading the ball to everyone on the offense, inside or outside, unlike ours. They run quite a bit of slants/dig routes over the middle with the TE Thaddeus Moss heading up the seam in the hook/curl areas and along the hashes. I've explained the WCO before back on the old site, and to put it simply, LSU uses the Option routes that the WCO has for the RBs, and the Run & Shoot used for the receivers. On an option route, the receiver looks at the leverage of the defender (inside him or out) and breaks his route based on that leverage, the other way. When run perfectly, with the QB and receivers on the same page, its pretty damned hard to stop.

The only way you can slow it down is confuse the QB with a look or zone blitzes that he hasn't seen, drop guys where he doesn't expect them, and get to him before he gets it out, or sufficiently confound the WRs on their pre-snap read as to make them break the wrong way. Tough to do with all 11 defenders, and even tougher when Burrow can make plays with his legs and has a Tom Brady-like ability to find an open guy and hit him in the numbers every time.

A lot of folks have made a big deal about how Auburn held LSU down. My recollection from that game was more that LSU couldn't get their shit together in the red zone. Kevin Steele was the most tenured defensive coordinator LSU played this year (even though Smart and Saban have tight reins on their own defenses) and he had a unique stacked linebacker scheme that LSU's front didn't adjust well enough to at times and didn't afford a good pre-snap read of who had who. Auburn's DL did give some problems and played well that day overall. LSU's defense actually saved them that day, stifling Auburn for much of the game. Burrow wasn't as on fire that day as some others, but they moved the ball all over Auburn between the 20s and I thought they should've won by 21. Saban and Smart both tried some similar schematic things and it didn't really stop LSU either.

The offense goes as Burrow goes, but they have good players everywhere. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is short but he's a tough runner, and a very good quick outlet when Burrow can't find anyone open. He's not as scary as Etienne, but he is a better receiver. You'll often find him sneaking out of the backfield on a shoot route or little option route, much like Ricky Watters once did for the 49ers back in their heyday. As I've said, Thaddeus Moss (son of Randy) is a threat over the middle that Clemson needs at TE again, it would be nice if Galloway showed out for us.

Their 3 primary receivers are good, and Jefferson is a slot threat that we seem to be lacking with Renfrow in the pros and Rodgers not producing. In the end, I think our two main guys are more talented, but they have to do more than they did against Ohio State (which I believe did have the best secondary we've played since the good FSU teams, 5-6 years ago).

Frankly I havent seen anyone do more than slow down LSU's offense and I don't expect us to do it either. They will score and I expect a shootout. The team that wins up front likely wins the game. That team will be able to stop the other just a couple more times and force one or two more FGs, maybe get one or two takeaways, and that will be it.

Joe Burrow has had one of the best years I can remember any QB having in terms of being able to always find and hit someone. There is a hair's breadth of difference in terms of ability between he and Lawrence, and both trust their receivers to make plays. The only thing that comes to mind to me is that TL doesn't take the checkdown enough, and likes to go for the bomb a little more than Burrow. Neither turned the ball over much down the stretch and both will have 300+ yards passing Monday night.

As for the defenses, LSU is much like us schematically in terms of fronts, twists and stunts, but there is one word I'd use to describe them overall this year: inconsistent. Its not as good as what they've fielded in the past under Aranda. They did have a rash of injuries at times this year that affected defensive production, but there were several games where I thought it was just abysmal against an opponent that had no business moving the ball on them. Things like poor angles/tackling, inconsistent coverage and poor play from the front killed them against Florida, Ole Piss, and even Vanderbilt. Alabama was too equal to make any kind of statement on, both teams were good that day, and the score is likely the same if we'd played them instead of LSU. As guys got healthy, they did improve.

It certainly looked better against aTm, but if you had watched the LSU/aTm game last year, you'd have known there was no way the Aggies were not getting blown out.

Georgia was typical Georgia, and Kirby handing James Coley that offense was like giving a 9 year old the keys to a Ferrari. They did well enough to hold LSU back but without any offensive production there was no way they were going to beat LSU. Hence, 37-10.

Of course Clemson hadn't faced a good offense this year until Ohio State. A&M might have been, but Kellen Mond never got his head right after coming to our house in September.

In terms of personnel I think we're pretty similar. LSU's 3 down linemen haven't done all that much and neither have ours. I think Tyler Davis will be a high draft pick one day, but not today. Xavier Thomas has yet to play at the level I thought he would. LSU has two rush linebackers that they like to send, Divinity (out for most of the year for injuries and then "personal (cough-cough weed cough-cough) reasons") and Chaisson. The rest are similar to our guys. In the back end, Stingley is a great cover corner and a 1st rd pick someday, better than Kendrick to my eye but not as experienced and as smart a player as AJ Terrell. Grant Delpit at Safety is capable of being great, but I think he hasn't performed to his potential at all this year. I expected him to be Thorpe Award worthy coming into the year, though he was one of those hurt earlier.

None of them are as talented as Isaiah Simmons, who I expect will line up everywhere on D, but then again not many are.

But you're only as good as your weakest link. Our weakness is in matchups in the slot and not getting enough push from the down 3 DL. Simmons can't cover everybody all the time. A guy like Mark Fields would be really useful this week. Its when we walk back Muse at Safety and stick Nolan Turner on a slot guy that I get worried. However, I don't think LSU is strong in the middle coverage at LB or the other safety spot opposite Delpit, and their DL is equally star-starved.

Both teams run similar offensive tempo, both defenses blitz about as often, neither has truly been tested on special teams because they never see the field. LSU is better at FG kicking though, when they've ever had to do it.

In the end, things are pretty equal overall, so its hard to pick a clear winner on measurables alone. I hope we match their intensity at the kick and don't take a quarter to figure out what to do like Ohio State. If Etienne gets going though, I think Clemson wins outright. I don't think LSU will be able to run CEH all night on us, and we'll make them more one-dimensional like we did Ohio State after the 1st Q. I believe we'll get one takeaway and force one or two more FGs than LSU will as a result.

Either way, this has been a great season. Time to just finish it.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The National Champions are coming to the Big Easy

Just wanted to jot down some thoughts in the aftermath of one of the best games of the college football season tonight in the Fiesta Bowl since I'll be traveling all day tomorrow. I predicted we'd win by 7, so I was a little off, but I never lost heart in the Tigers no matter how we struggled early. This team has the heart of a Champion and I'd pick us to win against LSU in a couple weeks.

First, neither team really deserved to lose that game. That was a damn fine football team we just beat. Ohio State came to play us, unlike the last time we smoked Urban Meyer's ass 31-0 in the playoffs, and they made us earn this victory. We made mistakes, they made mistakes, but both teams came ready to lay the wood and that is the kind of game that toughens up the victor to win it all. Clemson made the plays they needed to to win the game, and Ohio State just didn't make them.

Early on, our run fits just weren't great at all, and we were getting pushed around. Pad levels were high, guys inside were getting swallowed up, and some linebackers weren't in position or weren't using their eyes on their keys. I knew Skeletor would get that fixed, the question was how deep a hole we'd be in. Dobbins was not going to run all over this defense all night, and then we'd have to come back out of the hole we dug ourselves. Thankfully they couldn't convert the red zone opportunities we gave them and it was only 16-0.

Once I saw we were starting to fit the run, I had hoped we'd run it ourselves, but ScElliott never got it moving for ETN. I think some of it was playcalls, as we had some obvious run-formations against a loaded 8 or 9 man box that we should've checked out of at the line. Clemson's OL wasn't going to run the ball against that interior line. Young is legit good, but we did well enough against him, it was their interior that stuffed the running game and as usual, we don't try after a certain point. Thankfully they got my man the ball in space and he finished with nearly 100 yards receiving, including the final score.

The targeting call turned the game. I agree its a stupid rule, as anyone who follows me should know. But a direct helmet hit on the QB is going to get called if you lower your head, and he did lower his head. If his eyes were up, its a no call and maybe we lose the game. After that score I knew we were fine. Trevor got a huge run to make it 16-14 and they were reeling a little, we just needed to get the passing game going better.

I figured OSU would give us another shot once we went up 21-16 and we made the bust in the secondary to give it to them. We made them earn the drive but Day just caught us in the wrong call with no safety help in the middle, no way was Turner going to stop that pass if it was thrown accurately. Day caught Venables in the wrong call several times tonight, its a chess match and we pulled it out, but it easily could've flipped the other way. Ryan Day did an excellent job preparing his team.

After the big plays by Amari Rodgers and Etienne to score the final TD, i did not think OSU could move down the field the full length to score again, but we went with some soft coverage on Dobbins that i dont totally understand and they made some plays. Nolan Turner kept his eyes on the ball when the WR slipped and we sealed the deal to get another trip to the natty.

Some general thoughts I have were that our interior DL did not do a good job getting any pressure. Foster, Davis... those guys need to get off blocks better. It can't all be slants and stunts. Davis showed flashes, but Fields still had way too much time tonight. This is very important to get pressure on Burrow.

Venables took away Fields' first read, which I expected, and due to some injuries maybe he didn't have the ground game he usually had, so a great job there. It was the sometimes soft coverage that irked me most.

Clemson didn't run Etienne enough, but some of it really lies on calls and not our inability to block a good defensive front. LSU is not as good up front as Ohio St, but they don't suck either.

TL was a off on his accuracy, and we needed some other guys to step up when Higgins went out and Ross got banged up. Ngata, Ladson, Rodgers, Overton, we needed them to do more tonight. TL didn't get a ton of time to get the ball out but these guys were not getting open. Typically we'd murder someone who gave us basically straight C1/C2 M2M coverage. We'll need them to make plays in the next game.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Thoughts after the UNC Debacle

First, credit must be given to NC and Mack Brown, they outplayed us and deserved to win the game. Clemson never really matched their intensity overall. That is on Dabo himself for not having us up for the game, but NC deserved to win and we really didn't. Sam Howell is a good Qb and he'll take NC far over his career in Chapel Hill if Mack recruits some weapons for him.

But I also know the rosters and NC shouldn't have even made it close today. We played like shit and it showed in the scoreboard. Our coaches did not do a great job this week getting us ready.

Clemson's defense had another good day. Venables earned another raise for keeping it close while the offense figured out how to not shoot themselves in the foot.

AJ Terrell had one really bad play, he just got beat for the first TD. It happens. AJ is a good player. The D gave up a score on a short field after Etienne fumbled, and then one bad drive at the end of the game where they had to convert a couple 4th downs. Skeletor figured it out after the first quarter and held them down until the end. Thats good enough to win a game, but once again, our D should not be saving our ass every week with the talent that is on this offense.

Clemson's offense had an awful day. I'm putting this one on the staff overall.

Far too often, when I hear the offensive coaches talk in the post game I hear phrases like these:
"Well they were playing us tight at the line, so we couldnt do ____"
"Well they were doing bump & run so we couldn't _____"
"Well they were taking away the run so we didn't ______"

I don't buy us requiring to be a reactive offense in terms of playcalling.  We have NFL-caliber players at nearly every position, and yet we only do things based on their alignment? If a team plays 6 in the box, we refuse to run. If they play bump & run we refuse to challenge that. If they play 2-high, we can't attack the middle or the sidelines.

Bateman called C2 high all day, which says "we dare you to run, we don't think you can" and yet we DONT give the ball to Etienne? Are you shitting me? A Heisman caliber RB and we don't give him the ball because A&M has 6 in the box and NC plays 2-high all day? When your RB is averaging 5-6 a touch, and they show C2, what do you do? You give him the damn ball. Dabo said afterwards they were inviting us to run, but watching the game, I don't see where the runs were called. I dont know what ScElliott are looking at.

We can dictate how the defense plays us. We're that talented. If they give you 2-high, you attack the MOF coverage with a TE and you run the damn ball until they drop that safety down into the box, then you bust them with a 50 yard pass to Ngata once they start playing 1-high. We don't do that. We refuse to attack what they give us to make them play us the way we'd like. Instead, we throw a screen, which a monkey can read the way we run them, never hit a TE and don't even call the plays for Etienne to bust their ass. Once he busts one they will drop that safety and hit Higgins/Ross, or you keep calling the run and let Etienne destroy them. It appears to me that we see a certain coverage and ScElliott don't adjust to it, they don't know what to do and it shows.

Clemson's OL didn't match NC's intensity up front. We didn't care as much. The Tarholes stunted and stemmed all day, and far too often I see a guy coming up the A-gap and a Center letting him go and the RB overmatched. No adjustment was made.

False starts on 3rd & short are just inexcusable. This killed a drive or two. Don't tell me its too loud, its Kenan Stadium and its half orange. We just weren't interested in being there today. That one is definitely on the staff, its not a problem we've really had under Dabo.
Historically we've self-scouted in the bye week and figured out what was done, hopefull y theres no prob

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Post A&M Thoughts on Clemson

I figured I'd at least put some thoughts out there even if i don't write every week anymore, if people read it, then great, but I do like to write for myself.

When I saw the line on this A&M game was running at 18-19 this week, I told everyone to take the points because there was no way we'd cover that. After how well Mond played against us last year, and how I felt they played during the rest of their season, I could not see us really stifling him and his receivers with what we've lost from last year's excellent team, especially up front.

But today's performance surprised me, Mond played like trash. He couldn't hit open guys at all until the 4th Q when we had already started running some backups out and BV switched to more soft zone. I don't think it was all our guys causing it either, Mond just couldnt get it going early. Jimbo was typical Jimbo, and had us in the 1st Q, while they were running the ball very well... and then in Jimbo fashion, stops doing what works and kills their drive, then doesn't come back to it again later.

Clemson's defense went with a lot of 3-3-5 for the 2nd week in a row. For GT I felt it was odd, maybe he saw something he was trying to exploit, but now I see theres a reason and its because our DL isn't what it was the last several years. I believe Skeletor is going with another LB as opposed to the 4th lineman because he knows we don't have 4 DL guys that are ready for primetime right now. He wants the flexibility to use the 3rd backer to blitz from different gaps and angles because the front 4 right now cannot get pressure on the QB. BV has always been an 8-man front guy by design, and he's still doing that, but with different personnel because the typical personnel aren't ready. Its plainly apparent when you see us using 30-fronts and getting almost no pressure at all on the QB the last couple weeks unless we sneak someone in around the edge or in a gap blitz. Four guys are still coming, but one of them is a LB and not an End.

Right now, the DL is just not getting any consistent pass rush. I think this is something we're going to have to develop over the entire season, and the 30-fronts and 3-3-5 alignments are just something we're going to have to run out there until the down linemen can improve their pass rush technique and the ability to get off blocks. The linebackers are going to be getting the sacks this year if we ever get close to the TFL/Sack production of the last few seasons.

Otherwise I think the D proved that we don't have a ton to worry about from them this season. If we continue to tackle well and can generate some pass rush, we should be there at the end.

That Etienne never got going didn't shock me. Elko is a good DC, and apparently they keyed on him all week in practice, so much that they relaxed for Dixon and he hurt them whenever he was in the game instead. Clemson's OL blocked well for him last week, not so much this week. The interior has to get people off the ball and didnt.

A&M also got quite a bit of pressure on TL until we were able to push tempo and gas them a little. I wasn't impressed by the pass blocking last week and early today I don't think they did a good job giving Trevor any time. As usual, its the OL that gives me the most heartburn.

Trevor was a little off last week and not quite as sharp as he can play today but the offense will be fine so long as the OL plays well and improves. I think that after the Bye week we will start running people out of the stadium, as usually that has been when our offense really runs on all 12 cylinders and I don't think this year will be any different.

Syracuse's new QB doesn't play as gritty as Dungey and I doubt we'll be in danger of any loss this week, even if they are a scrappy team under Babers.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Best Day Ever

I meant to write this all out after rewatching the game a few times this weekend, but thanks to Charter I couldn't until today.

I bought tickets to Tampa back in the summer, knowing that we had the talent and the depth to get back. Along the way, I wavered a little in my belief that we would, especially after NC State and Pitt, but I knew Ohio State would be a favorable matchup for us, and I have felt all along that we were the only team with a QB good enough to beat Alabama straight up. Now that we have, its just such a great time to be a Tiger fan, its been a long road.

I was so giddy after we shut out Ohio State that I was 100% confident that we were going to Tampa last week to win a national title. I had my worries about what could go wrong, but never believed we would lose the game. A good QB can beat Alabama straight up, any others would depend on them making mistakes.

I drove the 10 hours from Huntsville to Tampa and met FF and another friend of ours and of course we stayed out drinking all night. After about 4 hours of sleep we got up and started to tailgate outside the stadium, pretty close to the huge Buccaneers flag (Clemson needs one, we should build a mountain and just put it on top, I dont care what it costs). Random Texas and Florida fans showed up with jager and mezcal, and we had a great time. After we finally got into the stadium - thanks CFP for having only a couple gates in/out - I saw it was about 60-65% Clemson. We were in the upper deck but they were good seats, hell any seat aside from the endzone is good enough, and the upper deck at Raymond James doesn't feel like a skyscraper like DV does.

The only real worry I had going into this game was whether the OL could give DW enough time to get rid of the ball. Bama can be exposed in M2M coverage but you have to have the time to do it. I knew Wayne wasnt going to get much. I wasn't terribly worried about turnovers or Special Teams. I knew we could get plenty of pressure on Hurts and make him throw to win. If we did that and they beat us, well then they deserve it.

In the beginning, we really didn't give DW that time. I thought the plan was a little conservative, as if we were feeling them out, at first. Wayne didnt have room but was effective early on, but they were so good at secondary support in the alley that nothing was going anywhere outside. Bama strangely seemed to be doing the same thing on defense. They were playing mostly Robber coverage in the 1st Q and into the 2nd, they always had a Robber (or spy) on DW. I think that Saban switched to C2 once he was confident that he was going to stop the run. He actually switched before we started having success throwing downfield.

At several moments I felt like we were a hairs breadth away from getting killed, not from DW or the skill guys playing bad, but moreso because the OL was so inconsistent inside and that would cause negative plays and mistakes made out of trying too hard. Alabama disguises so well, and some linemen just did not pick up the stunts and twists well. They just outblocked us on the first Counter Trey TD and the 2nd stretch play, but Hurts wasnt going to beat us unless we had a huge bust in coverage. Once we scored our first TD I knew we'd be fine.

In the stadium, they continually give you the game stats, and you can see the play count rising. I noticed at the end of the 1st half that we were way up on TOP and that we'd run north of 40 plays. It really didn't feel like it at all. We at times played bad enough inside that we could've been down by 2 scores but to hold it to 14-7 was key.

I did see on replay how much Desmond Howard was saying the plays were there downfield, yeah, DW didn't see a couple, but there weren't that many. Our guys got "NFL open", which is about 1 step. Thats not "college open". They were sticking with us as long as they needed to do so.

At about a minute into the 4th, I counted up the plays again and saw we were pushing 80. I leaned over to FF and pointed it out that if we have 80 now, thats basically a full game for the Alabama D. Most pro-style teams can't break 75 plays per game on average, and fewer still get over 50-60 against Alabama. Here we were with 80 already. 100 plays is like playing an extra Q. We can wear their asses out if we get a first down and push the tempo to full speed.

And that is exactly what ScElliott did. Alabama was having issues in matching patterns with criss-crossing receivers the further along we got. The DBs weren't switching off the coverage as they're supposed to do in pattern match. When we got man coverage it really messed them up. The more tired they got, the less penetration we saw from the DL, and the DBs were going the wrong way and running into each other. Alabama was keeping a safety over MW at all times, even with short routes they would always have one defender with outside leverage and another with inside. Renfrow usually sits in the 5 position in the slot, inside of MW many times. They were so worried about Mike that Renfrow had no one on his inside and the outside guy was trying to watch MW while playing Hunter.

When we had the first go ahead score the crowd went bonkers and I didn't think the D would give them anything. It was loud even in the upper deck. But they made some plays, especially the WR Pass downfield, and we quieted down when Hurts went into the endzone to make it 31-28. I saw they had left us too much time though. I knew we were going to win.

The last drive was just a thing of beauty. Their DL was worn out, and the defensive backs had hands on hips too. DW just cut them up. He's the coolest under pressure college QB ever.

When he hit Renfrow I started crying, a national title is all I ever wanted for Clemson. I cry when I watch the replay of it, hell I could cry just thinking about it. I probably would've cried harder if FF wasnt jumping all over me and about to knock me down. A lot of folks around us were crying too.

We watched replays all night afterward and I drove back the 10 hours fueled only on caffeine and chocolate. I've watched the replays all week long and will continue to watch them until September.

Reaction from Bammers here in Huntsville has been muted, to say the least, but they have generally been very complimentary of how we played. A lot of excuse making on sports talk radio, but they are breaking things down just as we would and realize that DW is exceptional. Finebaum is another story altogether and attracts a different crowd. Auburn fans have thanked me every day. I'm wearing orange every damn day until I run out. I'm buying every piece of 2016 title memorabilia I can get my hands on. I don't care what it costs.

FF and I grew up when Clemson was good, and Max Lennon taking it away really crushed me personally. I know I'm not the only one that feels cheated. If we had gotten beaten down it would've been different, but our own people took greatness away from us, and we had to spend 20 years in the wilderness, and wait on some people to retire or die, before Dabo got everyone on the same page again. He and the players deserve all the credit for where we are now. If we were running STS still today, I'd quit. To get here is all I ever wanted. I don't care if we go 7-5 next year. I'm sure we'll be here as long as Dabo stays at Clemson, which I believe will be forever now.

But we started this all as a place to vent, and no one else was really talking about football without being shouted down as a coot. Far too many Clemson fans were happy with 8-4 seasons. They thought we'd never have the money or be able to recruit at this level consistently. They didn't want to spend anything on facilities because they were not convinced that having nice things really improved anything else. We however, had seen us when we were up there with the best, and can't stand not being the best, and wrote about it. I went to LSU and saw all the things Saban had done and saw no reason why Clemson couldn't have upgrades to the Stadium, an IPF, the huge support staff, or anything else. I didn't see any beat writers harping on any of it. They just fed their readers whatever Clemson fed them. I bet not many people will admit that they were wrong about spending the money that we've spent over the last decade. Hell, Dabs had to take some of his own salary and pay extra staff -- basically taking the Sikes/McFadden Hall along kicking and screaming until they've now created those positions permanently.

It took the 6-7 season to get enough people riled up and spamming BOT members for real momentum to get started. It turns out that terrible year was the kickstarter to where we are today. Do I take back anything I said? Nope. I stand behind every opinion I have ever written as being what the facts, and especially the film, led me to at the time. I was wrong about his potential as a coach but he has grown into a great one. I treated several hires with healthy skepticism but they have proven me wrong. That is all I ever wanted them to do. You folks who want to look back at something we wrote 7 years ago and saying that I pull for us to fail can go right ahead and do whatever makes you feel better. I'm incapable of pulling against Clemson in anything.

But we've said all along that if he wins one national title, he gets carte blanche. He can do whatever he likes now. Pay him and his assistants whatever he wants. If he wants a swimming pool shaped like a tiger paw and it be half the size of Lake Hartwell and costs $2billion, then give it to him.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is this the team that can do it?

I really think it might be the one.

This 2015 Clemson team has its problems, which I'll get to, but I just wanted to state that I believe this team is different. I feel something special about the team. They are playing above their experience level should suggest. I really felt 2016 was a year to make a run. The defense has stepped up in a way no one expected them to play after what we lost. I was thinking we'd finish around Top 25-30, but we may finish out in the Top 10. I really believe that this team won't lose before the playoffs. Theres something here that you don't see on film or on paper.

I waited until after we played NC State for the simple reason that we rarely play great in Raleigh. If it was a night game it could've been worse today. I knew we'd have a fight on our hands and we'd learn something, even though I felt the wolfies would have no shot beating us if you'd watched them this year. They brought an intensity today we looked surprised by and some of our guys couldn't match it that well. We needed to win a game like this because it'll shake up the team a little so they take lesser opponents seriously, but also to show them where they still need to work on things.

Because Special Teams is definitely what we need to get fixed. Several coaches do coach up guys during the ST periods in practice. Venables and Hobby oversee our atrocious Kickoff unit, while Pearman is basically the ST coordinator. We kicked deep, got whipped because we couldn't stay in our lanes and get of blocks, and then we kicked short and the same thing happened. Our kicks got blocked, partly because they were a little low, but also because we got blown backwards by NCSU. Our punt teams have been mediocre at best for years along with the KO teams.

And theres really no excuse for a team with as many gamebreaking weapons on offense to return a kick/punt as poorly as we typically do.

I was never a big Andre Powell fan, and we called for his (and others) firing when it happened, but he coached our STs up way way better than Pearman has.

Clemson will not win a national title with ST play like what we saw tonight. We let them flip the momentum and kept them in the game with the terrible coverage. Try it against a team with greater athletes on the offensive side and you'll give up serious field position in a close game and lose. I was worried about the kicking game back in Spring, and Teasdall and Heugel have done a good job themselves, but the other guys are screwing up too often.

A problem today was that our DL didn't play well and NC State blocked the hell out of them all day long. That is the only reason NC State really hung with us. FSU can block us as well, but I'm not sure they will, and other than them I don't see this as a big issue to worry about.  They're good enough, they'll be fine.

NC State tried something new in that their patterns were set up to take the checkdowns quickly, and they kind of exposed something I was worrying about. Our LBs are the glue of this defense, and we have no depth there. Have you checked the participation charts? I like O'Daniel but I'm not convinced he's ready for primetime. Lose either Boulware or Goodson and you'll see a big dropoff. State made them move laterally quite a bit, attacking the H/C and Flat zones in coverage, and busted us on it. Other teams will try the same.  They can't beat Mac, and Kearse is fantastic, but beating Blanks/Baker and the LBs in the middle zones is very possible.

Something else that concerns me going forward is the TE play, specifically their blocking. Leggett is taking fewer plays off, that is true, but watch him when the ball is definitely not coming to him, and watch his effort blocking. I'm happier with the WR blocking than him (especially Renfrow, who busts his ass). We have to have TEs that block. This offense won't work without that. Seckinger can't do it. Williams can block but doesn't know enough yet. Richard has disappointed me because I felt he'd be better, and I don't think Jay Jay will ever do much here. Leggett has so much talent and fluidity in his routes, he could be a 2nd/3rd rounder, but he won't until he starts busting his ass every play. I wish he'd realize that. If you gave Leggett the heart of Ben Boulware, he's a 1st round TE.

Clemson's OL is probably the best unit we've put out there since 2006, which is a huge surprise given we lost a guy who could've been a 1st rd LT (if he could go to class, or stop smoking weed) and replaced him with a true freshman. Losing Norton was a benefit because it made them finally start Guillermo and he's the best run blocking center we've had in 10 years. Hyatt really is as good as he looked when he committed, and hasn't put on Batson-weight, which I remind you we brought up when he committed. He and MacLain have played really well, Crowder has played well, and Gore/Fruhmorgen both raised their play. In short, this group is playing above what we felt their level was going to be, and I'm happy as hell about it. I've been bitching about our sorry OL for most of the last 20 years, and finally we get another good group.

But if we can slow down Dalvin Cook next week and beat FSU, you better plan on taking extra vacation in January. I am.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The new season begins

I watched the Wofford game this past weekend and came away fairly impressed with the overall effort and ability level of some new guys to the starting groups, but its important to keep it in perspective too. Its Wofford, and we won't learn much more from playing App State this weekend either. After Louisville I might get my hopes up for more than 9-3, but I worry about the depth.

When I saw this team in Spring I figured, "This looks like a 7-5 team without Watson, there is just not enough depth for a full season to go upwards." I haven't changed my mind on that one. If we have to start Schuess, it'll be ugly. We don't have the depth on Defense to pull the offense out of a big mess like last season.

Watson looked good but a little off on his throws. Too many behind the receivers, or not thrown to proper spots. Its probably just rust but worth watching. Schuess looked good enough only because he was playing Wofford. I would only play Bryant because of Schuess's lack of ability to execute this system, and I think thats what you are seeing Dabo do. He knows if Watson gets hurt we're screwed and he better give KB playing time so he can learn something to help us if that happens. If we had a capable backup I think they'd RS Bryant, because he does need it.

I was pleasantly surprised with the effort and blocking ability of the starting 5 guys. Some issues remain, such as Norton getting blown up a couple times by a 1-AA level 0-technique, but Hyatt looked great after replacing Battle, who got himself kicked off the team for his 3rd strike with weed and skipping classes and 'voluntary' workouts. They said he wanted to go pro, and hid it all, but we know whats up.

Scott Pagano got most of my attention when the defense was on the field. He should blow up Wofford's front, and he did. If he keeps his pads down he can get even better. If Wilkins is really that close to Pagano he'll be great in a year or two as well. Maybe McGlockton-level.

But honestly Wofford didn't challenge us at all in the back end, so you can't say anything about the back 7. Venables stayed vanilla and didn't show anything. We blew up the Dive, and that kills any option team, thats it.

Punt team, not so good. Not enough blocking, not enough awareness. Too many Wofford jerseys getting down there too soon. I could only recall one kick that should've been fielded. The rest should've just been allowed to roll. I'm still very worried about our special teams situation.

Some have asked what we are doing this year, and the answer is we're not doing anything more than last year for now. We met some guys this offseason about a new website, or even guest-writing for another, and we just don't have the drive right now. We don't feel like getting into it unless the right opportunity comes up. Theres too much work and time invested for too little return, and we are already quite occupied with our normal day jobs. So while you shouldn't be shocked to see a guest appearance somewhere, or an article here or maybe another site if the offer is right, its unlikely we'll be as involved with Clemson for the time being. I have backed away considerably from Twitter and other sites over the last few months, but I'll be around for football and baseball season if my interest rises.