Tuesday, September 30, 2014

UNC: The score doesn't tell the whole story.

I was at a bar full of FSU fans Saturday evening, 3 of whom I shot a bird towards, and missed the start of the Clemson-UNC game. Apparently I missed the best parts. However i did get to rewatch it Sunday, and it actually looked worse the second time.

I am happy with D. Watson breaking records, his touch is great, his poise is great, and he's on a Heisman trajectory if we can ever put it together as a team during his 3 years here. He wasn't perfect this weekend by a long shot, 3-5 balls were thrown that shouldn't have been thrown. NC just wasn't good enough to take advantage of them all. Unfortunately since Chad is not committed to building a running game, he's going to have to bulk up and become our RB too.

It must be stated however that UNC has the worst safeties we've faced this year. I mean those guys were completely lost. I was watching the tape and constantly asked myself, "what the hell was that guy watching?". We had guys open by 10 yards multiple times. I thought it was a Big XII defense i was watching. UNC doesn't have the talent they had under Butch Davis anymore, and it shows. VK is a good DB coach but he has not done a good job there and I don't think he has anything to work with either.

Defense played well, for one half. Thats all. In the 2nd half it was a mental letdown. We were not aggressive any longer. We were flat footed on jailbreaks too often, because guys were simply not reading their key. Our LBs in particular seemed to hesitate. UNC made that a 2 score game and threatened to make it one score under 5 minutes to go.

OL - terrible as I've come to expect. No one is pushing the starters, they are all so equally bad that its just a mishmash on any play. Who sucks the most on any play? Just pick a number, you'll be right soon enough. Kalon Davis playing RT is a travesty. 

I just have some questions for Dabs and Chad.

1. Did a rock fall on your head before you decided to take Watson out and put in Cole Stoudt in the 1st half? Did Joey B ring the bell too loud this week and fuck up your senses? Maybe he hit you with the chains on the weights? You don't take out the QB who is in a rhythm after just hitting a bomb to GHop, and you don't do it again with 5 minutes left in what had become a 2 score game.

Look I'm all for Stoudt getting a chance to play, but if you leave Watson in earlier it may have been a 3 score game with 5 minutes to play and I'd have no problem putting him in, but it made sense in neither case. I can't believe Chad decided on this himself.

2. Bench every TE on the damn roster. Put another lineman in to block, hell they need the work too. That display of blocking was atrocious. You pull a guy, he stands up to block, plays pattycake with the LB, and he gets planted on his ass and the RB gets nailed for a loss.  Suckinger wouldn't play again for me this season. Leggett would sit the bench for a month until he decides to get serious about blocking. A TE who can't block is a liability in this offense, put him at WR if you want him out there.

3. I like Adam Humphries, he plays hard, but he can't play over guys like Kitt or Scott or GHop. He is good at two things: blocking and calling fair catches. He's not going to outrun anybody. He's not getting himself open. He can't return a punt. Watch the defense when he runs across in motion, they do not respect him. Otherwise he's a decoy on the field.

4. Get DJ Howard off the damn field. 13 carries for him? Did I read that correctly? Howard is not conducive to having a strong run game. Gallman or Choice are. If Choice was banged up with a thigh bruise, Gallman should've been playing. Put the extra OL in there to block and let Gallman run.

Since I'll be in Braselton for the race this weekend, I'll get a chance to hear the wonderful "Coach" Don Munson call a game live, I'm sure I'll be twice as pissed at him afterwards.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Clemson gives away the game in Tallahassee


I'm just heartbroken that we could play a game so well against the #1-ranked team on the road, and somehow lose the game. Theres a few losses in our history that really bothered me, the 1988 one, the 1999 one, the loss down there 3 years ago, and this one. 3 years ago we basically outplayed them just the same, but couldn't score in the red zone and couldn't make the kicks. This time we outplayed them for all but one defensive drive in the 3rd quarter, and still gave it away.

FSU tried their very best to gift-wrap the game and hand it to Clemson, but its about Clemson, just as Dabo said pre-game, and Clemson failed to TAKE it.

Defense played their asses off. One weak drive, and basically one slip up by Mac Alexander, who himself played a hell of a game. DL whipped their asses up and down the field. Cameron Erving had his pants pulled down by Vic Beasley. Their Center couldn't recognize the front and it got him whipped a few times.

Just about the only thing I could complain about as far as the coaching went was that we continually allowed the best TE in the country, O'Leary, to get a free release even with a DE lined up on him in a 7-8-9 tech. MacGuire couldn't find anyone else when he needed a catch made.

D. Watson, I didn't think he was ready pre-game from a playbook standpoint. When he took the team that first drive I knew I was wrong. I don't care how many mistakes he makes this year, leave him in there. Play Cole, because he deserves to play, but Watson better start from here on out. Anything else would show me how stupid Dabo remains.

I just don't understand why Chad Morris says he couldn't get under center. He's a QB, and he hasn't put his hands under a center's ass before? I know Gainesville runs 100% Shotgun, but Jesus man. We line up under center down there and we score. I still believe we did score, but the ACC refs didn't think to review that one? If our coaches had a TV in the box, they should've called down to Dabs and had him challenge.

Now if Pearman can't coach, and I can see he can't improve Special Teams at all, then he can at least watch a TV to see if a call should get challenged. What other good is the man doing? We can't do more than fair-catch a punt, we can't hit a FG, we can't cover or return kicks, he can't recruit worth a damn, so what else is he here for? He has yet to approach Jack Hines-level of shittyness, but he's getting there.

I just don't want people blaming the whole loss on Lakip. Kickers are all mental cases, leave him alone. He needs practice yes, and absolutely should've made the first one, which I won't excuse at all, but the offense needed to get a damn yard. One fuckin yard inside the redzone wouldv'e won it. They had chances. Our OL can't push SC State off the ball, and they didn't do any better getting FSU off the line. If we had a good OL we win the game outright.

However, I give Spence a shot at kicker this week and forwards. I give Pinion another shot at placekicking as well. We have to fix it ASAP. If another guy can do it, gotta hold open tryouts to find him. I can tolerate missing over 40, but under 40 you need to be able to hit 95% of them.

And second, Ryan Norton needs to be on the bench. Guillermo is a better player. He needs to be starting this week if he's healthy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pre FSU thoughts

Been seeing a lot of noise about Famous Jameis and his innate ability to insert his foot in his own mouth. I would just say that I could not care less what he says at any time, much less this week. I pay no attention to anything the opponents say before the game. I will say that the kid is either just plain stupid or has no self-awareness at all. Some guys only have football brains, they can't add 2+2 otherwise.

I like Jimbo Fisher as a coach, but I have my criticisms of the man. The way he and FSU have handled Winston have disturbed me a little. I'd put a muzzle on him. I don't have a problem with what he said to the Student Union, I've said worse and most of you did too in college, but he needs to know you can't act like a normal 20 yr old when the media is going to be all over every damn thing you do. Just stop talking. Stop tweeting.

Certainly it improves our chances of winning down there, but I can't realistically pick us to win. I see the talent and depth on their roster, and I don't think losing him for a half will make the difference. I hope I'm wrong but I don't see it.

I do see Clemson's problems: our OL is terrible and we have a QB issue.

If you can't block FSU's front, it won't matter who plays QB for us. Once again, for the what, 7th year straight now?, our OL stinks. SC State exposed further protection problems that FSU will exploit all night.  Our run blocking is no better than it ever has been.

Someone asked me the other day what the OL's problems are and why we can't fix them. They wanted me to lay it on Caldwell, but I'm not. Its still a combination of things, but moreso Batson than the others. If your starting OL still can't move SC State off the ball for 5 ypc, you aren't strong enough. Not seeing any improvement in functional strength. Ring the bell Joey.

I saw one really good toss play for a TD, where we blew SC State 5 yards into the endzone. Thats the kind of thing we should be doing to them on every play.

Picking up blitzes IS Caldwell however. Pass pickup technique is his problem. A 3 man rush from SC State should not even get a sniff of Cole or DeShaun.

The man starting at Center is another problem. Norton is quickly losing me. I would not have him start if Guillermo can gunsnap the ball consistently, and I haven't seen anything that makes me think he cant.

Not impressed with any TE in blocking. Suckinger had a year to bulk up and still couldn't put a hit on someone if his life depended on it. Leggett looks like he hasn't worked on it at all. McCullough is adequate and I hope he can do something in the passing game. A TE who can't block is a WR, and none of this bunch would play over our WRs.

D.J. Howard should never play aside from definite passing (or max protect) situations where his blocking is required. Only Gallman and Choice should get touches, and Gallman the most right now. FSU yards will be tough yards, if we get none, we lose.

Finally, the QB situation. I went to Clemson during the "We want Willie over Woody" days. I've rarely been a fan of the backup more than the starter since then, because guys start for good reasons that most fans don't see. Watson has been given a limited portion of the playbook, Cole can run it all. Cole can execute our offense to a higher level than Watson as of today. Watson would be able to improvise with his legs better and possibly make a big play. I can see like anyone else that Watson is the better player. He really is, the arm is better, the speed is better. I also want him starting within the next couple weeks. Do you throw him out for FSU? That is the real question.

On this one I'd side with Dabo. Watson might actually give us the better chance of winning with his improv skills, but otherwise I don't think so today. You need the whole playbook to win this one. If you damage Watson's psyche now, you can ruin his season and you might cause Cole to lose confidence as well. Cole was already pressing a little against SC State. He's going to throw some picks this weekend, as would Watson if he started. I'd base my decision going forward on the post-FSU play of the QBs, and I do expect Watson will win the job, just not this week.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Two Weeks Into the 2014 Football Season

Like DrB, I am enjoying my free time and just want a spot to land thoughts as this football season progresses.  This seems an adequate location.  As such, I don't know how often this will be updated or if it'll deviate from random musings about the Clemson Football program.

Two games in so I have a few basic thoughts I want to capture before Clemson gets into the bye week then heads down to Florida State.  These items reflect both the Georgia / SC State games this season and look back at trends carried over from years’ past.

Yes,I am still overall pleased with Morris’ work he is a damn good coach and responsible for a lot of Clemson wins.  However, in big games (particularly during the regular season), Chad Morris and the offensive staff tend to “manage” games the football games instead of calling them. Clemson’s offense operates best under loose, rapid-fire conditions.  In years’ past against SCar and again last weekend at Georgia in the second half Clemson slowed down.  Last week they got flat out conservative.  The combination resulted in the second-half offensive bog.  Of course, Morris was not helped by the offensive line, critical dropped passes, and the decision to play veteran backs but we'll look at those items in a bit.

Over the years I’ve openly criticized the decision to slow the pace down, highlighted with the expletive exasperation following the “check with me” strategy against the Gamecocks a couple years ago (yes, I still believe that Clemson could have worn down that SCar defensive line had the Tigers increased pace of play).  Without delving too far into the Clemson offensive strategy, I’ll say that The Chad (and the rest of the staff) has to commit to playing rapidly and Morris must get back to his core philosophy revolving around taking shots down the field on a routing basis.  It is one thing to do it against SC State, quite another against better teams we’ll play this season.

We saw complete crap from all five offensive line spots yesterday.  Right now, this offensive line is absolute shit a mess.  From memory, the worst from State included Ryan Norton getting bulldozed, Eric Mac Lain being slower than shit causing him to be way out of position (then deciding just to dive into the turf way, way behind the play), and Kalon Davis completely whiffing in several pass protection situations.  Pass blocking was very poor overall and, again, we got no push when keeping it on the ground.  Basically, a Division 1-AA school beat our ass at the point of attack.  There is absolutely no excuse for this.  Shitty pass blocking from guys I didn’t expect too much from is unacceptable but not inexplicable.  Our center getting his ass whipped / steamrolled against the defensive line we faced yesterday is flat out embarrassing.  Clearly there are deficiencies up front—a big deficiency being depth.  Swinney and crew cannot piss away scholarships yearly while this issue year over year remains a program eyesore.  If we ever want to get serious about smashing the ball A-gap to A-gap (as I believe Morris would like), this has to be fixed.  The "Mountaineer" Jet Sweep (pass) will only work so often when you have a defensive line faster and more talented than State.

Overall, Cole played fine both weeks despite some mistakes against Georgia and Watson played well in both games.  I am more comfortable with Cole for the duration of a football game and believe he can lead this offense using the all of the items in the playbook.  I'll admit I was disappointed in Cole trying to force another one near the goalline yesterday in addition to throwing across his body at Georgia in a similar down/distance.  I can't think of an opportune time for most any quarterback to throw across his body, particularly with that much traffic.  You must protect the football in those situations because, duh, they are your best opportunities to score.  As mentioned earlier, Watson looked talented and advertised.  He is impressive slipping out of trouble / running the football and has been more impressive with several downfield passes.  Again, I expect his role to be limited, at least through the end of this month.

Many are calling for an immediate depth chart change at the quarterback position.  Deshaun Watson is slippery elusive and throws the ball very, very well.  He is the most talented incoming QB in my memory and looks very developed for a true freshman.  He’s looked very good so far in his limited role.  That role will remain limited in the near future as the staff will keep the training wheels on him (no matter what they say to the media).  You’ll see him in a couple near-scripted drives at FSU and probably the same against Louisville.  I agree with the staff here…in order to play at the pace we want/need to play, I believe the more experienced—and very capable—Stoudt is the horse to ride into Tallahassee.  The win/loss results through the end of September should dictate how snaps are divvied up.  Obviously, if we cannot win the division, Watson as many meaningful reps as reasonably possible...he is without a doubt the future of this program.

The decision should already be made for other Clemson backfield spots.  The production out of the veteran runningbacks was poor at Georgia and younger backs have to be featured.  Sure, we’ll have passing game issues because of this (you simply cannot expect a newcomer to come in and block well—either at the collegiate or professional level) but Clemson cannot win big running the football with the personnel featured in Week 1.  The staff realizes this, hence Gallman and Choice being featured against State.  Unfortunately, they'll likely have to carry the load without significant push up front.

I am not exactly sure where I stand with the receivers yet.  We have a talented yet thin group and I am trying to stay optimistic.  With the departure of Priester, we can ill-afford any injuries or suspensions.  I am happy Peake was able to return, though it is a shame he was hurt a year ago--especially considering Clemson's track record of rehabilitation.  I am still pimping Mike Williams even though his drops early against UGa were momentum killers.  You know exactly what you are getting with Adam Humphries (I’ve spent the past three years praising his effort, so won’t rehash that here).  Scott provides instant impact as the freshman was productive in the opener and set records against State.  I look to see how Kitt progresses.  With the aforementioned depth issues, we’ll need a lot of quality snaps out of the freshmen.

Tight end play has been a disappointment.  I figured I’d see the TE targeted more in Athens but this group was essentially a non-factor.  Their blocking has been a liability to date and I haven't noticed any improvement over last season.  There is absolutely no sense in lining up Seckinger anywhere near the interior linemen if you expect to run to his side and I wouldn’t want him helping in max-protect situations if I were Cole.

The short yardage quandary is an offshoot of our line issues / question marks in the backfield.  We have been piss-poor in this area using conventional running backs for years and I don’t see improvement in ’14.  The last couple years featured a single wing power play with Tajh doing the grunt work.  While this was successful, Cole…well…likely can’t generate the momentum Boyd did in his wrecking ball role.  I’ll be interested to see how Clemson tries to get tough yards and, eventually, if the staff can find a way to consistently move the chains and convert goalline situations (without killing the quarterback).

This defense is good…possibly the best we’ve had at Clemson in a long, long time.  I will admit they seemed lackluster and unfocussed as the Georgia game progressed but think that is more of the exception than the rule.  Also, they won't see a back like Gurley again this season.  Everyone said it all offseason and hopefully these guys will fully understand that this offense simply doesn’t have the fire power it had a year ago and is bad/average up-front.  Accordingly, the defense will be asked to do more and more this year to win games.  They rose up and did this on several occasions last season and I am confident that it’ll happen again this year.

The senior-laden front seven is the best we’ve had in recent memory especially when at full strength.  There is little else to say about them other than enjoy this season because there has to be a dropoff next season.  I probably should be a little more concerned about the corners than I am but the strong front seven clearly helps this group.  Outside of Jenkins and Peters, I'll point to the extremely youth which will result in spectator frustration at some point in the year.  The clear talent headliner is Alexander and I suppose I am not the only one eager to see him go through a full year.  My biggest overall concern for this defense is the safeties (not a surprise following last season).  I am still not pleased with all the angles that are taken.  Poor angles result in players being out of position which leads to arm tackles which leads to broken tackles which leads to big yardage for the opponents.  We saw Robert Smith woefully guilty of this yesterday.  I'll be interested to see how better passing teams attack the seam.  If I were the opposition, I'd make Clemson prove they can contain the middle of the field.

Special Teams suck.  This specifically applies to the punt return team and kick coverage teams.  Neither is something new.  Clemson gave up trying to return punts for positive yardage against Georgia last season.  This unit repeatedly fucked up against Carolina at the end of the year, handing them the football in opportune locations.  I get it, you put AH back to assure that a fair catch is made (so make sure we can at least do that).  I think most Clemson fans are interested in seeing if we can get any return on an opponent’s punt.

A kick returned Week 1 was the catalyst for Georgia’s turnaround.  Clemson couldn’t manage the simple task of running lanes and paid dearly for it.  Anytime there is that shitty of an effort to fill lanes you are going to give up a touchdown, it was that pathetic.  

In addition to 7 points, how did that effect the overall game?   I'll argue that Mike Bobo is a very incompetent bad offensive coordinator and could see him leading Georgia down the path of complete implosion (yes, this is the same yahoo who refused to run the nation's best back the whole 1st half).  I am not arguing the result of the game or the dominance of Gurley.  I am saying that the kickoff return moved the momentum / took pressure off of Bobo and the piss-poor execution of Clemson's kick coverage team was unacceptable.

We’ve said it time and time again, we don’t really know what Danny Pearman brings to this football program.  Clemson has repeated special teams follies that completely changed games.  He was brought in originally to help an inept Brad Scott.  Now he’s an average TE coach, below average special teams coach, and ineffective recruiter.  I want to like Pearman but cannot tell you I like him eating up a staff spot.  Swinney clearly wants him around this program so all may be happy to put DP in an administrative role.

The final item I took from the weekend was the Clemson Radio Network's coverage of the football game.  I did not listen to the whole broadcast.  The piece I heard was absolutely awful.  "Coach" Don Munson was extremely dry honestly tough to listen to.  There were long breaks where you could almost hear Rodney thinking, "What the hell is this guy talking about?"  I won't say that I was the biggest fan of Pete (it will always be tough in my mind to replace Jim Phillips) but I'll say that he was much, much better than "Coach."  How anyone in the AD can think otherwise is unfathomable.  I know Munson is Dabo's boy and all and I know there is no real reason to employ him in the AD now, but for goodness sakes don't make the whole fanbase suffer by putting him on the radio.  At the very least, have some respect for Rodney Williams and get him a real counterpart for these broadcasts.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Georgia: A Tale of Two Halves

Frankly I haven't decided to work up another site, and am enjoying the time off, but I wanted to put down my thoughts of the game somewhere. Here is as good as any. Clemson played UGA this weekend, losing by 20+ points, because they weren't physical enough at the POA. Plain and simple. You get beat up front, you lose. Theres a bit more to it than physical strength though.
-Clemson TEs caught 2 balls. Leggett got none. That one is on Chad.
-Clemson's defense could not set the edge. You won't win often if you cant.
-Clemson couldn't tackle Gurley, or anyone else, after the first series. We didn't in the 1st half, and for some reason Bobo/Richt didn't beat us to death with him. 5 touches. At halftime I told FF that if they give Gurley the ball 15 times in the 2nd half, they'd beat our ass.

He got it 7 times for 150 Yards. If I had a Gurley he'd get the ball 25 times in a game, minimum. If UGA does that they'll win the East going away.

-Our backside LB frequently overran and opened the cutback lane.
-Our OL is no better than it ever has been. Gore was whipped off the edge because he would not move his feet and lunged. It wasn't Gifford Timothy bad, but he has to move them better.
-Reid Webster playing? Are you kidding? Webster is a situational backup. All I heard about was Crowder, play him.
-Our pass pressure pickup problems were the Center's fault primarily. He was not id'ing the MLB properly. Anytime they get 2 sacks up the A-gap, you have a big problem.
-Stoudt is not a bad QB, he's just average. He's about the same as Cullen Harper in terms of ability. His OL didn't do a good job and his WRs didn't help him. I was impressed by Watson, sure, but Stoudt deserves the shot and the loss was not entirely on him. He got rattled in the 2nd half, that much is on him, not much more.
-Defense can't tackle. Last year's team tackled much better. If I can count missed tackles in the first half on more than one hand, you aren't a good tackling team. You do not get to call yourself a good defense if you can't tackle.
-Special Teams coverage teams all fucking suck. Fire Pearman.
-Pinion's leg and Bobo's lack of a brain kept us from losing by 40.

I've been critical of The Chad many times in the past, because he frequently gives up on the running game when it works, despite saying, almost weekly, that we want to be a physical running team. At this point I'm convinced that is just horseshit. He has no intention of being a physical running team, and he doesn't want to run the ball well. If he did, he wouldn't ever let DJ Howard touch a football, and Wayne Gallman wouldn't touch it just once in an entire game. Chad's playcalling in the 2nd half was Spence-esque. You have Peake matched on a LB in any Trips set, and you don't chuck it? You can go max protect Chad. Its in your book. Go max and run 4 verts, anything to get a spark. Field position be damned. Your QB is seeing the rush, getting rattled, and you won't take a shot just because you started inside the 30? ITS THE OFFENSE, RUN THE OFFENSE. If you won't give it to the good RB, and won't take your shot once per drive (hell once every other drive would've been enough), then what do you have? You didn't even target Jordan Leggett all night, and he's all I heard about for a month. He couldn't beat a LB one on one?

BTW, Peake is not 100%. Clemson medical staff bullshit us again. He's more like 75%. He won't take the top off a defense, leaving us with no one who can. Williams is not that fast. Scott is not that fast. Peake can still whip a linebacker 1 on 1 though, and if I'd been calling plays I'd have busted Georgia's ass with it all night.

DJ Howard does block pretty well though, I will give him that much. That is why he plays. He kept Stoudt from having his head ripped off a few times. In my mind, Howard is Bowden-circa-2004 talent, and shouldn't be on the field aside from a max protect passing situation. You have to give the ball to the youngsters and let them screw up the blocks because Howard is not going to scare anyone in any running situation. I'd hand the rock to Gallman and Davidson and Choice next week and Howard would not touch the football again this season.

What was up with the pass rush? Well a couple things. They handled Lawson and Beasley one on one well. We didn't get it done. Clemson DEs got reached all night. All night. Vic was handled the same way FSU did. They put a TE outside him often. The TE blocks back, and he gets nowhere. That happens when you are 240lb against a 240lb TE + a 300 lb OT. We also had him in a H5 technique, which boggles my mind. Why do you have him almost head up on a OT who has 40-50 lbs on him? Vic lives on the speed rush, and if he can't get outside leverage, he ain't gonna do shit. He should be playing a 6 or 7 technique against a OT who knows how to play.

UGA ran the toss sweep at the tune of 12 per carry to the right side, right where Corey Crawford normally plays. He decided to get smoked up with the other guys this offseason, got suspended, and hurt his team in the process. Crawford is instrumental in setting the edge. Barnes is good enough as a backup, 300 snap guy, but went down, but he's not as good at setting it as Crawford. Lawson can't do it as well as either of them. We didn't get the edge all night, and especially on the right. If you can't disrupt the edge then you get your ass kicked on the sweep outside, which we did. LBs overran a few times, leading to some TDs, but the edge being set is key there, and if someone had set the edge and refused to be moved, you'd have seen Anthony/Steward making some plays. And on one play, which I think is on Venables, BJ Goodson was actually lined inside the TE with NO ONE outside him. That should never happen. You gave them leverage from the start.

My thought from the Spring game was that this was a worst-case 7-5, best case 9-3 team based on what I saw that day. I thought last week that it would be a 9-3 season. I still think we're 8-4/9-3. I'd start Stoudt next week, give Gallman the ball 10 times minimum, and Choice another 10. I'd then give D. Watson the whole 2nd half.