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.