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Forecast: 20% chance of T-storms
Randy Shannon came into this season on the hot seat after back-to-back subpar seasons, and facing an incredibly difficult schedule in my opinion. In the preseason I figured that if they went 2-2 then they'd be set up for a good season and possibly able to win the Coastal, but I never expected Jacory Harris to light it up like he did.
"He's pretty talented, and he's a pretty cool customer," Swinney said Sunday. "I don't think we've played anyone more talented, but the kid from TCU was a winner and Riley Skinner the same. They were very good. Harris has made some big, big throws and has made some good runs. He probably is [the most talented quarterback Clemson has faced]. Ask me on Tuesday, because we're just getting into studying them."
Turns out letting Patrick Nix go, and hiring Mark Whipple, will be Shannon's best decisions as a head coach. Theres never been any doubt about his defense in my mind, but he still ran off Bill Young and hired John Lovett as his DC. Make no mistake though, this is not a Lovett scheme.
In his days at Clemson, Lovett ran an 8-man front, close to a Gap 8/4-4 scheme but not the same that Virginia Tech runs. Miami still runs what Shannon has always run: a 4-3 EVEN Stack with Cover 2 Man coverage.
(H/T Tomahawk Nation)
Cover 1 Robber and Cover 2 Man are probably the two most prominent defenses Clemson runs, but we show more fronts than Miami does, and usually play an ODD front. Different fronts imply different gap responsibilities for each player, one-gap or two-gap, so it can be more to learn and think about for a player. Miami doesnt complicate things for their young guys on defense. An ODD front simply means there is a NT over the Center, usually lined up in a 1-Technique right in the A-gap. EVEN means the two DTs are lined up over the Guards. A STACK defense refers to the positions of the LBs: they are lined up in a row of 3 behind the DL, shifted either to the strong or weakside, as opposed to the UNDER front Clemson employs most where the SAM is lined up head-on the TE and usually on the LOS.
The advantage of the UNDER front is in gap responsibilities and coverage on the TE and backs. With Miami's penchant for attacking Cover 2 with these players, having the SAM lined up on the TE helps prevent him from getting an inside release, and in zone the SAM would be closer to the LOS to pick up a back. The Canes have a couple of good Sr. TEs in Dedrick Epps who has 11 catches and two touchdowns and former basketball player Jimmy Graham who has three touchdowns on his five receptions. Unfortunately our cover SAM, Scotty Cooper, is out for the game with a concussion. Kevin Alexander, more of a run-stopper, will have to carry the load.
There are 3 capable RBs in J. James, Berry and Cooper. All three have over 200yds rushing so far, though Cooper has been injured but was cleared to practice this week. They average 126yds a game on the ground.
The WRs are very talented and quick, and 3 are over 6'3" which can pose a problem in man coverage, but I suspect we'll stick to our guns. You dont change what works for you.
Miami's OL is experienced, but not stellar. The Hurricanes have allowed 16 sacks this season, 2.67 per game. UCF got a bunch with their blitzing George O'Leary defense. They are really only 6 deep up front, this is where we'll have to decide the game.
Even though they are ranked highly, their statistics arent impressive enough to really scare people. I would point out, however, that they've played more talented teams so far than pretty much everyone in the country. The one stat that is worrisome to me is the 3rd Down efficiency-9th in D1.
But Steele has Clemson 11th in the nation in total defense, 7th in pass defense and 19th in sacks, and only (defensively) giving up 11.3 ppg (#4 nationally). I think our defense can run with them, even in Man. I think our DL is the best all-around since 1990, probably better, but they have to prove it in big games. Our Corners are the best in the ACC. However, I doubt Clemson will blitz them too much with their abilities to hit underneath routes well; our DL will have to get the job done.
ON Clemson's front:
"I think their front seven is just like Oklahoma's front seven," guard Orlando Franklin said Tuesday. "There’s not a guy you can single out and pick on. Going into games, you try to assess people and see where the weaknesses are. Some people have good d-tackles and not so good d-ends. But their front seven is pretty good and like I said they’re two deep at it. We have to continue doing what we do and play assignment football."
On the Secondary:
"They have faith in their secondary," Harris said. "They're going to play man, and say `You beat us,' I guess they believe in their front seven, and their front seven is really good. Last week they put a lot of pressure on Riley Skinner [of Wake Forest]. And that was the main in focus in their win. We have to take care of their front. I think we have talented enough wide receivers to go against their corners man to man."
Leonard Hankerson is confident he and his unit will win out: "Personally, I don’t think anybody can play us man."
Frankling agrees: "I really don’t think any team could play man against us because of the type of routes Coach Whipple has brought in and the type of guys we got," Franklin. "It's real hard to backpedal against someone who runs 4.3 and has as good hands like Leonard has. It’s going to make it real hard."
Special Teams: Well theirs is not too special. Watch them kick away from Spiller and Ford (I would even if my ST were good). Ours has only had a few tackling issues this past weekend, but otherwise has reflected well on A. Powell. We can't lose on ST and win this game (pay attention Dabo).
Returning to Miami's front, I believe they are the best and most athletic line we will face this year. And this is what makes the most difference to me. They are a little young, but experienced after playing alot last year.
Miami is sixth in the league in scoring defense giving up 20.8 points per game. The Hurricanes are fourth in the ACC in total defense allowing 305.7 yards per contest. The Canes are seventh in the conference in rushing defense allowing 133.5 yards per game. The Hurricanes are deep and talented up front defensively despite missing starting defensive tackle Marcus Fortson. Marcus Robinson (6-1, 237, So), Steven Wesley (6-3, 250, Jr) Andrew Smith (6-2, 245, So) and Eric Moncur (6-2, 250, Sr) give the Canes four solid defensive ends. The Hurricanes are tied for seventh in the ACC in sacks with 12 on the year (H/T Plyler's Blog).
With our OL issues, I'm not confident we'll be able to control the LOS, even if CJ Spiller gets to play in front of his Dad for the first time, I dont expect to do well on offense.
"They've got good athletes. They're a penetrating front. Their big guys remind you of our big guys. Their defense is similar to what we practice against. We'll have our hands full there. It's also something we see in practice.
"Their linebackers are extremely athletic. Their interior people are big and aggressive. I'm not watching the secondary as much today - I've been studying blitzes and inside run game - but no one has thrown a whole lot against them. It'll be a great challenge for us. It's a Florida State kind of defense. It's athletes, speed, attacking."
I picked this one in the preseason as a toss-up and I have to call a close loss given what I've seen from our offense. One good game following a shitty one does not give me confidence after years of Bowden. I can hope it turns out like 2004 though....