COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers congratulates quarterback Tajh Boyd #10 after the Tigers defeated the Maryland Terrapins 56-45 at Byrd Stadium on October 15, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
On Saturday, the North Carolina Tar Heels head down 85 South to take on a Clemson team that is playing some of its best football in a long time. The Heels present a much different sort of matchup for Dabo's team than Maryland, and are one of the most talented defensive fronts Clemson will face in 2011. While Clemson was able to gash the Maryland defense for large chunks of yards on the ground, it's going to be tough to have similar success against a North Carolina defense that only gives up 108 yards a game on the ground, which is good enough for 26th in the country and third in the conference.
Defensively, they're as good as we've played. Their front four, every one of them will play on Sundays, and some of the backups too. Their linebackers are very good. They're just a good football team and they're going to be a challenge for us.
Perhaps last week Miami provided the blueprint for beating the Tar Heels. While the Canes were only able to amass 44 yards on the ground in Chapel Hill, they jumped out to a big lead against the Heels, won the turnover battle, and were able to pick apart the UNC secondary. If Clemson can jump out to its own lead, get the crowd behind them, and win the turnover battle, the Tigers should win this football game. Clemson is a better football team than Miami, and has the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd.
They do a lot of shifts, a lot of motions and they really challenge you from a preparation standpoint to get your front set, your gaps coordinated and getting everyone on the same page. They'll run a lot of bunch type sets, which forces you to zone some things. You have to be very disciplined against that stuff. Their o-line is huge. They're big and athletic. It's a very good group that plays physical.
It was sort of mind-boggling to me how much was made of Mike Bellamy's status this morning. There were two or three questions to open the press conference that focused on this and you could tell Dabo was wondering what people were talking about. Look, the kid is a freshman. He came out of high school with everyone telling him how good he was and now he's not the first string running back. He's frustrated, I get it. But the kid has to learn the system first and realize that he isn't going to take significant carries away from Andre Ellington until he does so.
I think this will all be handled in house and most of this is being blown way out of proportion. Two players I remember, James Davis and CJ Spiller, both went through similar phases as freshmen before going on to stellar careers here at Clemson. If Bellamy can start to mature and focus on learning the playbook, he too can put up similar numbers to the Clemson running backs that came before him.
Is there something going on I don't know about? He [Mike Bellamy] practiced well last night and I expect him to practice well today. He's a young player and he's still maturing. There's a lot of structure here, a lot of accountability. Sometimes that's difficult for some young people to take on. But that's all a part of the process. He's a really good young man, but he's a guy that has some maturing to do.
Back to Andre Ellington. Boy it's nice to have him back at what looks to be close to full strength. Perhaps I should have made more of a deal of his performance on Saturday in College Park. With an offensive line that is finally opening up big holes up front, Andre put together his best game of the year. Prior to traveling to College Park, this offense wasn't really able to have success running the ball up the middle, and accumulated the majority of its yards and points through the air or off of sweeps. If Andre can build on his performance from Saturday, and this offensive line can continue to open those kind of holes, the only thing that will stop this offense is ourselves, as we showed in College Park.
How about Price? That guy has made us a good offense. He has been our most consistent player in the offensive line...
Brandon Thomas has really come on, too. That's been a big, big positive in our team to see him finally decide he wants to be a good player...
Dalton is just outstanding. He is a great leader. It all starts with 55...
Big Mac he is a manchild. When he's dialed in, he is incredibly physical, very strong though he'll get a little tired from time to time...
Landon gets the most out of what he's got every week...
We're happy with the way the offensive line performed on Saturday. McClain has a long way to go before we would consider him a "manchild" but overall it's hard to be mad about an offensive front that helped pave the way for 56 points and 576 yards in College Park.
As for the five star linebackers that Clemson has on its roster, it doesn't seem like they have made much of an impact thus far in the season, at least in Steward's case. Chalk some of that up to the complexity of Steele's defense especially at the linebacker position, and you have to think a talent like Anthony is going to make more of an impact once he has the system down and doesn't have to think and just plays football. In Steward's case, it appears that he is further behind Anthony, due in large part to him coming off the ACL injury. Most of Tony's reps have been on special teams and at this point it appears it probably would have been best just to redshirt him and allow him to fully recover from his knee injury. When a coach says a player is a "work in progress" it usually means he's not ready to play significantly yet.
Both of those guys will continue to see time. Tony is still coming along, kind of a work in progress. Anthony is a guy you'll definitely see more, especially in our nickel situations. He brings a different dimension to us in our MACK there in obvious nickel-type down. I think he can help us.
This Clemson football team is battle tested. They have survived a first half letdown on the road and battled back to win. They are finally opening up holes up front to unleash another dimension of this already high powered offensive attack. Steele is a solid coordinator, but he is going to have to correct the deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball if this run is continue. This is a good Clemson football team. When we win the turnover battles and don't spot teams 14 points like we did on Saturday, there isn't a team on this schedule Clemson shouldn't handle. Take care of the football this week, create a turnover or two on defense, and continue to gash teams on the offensive side of the ball, and this team should walk out of Death Valley on Saturday with another win.