I wish I could be more confident in our ability to beat Georgia Tech this year. More than any other team in the ACC, the Yellow Jackets have been a thorn (sorry couldn't resist) in Clemson's side. We have lost 5 of the last 6 to GT which is just unacceptable, especially the two losses in 2010 (the latter for the ACC crown). Last year at 8-0 and ranked #5 in the nation, we expected to roll into Bobby Dodd and come away with a relatively easy win. GT was coming off of two losses, just like this year, but with no Andre Ellington we turned the ball over 5 times. That is death when playing a ball control triple option that is trying to limit your number of possessions.
GT has certainly seen a decrease in talent under the reign of Paul Johnson (even the most loyal GT fan will admit that the recruiting in the Atlanta area isn't what it once was and Clemson is plucking some gems out of their backyard this year) but that doesn't mean that their isn't any talent on the Bee's roster. At QB #13 Tevin Washington is now a senior and more of a threat to pass the ball than last year. He is leading the nation in TD's with 11 from the quarterback position. #17 Orwin Smith (also finally a senior) is the biggest threat in the backfield to hit the homerun. Dabo has a lot of respect for him saying:
No. 17 is dangerous. For whatever reason not many people talk about him much. Orwin Smith. He's got four of the top 20 longest plays in Georgia Tech history. Dangerous player. Good returner. He's a guy that is very capable of hitting the home run. He averages 9.8 yards per carry and that leads the nation.
At WR they have an inexperienced group of young receivers but they are all very tall. Our CB's will be matched up one-on-one and I can just see Darius Robinson not adjusting to the under-thrown balls that inevitably will be thrown. Hopefully Garry Peters will be up to the challenge because he will start. This is a match-up that we should win and that you really need to win to limit the potency and big plays of the triple option. Venables says it is all about angles, not even so much about power:
They neutralize any kind of athletic ability that you have. It’s all about angles. It’s not as much about power as it is about angles, getting you a little bit too high or a little bit out of your gap. If you don’t have leverage on the football, they’ll take advantage of you. They’re terrific in the play-action game, because of their ability to run the option out of everything, so it leaves a lot of one-on-one opportunities. On the back end, it’s high stress coverage.
Venables, in the highlight of his interview, talked about showing Quandon Christian what he was doing wrong on tape.
If you got the quarterback, play the quarterback--don't try to play the pitch. You play both your guy goes for 50. It's just bad football...Don’t eat the cheese. Right? Don't eat the cheese. The cheese is dangerous. It’s a trap.
What to make of the MTSU debacle and the GT defense?
I really think that the two weeks of practice helped MTSU prepare for GT. The other major factor is that GT was down two linebackers. This is eerily similar to last year. Just like last year GT was without #45 Jeremiah Attaochu who I think really makes the GT defense much stronger. GT is still averaging 329 yards a game on the ground and scoring a bunch of points so they haven't forgotten how to score and move the ball.
I think our defensive players hate playing GT because they know they will get cut. It is a chore on the schedule and not one I think they look forward to playing. That is kind of an obvious statement (who really wants to play the triple option) but in an interview with Corey Crawford it really hit home for me this feeling among the players when he was asked about offensive lineman cutting and diving for knees:
That's the worst thing ever. It's just nagging. I dislike it. I can't really describe how bad I dislike it. It's the worst.
He also referenced the Furman game where they were doing some cut blocks and said that is the way that DeShawn Williams was injured. I bring this up because I'm not sure we have built enough mental toughness on the defensive line to handle triple option scheme. These kinds of blocks are a part of the game (Clemson uses them as well) and we have to be committed to getting off those blocks and playing with proper technique every single play if we want to defensively dominate GT. It does sound like we will be practicing against live cut blocks this week. Venables seems to think it is essential to be prepared.
We’re going to go after it. It’s part of the risk and reward. You don’t cut, then you’re going to get mowed down on game day, because you’re not ready for it. You cut, that’s a chance you’ve got to take. I think it’s a risk-reward deal that I think our guys need to feel. They need to experience it, so we’ll do it.
That is certainly encouraging. Venables isn't sugar coating how bad the defense is either. After the BC game Venables said he felt like he was watching Groundhog Day and when asked if he was 'stunned' by how BC drove the field on their first drive he said, "I wasn't stunned? I was pissed." All the reporters laughed but Venables shut them downin a non-confrontational way saying, "You can all laugh about it now, but it’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed about it." Hopefully this leads to some steady improvement on defense.
The difference in the game should be the home-field advantage. Dabo is right to want an energetic crowd:
We are 4-1 and 3 of our 5 games have been away from Death Valley. It's good to be home. 7 of our last 9 have been away from Death Valley. I really want to challenge our crowd. I know we'll have a great crowd. But we really need to have the best environment in college football Saturday here in Clemson. I hope everyone will show up early. We have a 3:30 kick and we will make this a great environment. The energy in 'The Valley' is awesome.
If we can beat GT I think the rest of the schedule sets up nicely (yes, I am being weak and getting ahead of myself). We have an off date before getting VT at home and then we should be able to continue to improve on defense all the way up until we play South Carolina at home (NC State plays better towards the end of the year but that is also at home).
We finally hired Sports Nutritionist Lisa Chan. This was already posted but I wanted to highlight this portion of what the Clemson SID said about what her responsibilities will be:
She will help design and recommend optimal nutrition programs for student-athletes for performance, weight gain and weight loss. Her nutrition programs will compliment the strength staffs' training programs to enhance performance and body composition. She will also help educate student-athletes on diet and nutrition choices away from the athletic district. In addition, working closely with the Aramark food service manager and chef, Chan will plan menus, deliver and monitor the football training table and preseason meals.
I kinda thought that is what Dr. Loreto Jackson was already supposed to be doing generally but it is nice to have someone on staff committed to this specific task (can't believe it took this long!).
Sammy will play and should be healthy in the future. Dabo said the scare was a combination of dehydration, a virus, and some sort of trauma (not sure what that means) and that Sammy will have follow-up tests next week.