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Swinney Speaks: Paper Noles??

It’s on. This is what it’s about. This is what you coach for. As a kid, you grow up wanting to play in a matchup of a top-five matchup like this. There aren’t many times in your coaching career that you get this moment. It’s the same way from a player’s perspective. So, heck yeah, it’s a big deal. It’s the biggest game of the year...I’m jacked up right now. I’m ready. Coach Chad Morris

Will this happen again??
Will this happen again??
Streeter Lecka

Usually I am one of the more collegial and cordial nice guy posters (at least I try to be) at STS but these smug Florida State fans and their entitlement attitude have got me riled up. I think it comes from all the 'good job, you'll get em' next time' posts we got after the loss last year. So here is my attempt to stir the pot (this might explode in my face and feel free to stick it to me but I am going to try anyway).

For the record I don't think anyone knows who is going to win this game. Its a toss-up in my mind, which wasn't the case at the beginning of the year when I think there were more questions about FSU collectively than Clemson coming off of our LSU victory.

1. With that in mind using FEI ratings is a bit misleading. In the preseason Clemson was vastly underrated at number 21 and FSU overrated (in relation to Clemson)--largely due to projected defensive deficiencies(they estimated we would be giving up 24.8 per game and that just hasn't been the case). I understand that the weight of those numbers decrease each week but it still skews the results this early in the season.

Garbage time is accounted for in the analysis but Dabo is somewhat unique because he will play the second and third string players in non-garbage time, sometimes in the second and third series of a game. I don't know how you can account for that in your model. Jimbo on the other hand has his first team playing until it is 49-0 (for good reason with a young QB). Too small a sample size for Clemson and difficult to make a clear comparison between two teams at this point in the season.

2. I was ready to call your team 'Paper Noles' because you hadn't played anyone of consequence until the Maryland game. The 63-0 score shocked me and made me very nervous for this game. Up until the Maryland game your defense had struggled to stop the run. Pitt ran on you until they got too far behind and had to start throwing. Nevada ran all over you until the starting QB got knocked out of the game and even the second string QB had some success. You struggled mightily with Williams (much more than we did) and his north, south running but you shut down Maryland.

Seemed to me that your defense was progressing under Pruitt and playing within the scheme, gap integrity and all that. But then you went and let the cat out of the bag that you knew based on the O-line alignment whether they were running or passing. If this is true then the Maryland game gets thrown out the window as any kind of metric. Don't even bring it up. If that is the case your best win is gone and we are left with an unclear picture of how good you really are.

Not saying FSU isn't a good team but we don't know enough to draw clear distinctions.

The real question then becomes how bad is Clemson's O-line right now. To me this is where the game will be won or lost. Clemson's O-line has taken a step back because of the play at LG and RT. Is Beasley too out of shape after the ankle injury to be effective or will Davis continue to struggle over the course of an entire game. Will Shaq Anthony be able to pick up blitzes and run block or will Gifford Timothy be inserted and be nothing more than below average overall??

On defense Venables sums up the game succinctly:

Explosive plays, who wins that battle? Turnovers and the run game, to me those are the three things - if you have three elements - if you win two of the three, you’ve got a chance to win. If you win all three, you’ll win 100 percent of the time. If you don’t win any of them, you’ve got no chance whatsoever.

And then in regards to Winston:

You obviously want to disrupt their timing, somehow, some way. Run good, tight coverage and hope those guys up front can beat some people. Him (Winston) being harassed and confused is what you want. If they are able to establish the run game and we can’t get pressure on the quarterback, we won’t win the game.

Will you run all over us? No. This front has improved dramatically and Shuey and Anthony have largely done a good job this year against the run. Will Winston beat us with his arm? Possibly but Clemson is best when we have a lead in the 4th quarter and can make teams one dimensional. Beasley comes on in the 4th quarter with Crawford and Jarrett able to get pressure. Our secondary is still suspect and susceptible to some play-action or misdirection (especially now that Peters is out) but if we make FSU one dimensional then you have to like our ability to get to the QB despite Winston's slipperiness. Force a few errant throws and you have a recipe for success.

We struggle when a QB can pick us apart by hitting RB's in the flat and checking down. I think this is a developing part of Winston's game.

Apparently this is a 'sod game' for FSU (Well we do have some impressive sod...). Jimbo wants to take a piece of our field or something. Dabo had this to say about sod:

Do we need armored guards around the turf? Literally, protect your turf. It’s important to win at home. That’s one of those staples of any successful program. That’s one of the first things that I told this team when I took this job – if we are going to be a good team, we have to win at home.

As an aside--What happened to our tempo against BC?? We were very sluggish and not able to play quick enough to keep opposing DC's from calling blitzes with regularity--that is one of the leveling effects of tempo. BC was also timing their blitzes perfectly (DrB mentioned it looked like Norton was giving away the snap count), which was disconcerting looking ahead. Oh and lets not ever say that we are above being upset. I thought BC would give us trouble and not just because I am a timid Clemson fan. If someone says that a team poses a challenge and has an argument for it, lets try not to jump all over them.

Also hearing the student section will be getting megaphones as the crowd tries to break the decibel mark (Central Spirit is providing them I believe). Might I suggest that you pick up a .50 cent megaphone if you are heading to the game and pick up 20 for your section. Better than pom-poms...

Player Notes:

James Wilder Jr. is still not 100% after sustaining a shoulder injury against Pitt. Freeman will get the load of the carries. Starting center Stork also sustained a concussion against Maryland--still don't know how healthy he will be, although he will apparently start.

Ben Boulware is questionable. Looking like he will be available but probably won't see the field--Dabo said he will be a back-up on special teams but I doubt he plays. His knee is still pretty swollen. I think this is a bigger loss that we might think if Pinion can't kick it out of the endzone and get that great hang time we know he can deliver. Looked good last week so hopefully his knee/bruise has completely healed.

Garry Peters was having a solid season and putting up good numbers but broke his foot. This is a huge loss in my opinion. I do not trust Darius Robinson at all. Peters is more physical at the point of attack and was an asset against the run. This hurts our depth and means we need a healthy Martin Jenkins who is playing with a club for a hand after breaking his thumb just a couple weeks ago. Jenkins has had problems staying in games with his shoulder popping out of place every other game it seems.

Shaq Lawson will play but I doubt he sees as many snaps. The fact that he can go is certainly a bonus.

Recruiting Notes:

It is going to be another great recruiting night in the Valley. All of our committed 2014 prospects will be in attendance and a ton of 2015 and 2016 guys.

At the top of the 2015 targets, 5* OL Mitch Hyatt will, of course, be there. Top DL target Albert Huggins (6'2, 280, Orangeburg, SC) will make his first visit to the Valley. He is top 50-100 type talent and it will be a USCjr/Clemson in-state battle. He hasn't been to any games because his father is recovering from neck surgery. Great kid who is probably our number one priority on defense next year. It would be a big deal to get him to the game.

Three defensive end targets should be in attendance with Andrew Williams (6'4, 250, Eagle's Landing Christian, GA), Lorenzo Featherston (6'7, 220, Greensboro, NC), and 3* Corey Thomas (6'5, 280, McAdory, Bama). Thomas hasn't been on my radar much because Mississippi State was supposedly rooted at number one for him with Tennessee in second followed by Florida and possibly FSU. We have had contact but weren't considered much of a threat. Recently Tennessee climbed ahead of Miss St. so the possibility of jumping up his board seems legit. He is a guy who is coming on as a senior and has elite strength and athleticism for a player his size. Getting Featherston on campus is a big deal. With the possibility of Vic Beastly leaving for the NFL early, we need to add at least one more defensive end prospect (plan for attrition).

2014 CB DJ Smith should be in as well and Raekwon McMillan was supposed to be in the Valley but hearing that is up in the air right now. He has rescheduled his official visit to the weekend of the Citadel game, which will be after the Ohio State official visit. That is also the weekend that Josh Malone should be in for his official (Malone is unfortunately going to be at Ole Miss this weekend--Tennessee is the main competition and probably in the lead) so it sets up nicely for us.

The Durham, NC 2014 duo of WR Trevion Thompson and RB Donte Thomas-Williams will be in attendance. Shy Tuttle might make it down but he is taking the PSAT and I doubt he will show. Other 2015 notable names to remember are S Tanner Muse (slight Clemson lean), RB Taj Griffin (Georgia lean), CB Mark Fields, and OL Chuma Edoga. I will have a post about our top 2015 targets coming out soon. 2016 RB Tavien Feaster from Spartanburg, SC will be back for his second visit.