Certainly been a tough week. I have talked to a lot of non-Clemson fans this week to try and gauge how this loss impacts the perception of the program. One idea that kept coming up was how much love ESPN was giving us. They want to build up every Gameday but we were on the cusp of being ESPN darlings, up there with the likes of Alabama, Oregon and the upper crust of the SEC as teams with premier positive coverage. They wanted us to be good--if we deliver at least a close game I think that remains but this failure (and the way we lost) set us back. Everyone was watching, including a massive list of 2015 prospects.
The positive is that the crowd was legit and sustained that level throughout the first half. The crowd was the only thing that delivered during the game--causing numerous delay of game penalties and I think was part of the miscommunication that led to the interception.
I was going to play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game (if we had just scored to make it 17-14) but we fumbled the ball on the first play and were not mentally tough, despite playing at home. Chad Morris gave us the honest assessment of what went wrong when he said this.
We really are unable to push the envelope forward because for whatever reason we are not being consistent. It is just the base offense. The fumble with Tajh, with Joyner coming off the edge, that was a run play with a bubble throw out on the edge. That is what we wanted right there. He just went the wrong way, and it’s just hard to explain. It’s part of our fire game, and he knew it when he did it. It is just unfortunate. Those are things that you just kind of look and shake your head and go wow. It’s just the base offense right now, to be honest with you.
Your 5th year senior goes the wrong way on a play? That fumble sealed the game because Tajh was unable to regain his composure and returned to his Werner throwing past. This quote says that Boyd and the offense collectively can't handle anything beyond the base offense. Boyd still can't run the zone read, can't read blitzes, and was keying in on his primary pass option much of the night. FSU spent much of the offseason preparing for this and hiring a DC in Pruitt who was ready. Jimbo has evolved as a coach it would seem.
Morris is exactly right that we are 'consistently inconsistent'.
Brandon Thomas is playing really well, so there are 10 other positions out there at this point that aren’t playing consistent, that aren't playing well at all.
What I will be looking at against Maryland (Maryland is so injured they won't put up much of a fight):
Any improvement at RG and RT. Norton also got embarrassed pretty bad as well.
Can Running Backs fall forward or gain any yards after initial contact? When your QB is bigger than all of your running backs in a 'smashmouth' spread--you might have a problem.
Improved mechanics and footwork from the QB position.
A TE who can step up. Can Seckinger block and recover mentally? Can Sam Cooper (who is obviously playing at maybe 70%) get more healthy and consistent? Will Leggett see more opportunity?
Do we establish the run and stick to it throughout the entire game? Can Boyd run the zone read? Jet sweep to Watkins or Humphries? Can Watkins get more involved in the offense or are we just wasting his talent? Why all the dropped balls Jeff Scott?
Can we stop perimeter runs on defense and how will reserve CB's look, especially Tankersley who has been moved from Safety to corner (still not sure he has the hip flexibility to play corner)?
Are guys staying in shape? I see some signs that a few players are starting to gain some in-season weight and certainly are straying from their camp weights. Hopefully my eyes are playing tricks on me.
Safeties not getting run over (and taking better angles but this is not new).
Swinney reminded us that the season is not over. We are ranked #9 in the country and 17-3 in our last 20 games, top 15 for 20 straight weeks--second only to the 81' team's record of 25 weeks. 50-60 teams lost last week (he really shouldn't have said that though because it sounds like Bowden). Swinney must stay positive, and rightfully so:
It ain't all bad. From Chad's standpoint, y'all know how he is. He is a perfectionist. He takes a lot of pride in his unit. Our quarterback has been inconsistent at times. We're still one of the best offenses in the country. We're 17-3 in our last 20 ballgames. Just not going to throw everybody out the window here. We've won a bunch of games. We'll get it fixed and play better. For me, let's get back to the basics, the little things.
I don't think Swinney is right that if we played FSU 10 times, we would win five and they would win five. That is silly after being carved up so badly. We need to stop flushing scholarships down the drain (LB grayshirts)--as much as guys like Seckinger have panned out, when put up against FSU's talent it will just get harder and harder to compete.
Oh and who was the idiot who brought up the stupid gambling rubbish? Some TV person from Columbia--not even going to respond to it. Swinney handled it well.
Part two of the season begins now. Georgia Tech is always a trap game but the only real test left should be the Coots at Columbia. Everything needs to build up to that point from here on out. Changes to the O-line need to happen now, along with personnel decisions on younger players.
Dabo is going to push for Carlos Watkins and Dodd to try and get medical redshirts for this season.
2014 DE Andrew Williams (6'4 250) attended the game and left with a positive impression despite the beatdown. He knows Clemson very well and reconnected with the coaching staff. He really has been number one on the board for many years and so that long-term connection is playing in our favor. Right now I give the edge to Auburn though, especially with their resurgence. Clemson, Ole Miss and Auburn make up the top group with Notre Dame and South Carolina further back. We will get an official visit after the season.
5* Hoover (Ala) CB Marlon Humphrey unexpectedly came to the game and you can thank TE commit Milan Richard for that. Richard and Humphrey are good friends and this was more of a courtesy/see the game type of visit but Humphrey spent a good bit of time with the coaching staff and had positive things to say. I think he will give Clemson a chance here but hard to pluck a big-time recruit out of Alabama.
We are still the team to beat for DE Lorenzo Featherston.
Tennessee's surge is problematic for our recruitment of both 2014 WR Josh Malone and CB DJ Smith.
DL Albert (Bert) Huggins (6'2 280) from Orangeburg (SC) is probably Clemson's top defensive target in 2015 (with Shy Tuttle). This was his first visit for a game and it was not what Clemson wanted. Huggins is thought to be a big in-state lean but came out of the game with thoughts of Florida State entering the picture. Definitely not something you want to hear. Clemson is still in a good position but didn't help to solidify its position with this must-have prospect.
Healing begins today. Beat Maryland badly.