After each game, I will be grading 2 players on offense, defense, and special teams and discussing the effect each player had on the game. The Grades will range from A+ to F-. I will also adjust the grading for each player due to what we know and expect from them. For example, a player like Vic Beasley and a younger player like Ebenezer Ogundeko could both have similar games, yet Beasley's game may earn him a B, while Ogundeko might receive an A, since he is a redshirt freshman and we haven't seen his full potential at the college game. Even though Ogundeko was a highly rated recruit, he still gets the benefit of the doubt because he is still transitioning from high school to college. The same can be said for Deshaun Watson until at least we see him in a few games.
Cole Stoudt, QB, Senior (B-): Despite all of the fans who are calling for Watson to start after game 1, Cole Stoudt did not play badly at all. He hit 55.2% of his passes for 144 yards. I may be a little generous with this grade, but all things considered, he had a decent game. When the coaches would let him air it out, he was throwing on target. He should've had more yards and a touchdown or more if it hadn't been for some bad drops by his receivers. His big mistake was his second quarter interception to Aaron Davis. Davis made a good read on the pick while Stoudt was under pressure. Stoudt also had 13 carries for 16 yards, rattling off an 18 yard run earlier in the game. For the most part, ineffective run plays hurt his rushing stats.
Joe Gore, OT, RS Junior (D+): Gore had a solid first half, but by the second half look bewildered. He struggled to open up holes for our running game, and by the fourth quarter, his man was always making a ton of plays. Leonard Floyd, who plays a hybrid SAM LB/Defensive End position, was all over the place in the second half. He was constantly in the backfield, and sacked both Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter. Gore wasn't the only lineman to struggle, but after hearing the hype of him in fall camp, and then seeing the transfer of Shaq Anthony, his performance was disappointing.
Vic Beasley, DE, RS Senior (C): Beasley didn't get in the backfield to disrupt Hutson Mason as much as he did against Aaron Murray a year ago. Despite registering 5 tackles and a sack, Beasley didn't look like his old self. UGA's running game was schemed away from him, which wasn't his fault. His lack of presence in the backfield, however, makes me hope this can be chalked up to good blocking on UGA's part, and not that Beasley has taken a step back, which not only hurts Clemson, but would hurt his draft status. Over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how Beasley performs, so we can see if Saturday was an anomaly or not.
Robert Smith, S, Senior (B+): Smith was named defensive player of the game by the Clemson coaches. He had 10 tackles on Saturday, and the Tiger's pass D prevented Hutson Mason from throwing a touchdown. Had Clemson had an answer for Todd Gurley, it is safe to say that this would have been a much different game if it came down to the Tigers' secondary against UGA's passing game
Bradley Pinion, P/K, Junior (A): While special teams were abysmal against UGA, Pinion had a pretty solid game, actually. He punted 10 times for 451 yards, including a 60 yard boot in the 4th quarter. While he wasn't helped out too much by the offense's field position in the second half, he was able to place Georgia outside of Clemson territory, keeping the Tigers in the game longer. On Kickoffs, he had 2 touchbacks and placed his other 2 kicks in the end zone. While many will freak out about me giving him an A due to him kicking the ball to Todd Gurley, who then returned it for a 100 yard touchdown, I actually am not putting the blame on him for that. The coverage, which I will address next, was terrible on that play, and in this day and age of kickoffs being moved up, the kickoff return game is not the threat it used to be. Kicking to any returner in the end zone is not that big of a threat due to the shorter distance that the kicking team has to cover.The hole that Gurley had was huge, and once a player of that speed got into the open field, there was no hope of catching him. Pinion probably did what he was told to by the coaches, which was kick it deep, and the rest fell on the other 10 guys.
Coverage Team, Kickoff (F): This isn't on one specific player. The coverage on kickoffs was bad. After Clemson had scored a go ahead touchdown, Todd Gurley responded by the kickoff back through a hole that the Redcoat Marching band could've gone through. There are questions about whether UGA used an illegal wedge block to create that hole, but the coverage on that play was terrible to begin with. Players were out of their lanes, creating that giant hole up the middle. As stated earlier, the kickoff game has changed because of the placement of the kick, so it is safe to assume that our players got lazy due to lack of returns. This needs to be addressed this week, because that is just giving away touchdowns. With proper lane technique, there should have been enough players there to at least keep Gurley from passing UGA's 30. Prior to the kickoff change, returners had enough room that they could score against proper lane techniques with good blocking and the right speed and moves, but now, giving up a return TD is more on the kicking team and less on the ability of the returner.