I know everyone is on cloud nine right now with the potential of this team, but lets pump the brakes for just a minute. Yes, this team has proven to be really talented and the freshman have all looked really good. Wofford is not the team it has been in the past, especially on defense.
I'm looking for things that will translate into future games. The tempo was indeed faster today and Deshaun Watson showed his trademark accuracy and good decision making. He ran a few times but didn't seem to cut it loose completely. Looked like a Heisman candidate.
Very impressed with the interior defensive line, especially Pagano. He penetrated and disrupted more than I thought he would. In the Spring he was still getting stood up straight and not churning his feet and driving forward. That was not the case today. He looked like a player. I question our ability to put together a sustained pass rush, however. There were a few times when we brought pressure that we weren't able to get to the QB--something to watch going forward.
With LB play Boulware and Goodson played a ton. They played really well, but are going to have to do that all year.
Freshman. Everyone looked as advertised. I'll have an in-depth look of each for Monday. One of the big story-lines from the game for me is Garrett Williams ability to block. He adds a physical presence that should help the run game. Wilkins played extremely well (War Daddy!), as did Hyatt.
Injuries. The loss of Mike Williams is really big, no way to understate it. He is the big physical presence on the outside and his height will be missed on the outside. Hopefully it is mostly a precaution--there was tingling but no fractures that I have heard. Norton's knee injury is concerning but Jay stepped in and played nicely.
Special Teams. Huegel looked great on kicks and kickoffs--much improved as a unit (in the Spring this group was just awful and Huegel has saved us). Punt return=face-palms. Scott looked great. Hopper running 10 yards backwards. McCloud having freshman moments trying to field punts he shouldn't. Renfrow fumbling (flashes of Humphries). Punting is going to be an adventure this year--some good, some bad. Get off times didn't look fast enough from initial look.
Overall a solid game and I think we looked a little better than I expected on defense. Huegel saved special teams that were otherwise atrocious. Deshaun makes this team a contender.
We couldn't have asked for a much better opening game performance by the Tigers today. We're not sure exactly how good Wofford is this year yet, but I came away impressed with this performance.
Offensively, ScElliot came out in the Racecar HUNH and executed a plan to establish ourselves physically through the run game. ScElliot attacked all gaps in the rushing attack against a game Wofford defense that was determined to fight physicality with physicality. Many of you will remember how we were unable to establish the run against SC State the past couple years. That was not the case today. Clemson ran successfully on first down, in short yardage, and on the goalline. The offensive line showed up and led the way for 4 A-gap rushing TDs on the day.
Had ScElliot decided to throw it around more, Clemson probably could have scored a lot more points. Instead, the Tigers did something different from the Morris era by establishing the A-Gap rushing attack this offense needs to operate at their full potential. Finally! Kudos to the offensive staff for this gameplan and the execution of it.
Mitch Hyatt and the OL had a "better-than-expected" showing and the stable of RBs performed very well running behind their push. I thought Zac Brooks made his case for meaningful playing time. Brooks displayed the best vision any RB today, and in my mind, made an argument to be the #2 behind Gallman. Tyshon Dye was a load and I see him as a great "closer" option for the 4th quarter when we are nursing a lead.
I thought Ray Ray McCloud looked seasoned and ready to contribute this year. I would put him ahead of where Nuk, Martavis, Mike Williams, and Scott were in game one, but he's not on the level of Sammy Watkins, of course. Deon Cain had some issues today with 2 false starts but he showed that he is already a capable route runner and a future star as well. Both the new WRs showed themselves to be sound fundamental players right from the start. Again, kudos to the offensive staff.
I was disappointed with Germone Hopper's perimeter blocking though. I think Hunter Renfrow showed he is a capable WR and earned some more playing time in run situations because of his blocking prowess. He also showed a little bit more speed and wiggle than I thought he had.
The offense was dominant and I expected that, however, it is defensively where I was most surprised. I expected our DL to make some plays but I did not think the interior DL would control the game and completely shut down the dive. I was surprised that Wofford didn't make a first down until 1:30 left in the 1st half.
Our Defensive Line was much improved from what we saw in the spring game. Scott Pagano was a beast today at the 1 technique. The penetration and tackle for loss on the early 3rd and 2 was a thing of beauty. It's amazing what can happen when you get your pad level down and maintain leverage. His pad level was night and day from where it was in the spring game. That being said, Wofford's Center is not a good player. When Pagano moved over to the 3 technique he wasn't as dominant but his replacement at the 1 technique, Jabril Robinson, was completely dominant. So, let's chill out on the "he's just like Grady Jarrett" stuff. Pagano did not prove that today.
The only blemishes on the DL performance today were Kevin Dodd not being able to hold the edge a couple times and a certain formation giving us trouble. When Wofford went to the shotgun with two backs in the backfield, we had some trouble with that. This is concerning because Louisville runs that and hurt us with it in the first half of our game with them last year.
Our safeties filled the alley really well today. We had two busts by safeties today. One bust we had was on a crack back block against T.J. Green that should've been called as a clip. The 2nd bust was on a arc/wheel route that got behind Green. He has had problems with this in the past (see BC game), so I hope this is not going to be a recurring problem. I wished Wofford would've thrown the ball more to see if we were as sound as we looked in the secondary today.
The LBs played good assignment football today and I did not think they would play as clean as they did. I expected more mistakes and misreads. On the TD at the end of the first half, Boulware just went to the well too many times jumping over the pile at the QB and they ran a simple belly play away from it. Easy TD.
Special Teams were also much better than what we saw in the spring. Kickoffs made it to the endzone or right at the goalline almost every time. Our coverage was fast, disciplined, and aggressive and we tackled their returner inside the 20 a few times. Artavis Scott established himself as a weapon in both punt returns and kick returns today. We have been needing that, and now it appears we have it. Germone Hopper's backwards return and Hunter Renfrow's muff were the only true blemishes on special teams today.
All in all, an excellent start to the season in my book. My expectations went up a little bit today and I am much more optimistic about our defense's chance to stifle Appalachian State next week. If the performance on the line of scrimmage today was the truth and not a mirage, the sky is the limit. However...Stay thirsty, my friends. Don't sip the Kool Aid just yet.