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In-Depth: Clemson Exorcises Demons

Wake Forest v Clemson Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

I was at a conference over the weekend and watching the game with one earbud, trying not to attract too much attention with my silent facial expressions and fist-shaking (although the interception got me in trouble with a couple stares as I let out a slightly audible gasp of incredulity). I will keep this shorter since it is already Tuesday (also a bit more scattered).

First, Wake Forest is a good team. That QB Hinton could have been the best QB performance against this defense all year. He was a tough runner and surprisingly accurate passer, hitting slant routes and not putting the ball in jeopardy very often.

I was extremely happy that we somehow got to 28-0 before unraveling in the 4th Q some. This was a good game for the team and the defense.

DE Duke Ejiofor is legit. He was as disruptive as Harold Landry. Great motor, and gave our linemen fits all day. He also moved inside on passing downs (apparently called a rabbit package) and tore up our interior guys in pass pro on more than one occasion.

Slot receiver #89 Greg Dortch, only a redshirt freshman, was a handful in the slot for Dorian O’Daniel. Those were just good plays by Wake. Dortch has elite speed and acceleration and Hinton hit him in stride. The 43 yard pass play and the additional facemask penalty yardage was one of the biggest plays against this defense all season.

‘The Hill’ is a beautiful thing. Can we not put up ugly fences at the top of it like that and wall people off? Come on now...


Everyone is talking about substitutions all of a sudden (I guess folks are reading STS? Perhaps?). The rule is you need to be up by two scores before you can substitute liberally at weaker positions. I personally prefer three scores, but two is acceptable with Dabo and this team.

This does not apply to areas of your team where the talent is very close to equal. Wide receivers can sub 8 deep and that is fine. RT can sub between Pollard (who started the game) and Anchrum and it is fine. Maverick Morris coming in as a Senior at RG isn’t a problem either. Feaster and Etienne—great! Mullen, Fields and Carter (Edmond when he returns), no problem. DT with Huggins and Pinckney, even Robinson is ok.

Mass substitutions where the talent has a clear, discernible drop-off is not ok. I actually didn’t have a problem with substituting in this game because we were up by two scores (again, I prefer three, which would have been when Spence should have hit that FG to be up 17-0, but two is fine). And I am the guy who always has a problem with the substituting. Strange world.


Kelly Bryant came out of the gate accurate and in command of the offense. For example, the deep ball to Cain (especially after throwing one that sailed on him a bit, although Cain could have gone up and high pointed the ball) was after he read the blitz and knew that Cain would be in man coverage with a Safety. That is burnt toast, touchdown city with a decent throw every time. Perfect execution by KB. Wake didn’t make that mistake again the rest of the day.

What they did was try to keep everything in front of them and play more zone looks and spy KB so he couldn’t run and break contain with his legs. ScElliott have designed an offense where you take what the offense gives you (usually about 4 yards), which means you need to convert on third downs. We struggled to convert and pick up chunk yardage. KB also got sacked a few times and we had some TFL that didn’t help.

KB also seemed to lack a bit of acceleration and desperation to get first downs, coming up short on numerous occasions (I was wondering if his ankle was already bothering him after an awkward tumble out of bounds at the 12:47 mark of the 2nd Q).

The interception was thrown into triple coverage. Just a bad decision. Didn’t see the underneath man ‘sluff’ off of his coverage of the TE Richard to grab the pick.

The ankle got caught but it didn’t look very bad. I think he plays a few series against Cuse, but he will most likely be available.

Cooper did not look good in his short sample size. Accuracy. Accuracy. He has the arm strength, but needs to work on consistency. That ball does come out with some zip though. Cain was open by five-ten yards. Got to hit that easy touchdown.

Hunter Johnson. Choo Choo. Near flawless drive for HJ. Great to see him have some early success. Hopefully Cannon Smith can step up too.

Thanks ESPN for some bang on production quality. Nothing like losing audio and getting some radio quality garbage.


I am so excited to see Tee Higgins get rolling. We saw a glimpse of it against Wake, but there is much more to come. Tee is a physical player too, he is not just height and finesse. Hunter Johnson had the right idea—just find Tee and let him do the work.

I say that, but I have been impressed with Overton who is the most improved player on the offense. If we get five to ten more pounds of muscle on both of these guys and they retain their speed, it will be jump ball TD city—not fair.

I like using Etienne on third and short because he accelerates to the hole faster than any other RB. That play is as good as the QB power. Etienne almost broke a couple, got to keep getting him the ball (I liked the mixture of backs today though overall).

The screen game has been struggling, but it isn’t the play calls, guys just are missing blocking assignments. KB’s passes on screens and to the flats were better today, but he still lacks that elite zip on balls you want in the short game.

Do we not call any targeting against Clemson? It was really close when Hunter Renfrow got hit over the middle by the Safety who lowered his head and hit Renfrow’s helmet. KB also got smacked once with the crown of a defenders helmet.

I am a big believer in John Simpson, but he had his worst game to date. Missed too many assignments. The offensive line played well overall. Hyatt had one of his better games, but we keep missing assignments that would take this Oline from good to great (and we will need great come playoffs). These aren’t physical limitations (that happens occasionally when guys aren’t getting out and pulling), but mental busts that are correctable. Again, this is just every so often, but they are the difference between a TFL and a 5 yard gain or usually a 4 yard gain and a 20 yard gain. Richard didn’t have a great day blocking, yet again.

The KB fumble was just a stunt where Morris didn’t pass his man and Falcinelli was late in recovery. Free run at KB and he wasn’t able to get out of the pocket and dump the ball away. He needs to practice better ball security though, and got caught there with some poor fundamentals/tucking the ball. Also thought the ball wasn’t in Wake’s possession clearly at the end (tough to tell and the head ref actually called it 2nd down for Clemson...just sayin’, also sayin Wake’s HC should have been flagged for running that far onto the field to argue about the shanked FG attempt).


JD Davis played his worst game to date. His first play in the game Hinton breaks the pocket out of the reach of a diving Bryant and Davis can’t break down and tackle. Too slow. Next few plays he is stiff in zone coverage and then on the 3rd and 20 lets Hinton run by him again. Davis was a spy later in the game for Hinton, not a good strategy. Missed his gap a couple of times on some of the longer runs in the 3rd Q. etc. etc.


Tre Lamar is starting to put it altogether.

Pinckney picks up a sack. But the second level of DLine depth still isn’t coming together. Huggins and Robinson get pushed around too much and don’t get off blocks like they need to. Sterling Johnson and Xavier Kelly have a long way to go. At the 5:49 mark both Sterling and JD miss a tackle on the QB in the hole. Register is average, but doesn’t make any impact.

Fields, Mullen, and Wallace on the field with Simmons and Smith? I like that look on passing downs. (K’von was late on some of the 4th Q coverages)

I know Simmons and Terrell had some bumps late in the game (Simmons didn’t have good depth on the first TD, Terrell was playing bump man coverage when he should have been playing off), but at the 7:04 mark in the 3rd Q, Simmons comes up in run support and spears the QB with a great form tackle. On the next play AJ Terrell uses perfect form to knock a very good pass away, showing his length and technique. Those plays should make you excited about the future of the Clemson secondary.

Muse has missed some tackles in these past couple of games and folks have been on him some, but Muse is aggressive in run support and fast. It is coming together. He also is playing with much better technique in the passing game. He had a beautiful pass breakup in the fourth quarter on a well thrown ball. He wasn’t trusting that technique in the first few games.

How did Amir Trapp drop that easy interception?

Special Teams

Can’t miss FGs within 45 yards. Got to hit 80% of those.

Can we not get those kickoffs in the endzone? Can’t wait for BT Potter to get on campus. Our coverage team is doing well overall, but disappointed to see that return to the 35 yard line.

Great pass by Spiers to Powell—that ball had a tight spiral. Powell also gets the special teams player of the game, downing that punt inside the 5 yard line.

Punting was excellent. I think the VT game was more about punts getting caught in the wind than anything else. Good to see Spiers rebound. Only one punt that I thought was too short and too much of a line drive.

Don’t look now but RayRay McCloud has yet to muff a punt. He is getting more comfortable and should break one soon (although Wake’s kick coverage is pretty bad). He could have on the last return opportunity, but he was too indecisive.

Tee Higgins with a great hands play on the onside recovery.