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In Depth: Hurricanes Enter Tropical Depression, Clipped By Clemson Tigers

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NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami
Thing of beauty.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

No injuries. Another Clemson Championship. Game completely secured in the third Q. Backups got plenty of reps. Continued to save some of our offensive creativity for the playoff.

Only negative was giving up 3 points to Miami (that was such a Mark Richt move...).

OFFENSE

Kelly Bryant

15-15 to start the game. Perfect first Q.

No balls put in serious jeopardy against a good Miami secondary.

Threw the ball beautifully on the run when the play broke down. One to Overton and an amazing ball to McCloud on the sideline. Those were thrown on a rope

Hit the deep ball to Cain.

Went to the right read most of the game, better ball placement to receivers, and better mechanics on his throws. No balls floated, especially on short throws to the flats.

KB wasn’t perfect. Miami used some ‘A’ gap, Cover zero blitzes that rattled KB where he couldn’t check to the appropriate play or read. This started towards the end of the second quarter. But to KBs credit, he never put the ball in jeopardy, which is key. He took off a few times too early when things could have opened up down the field and got caught by the Miami spy, but I would rather that then having him force a throw. He also ran out of bounds once for a five yard loss instead of chucking it OOB’s. The offense got the ball in plus territory a couple of times and stalled out. It happened after the O’Daniel fumble recovery where we didn’t score points off of the turnover.

Minor things to clean up. This version of KB can win a national championship (and I didn’t think I would say that heading into the summer and exiting spring ball, no one did).

RB Rotation

I understand holding ETN in this game because he has been banged up. But the normal rotation of RBs in the playoff should be ETN, ETN, Feaster, ETN, Feaster, ETN, Choice. Choice has carved out a role as a change of pace, hard nosed runner. He doesn’t fumble and deserves a few touches in big games. Etienne was used effectively at the goal-line with his explosive speed and Feaster had a nice tough run for a score late where he gained yards after contact.

Feaster and ETN must carry the load (like they did against NC St). Fuller fumbled again in this game, but more importantly he has gained weight over the course of the season and isn’t in the same shape he was to start the season. He looked a step slower in the Miami game with his carries. That is simply an evaluation of merit and actual performance.

Great use of passes to running backs in the flat/screen passes. KB had some great touch on those balls.

Our TE’s blocked! On the 3rd TD, a run on 3rd and goal from the one, DJ Greenlee had a key man’s man block. Cannon Smith also sealed the backside with Hyatt effectively. Great job by Greenlee.

Offensive line played a good game overall, a clean game overall. No false starts or procedure penalties during meaningful play. Miami is an athletic, attacking defensive front and apart from the three sacks and some whiffs—you have to be happy with the performance. Hearn was pulling with authority (other than one play where he got stoned by the LB) and Simpson got the lone holding call.

DEFENSE

Invisible turnover chains for everybody!

I was most proud of the defense when there was a quick change of possession from the muffed punt and they held Miami to a FG that was wide. The defense had just forced a three and out and could have bent early, but they nailed Berrios for a TFL.

Christian Wilkins. I have been waiting for this kind of dominating performance this season. Wilkins was a beast shooting gaps, working down the line to stuff the run, batting down balls, and creating havoc. I loved how he got in the head of Rosier early on a false start. The nicest guy, but a stone cold competitor.

It was good to see Dexter Lawrence playing with a little healthier ankle. I keep saying to folks doubting Clemson that next year’s top five (if not top overall) pick is playing on one leg. Wait until we get two of those...To begin the third Q Miami seems like they could have a drive going, only to be sacked (and sacked hard) by a 340 pounder who somehow gets a free release to the QB!! Trouble.

Dime of Doom! Isaiah Simmons is going to be a ridiculously good player for us. He rushes the passer as good as any DB on the team, but has looked surprisingly good at covering space and getting back in coverage these past few weeks. Simmons is the present and future of Clemson football.

Dorian O’Daniel had a fumble recovery and defended the slot. He made life difficult on Rosier. Not sure DO’D had a pass caught on him all night.

Kendall Joseph needs this time off to get his knee a bit more healthy. He hung in there against Miami and played decent, but you can tell his mobility is still limited and he isn’t driving and delivering punishing blows the way he was at the beginning of the season (he took some hits where he was knocked back by Miami). Skalski turned in another quality performance and continues to gain confidence, despite missing a few gaps here and there. I think we will role with Lamar, Joseph and then Skalski and JD Davis (maybe some Chad Smith) for the playoff. JD’s knee did not look healthy.

Joseph seemed to tweak his knee a little at the end of the third Q when Miami went wildcat. Having Joseph and JD in the game, two guys with two bad knees was less than ideal. Joseph needs to get healthy to track down Hurts.

Mullen and Carter had some tough assignments with the bigger, physical Miami receivers, but they more than held their own. Carter just put together his two best games with a pick 6 against USCjr, an interception and a strip in this game.

K’von Wallace did have a shaky game, one of the only players on the defense to not have a spectacular game. K’von got caught on a roll out where the receiver broke to the middle of the field, but the ball was late and under-thrown. Wallace recovered (got away with a slight tug on the facemask, but nothing egregious) and didn’t get burned deep the rest of the game. He also did a good job of recognizing formations and coming up in run support to set the edge. He and Van Smith didn’t let Berrios get to the outside.

Wallace started over Muse who is working his way back after the hand injury and a banged up shoulder. In more run heavy offenses we might see more Muse, but Wallace made his case for holding onto the starting spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Alex Spence with the prettiest ugly 46 yard FG I have ever seen. Credit to him for knocking it through. I like that Dabo has just been going for it unless it is a chip shot, but Clemson might need Spence during the playoff. Also no missed extra points.

Will Spiers had a bit of a rocky performance. One of his rugby kicks didn’t bounce and died. He his another wedge shot that landed at the 20 yard line, but he didn’t give Berrios any chances to return a kick and didn’t get anything blocked.

Kickoff coverage was excellent. They really caused two fumbles—one that shot out of bounds and the other that Miami was lucky to recover. That has turned into a quality unit for this team.

I’m going to give McCloud a pass on the muffed punt because Higgins got way too close to him, but RayRay seemed to misjudge just how short the kick was going to be and should have let it bounce and roll to be safe. Bad sequence for both McCloud and Higgins.

Also, I love everything that Dabo stands for as a coach and person, but please don’t tell me that he doesn’t have a petty streak. That was on full display when Dabo gave a fake replica Miami chain to DO’D and had Carter come and clip it with a pair of giant scissors. Hilarious, awesome, and totally petty...(this is also where Clemson’s eternal chip on their shoulders comes from, the scrappy walk-on turned position coach, turned head coach)

RECRUITING

Continue to hear it is just a matter of time for McFadden, Ross, Henry, and even Mays. Those who crystal balled Mays to UGA didn’t know anything (which I told you at the time was a gross overreaction to the timing of his de-commitment). I would have Mays completely in the Clemson category, but there is still a very remote possibility that the Vols make some home run hire or the Dawgs make up the substantial ground between them and Clemson.

If things ended today he would be a Tiger.

We need to plan on taking 18 players in this class. That includes 3 OL and 3 DBs. I recently heard of one player who will be an attrition hit (that pleased me greatly) and rumblings of players like Hearn potentially testing the NFL(Hearn has a 6th Rd grade, so I’m still not clear why he would do this...). Plan for 18 coaching staff, please.

Rivals boosted Kendrick to number 43 overall. I have said for a year now that he was a top 50 player. Kudos to Jeff Scott on the early eval. I’m not sure he is done rising up the rankings. He will put on a show at these all-star games.

Dixon wanted to finish his visits. If something strange happens there we would move on Corbin.

Tyreke Johnson seems to be picking Ohio State over Clemson. Urban Meyer is a good recruiter. They sold him on playing corner. Johnson isn’t a 5* as a corner. The DB picture remains hazy. We are trying to get a visit from Surtain. LSU and FSU have cracked the door open. DBs are easier to find late in the recruiting season, especially if you are looking for a corner, nickel, safety or the best athlete. The final OL spot (because there should be one) is tougher to fill. Gwyn is still my vote—he will be good at NC State who currently leads (who also landed LB Payton Wilson).

The wild cards are the potential coaching moves. Elliott is being courted by UCF (but they could go internal candidate). Jeff Scott by South Alabama (I think he can do better though). Brent Venables by absolutely no one. NO ONE. (puts fingers in ears) (he is better than the Arkansas job and Fulmer is toxic at Tennessee)