If you read last week’s depth chart analysis, you may remember our highlighting the fairly sizable talent gap between Clemson and Louisville. Although Lamar Jackson is explosive and can make up for a lot of other deficiencies on the team, we opined that the clear disparity in raw talent around the QBs would be beyond than what any one player could compensate for. It was much more.
It was a complete performance for the Tigers. Kelly Bryant finished 22/32 for 316 passing yards 1 passing TD and 2 rushing TDs. The Tigers biggest unknown entering the season is beginning to look like a strength. Four running backs got at least 34 yards. The most impressive rush of the game came from a player who didn’t even make the two-deep, Travis Etienne. It’s worth showing because it’s such a visceral look at what raw talent delivers. Here’s Clemson’s true freshman, fourth-string four-star running back.
Coaching and player development is critical, but you simply have to find raw talent like that. You can’t develop that! Clemson had a lot more of it than Louisville and our analysis played out perfectly on the field.
Looking ahead on the schedule, Virginia Tech will line up against us with some high-end talent, as will Florida State. The Tigers should out-class everyone else on the regular season schedule. So for Boston College we’ve added another layer of information. We’ve pulled the depth chart from last year’s analysis, updated it with Rivals data, and included it in this year’s analysis along with Clemson and Boston College’s 2017 data. Before we dive in, our usual caveat:
We've divided the offense and the defense each into three portions. On offense, the starting QB comprises one-third of the rating, the heaviest weight for any single player. The five starting offensive linemen comprise another third, and the two-deep for the remaining skill positions (WR, TE, RB) comprise one-third. They are displayed separately as well as as part of the overall offense average.
Similarly on defense, the two-deep along the D-line, at linebacker, and in the secondary are each weighted to represent one-third of the overall defense rating, regardless of scheme.
We acknowledge there are some players who over-perform their original star rating (e.g., Hunter Renfrow, Lamar Jackson) as well as those who under-perform their star ratings. Nevertheless, recruited talent is strongly correlated with wins on the field. In 2016, this analysis revealed a major talent deficit for Louisville along the O-line. Despite solid performance from their O-line to that point, we cited this as reason for optimism and Clemson validated that optimism by winning at the line of scrimmage.
Clemson has a pretty dramatic talent-advantage across the board. Comparing 2016 BC to 2017 BC doesn’t lend much optimism for the Eagles either. Boston College’s O-line remains at 2.80 and the skill positions tick up slightly from 3.00 in 2016 to 3.10 in 2017. They also move from a former-four star QB Patrick Towles (a Kentucky transfer) to redshirt freshman three-star Anthony Brown. So far, brown has 5 passing TDs, 6 INTs, and -2 rushing yards. A dominant Clemson defense that isn’t known for taking the ball away from opponents much (Dorian O’Daniel pick six not withstanding) could feast.
Running backs Jon Hilliman and AJ Dillon are the only four-stars on the offense. Dillon, the second-string all-purpose back chose Boston College over Michigan! He is one of Addazio’s bigger recruiting successes. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’ll face the best defensive tackle duo in the country in Clemson.
Let’s look at the defenses:
Like on offense, Clemson’s defense has much more raw talent across the unit. Nowhere is this more dramatic than on the defensive line where Clemson averages a full star more than the Eagles. It’s even more dramatic than it looks too. Clemson’s starting D-line averages 4.50 stars!
Boston College did not take a step forward with their talent level from 2016. Harold Landry, their star DE, is the one player who stands out on their defense. He can’t do it all though. The Eagles surrendered 515 rushing yards to Notre Dame last week in a 20-49 rout.
It’s clear a significant wave of upgraded talent hasn’t broken in for Boston College. Bad news for Steve Addazio, who generally seems like a good defensive coach and a quality “dude.”
The Tigers opened as 32.5 point favorites in Death Valley after winning 56-10 in Chestnut Hill a season ago. This is a trap game, sandwiched between trips to Louisville and Blacksburg, but Boston College does not have a game changing player like Lamar Jackson, Calvin Johnson, or Ed Oliver to worry you about their overcoming the talent-deficit. If focused, the Tigers should roll.