Welcome to week three of our depth chart analysis as, per my cardiologists request, the Tigers will be hosting the Georgia Southern Eagles on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley. Obviously there is a significant talent gap between the two rosters, but that won’t stop us from letting you know what you will be seeing from both sidelines. We also have the added bonus of this game providing us the opportunity for the Tigers to display some of the depth that they have accummulated, and work on some assignments. Be sure to sound off in the comments below and stay safe/dry during the upcoming storm.
**WEEKLY DISCLAIMER** -- This shouldn’t have to be said but there are always players who over/under perform their star ranking (e.g., Hunter Renfrow) These rankings are used as a tool for us to present you with an interesting analysis at how the recruiting game has come full circle while pointing out the strengths/differences between the players original rankings/how they have progressed.
As always, we’ve divided the offense and the defense into three portions each. For the offense, the starting QB, the starting O-line, and the two-deep for the remaining skill positions (WR, TE, RB) are each weighted to represent one-third of the overall offense rating. Similarly on defense, the two-deep at D-line, linebacker, and in the secondary are each weighted to represent one-third of the overall defense rating, regardless of scheme.
It’s a conversation that we are going to be having on a weekly basis here in Tiger Town, so allow me to get my opinion out of the way quickly. Kelly Bryant is your quarterback. Period. If there is one thing that we have learned while scouring the depths of social media this week is that Clemson fans need to take off the long blonde hair tinted sunglasses, and this is in no way a negative review of the play of Trevor Lawrence. We saw all of the tweets this week of how “the two-quarterback system works!” but the Tiger’s pulled out a victory in College Station this weekend thanks to the abandonment of said system.
Bryant’s superior knowledge of the offense as well as the added dimension he brings to the offense with his legs will keep him at QB1 and give the Tigers the best chance to win football games, and the constant rotation will do nothing but disrupt rhythm. You may now proceed to yell at me in the comments.
Shai Werts, the Redshirt Sophomore from Clinton, South Carolina will be taking the snaps for the Eagles and will be the focal point of the modified option attack that was installed by former Georgia Tech quarterbacks coach Bryan Cook back in 2017. Werts is an athletic quarterback who will try to sell misdirection and utilize his legs to pick up yardage. While he does attempt less than 10 passes per game, don’t sleep on the pre-season All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention’s arm. Werts has completed 11 of his 16 pass attempts and threw for two touchdowns last week against UMass. Werts won’t be able to get anything done against the Tiger defensive line, but will be the focal point of the Eagle offense nonetheless.
After Texas A&M stacked the box against the Tiger offense, it became clear throughout Saturday night that the interior of the Offensive Line was having some issues and Junior Sean Pollard seems to have fallen on the sword as Sophomore Cade Stewart has been named co-starter at Right Guard. The communication between Pollard and Center Justin Falcinelli just wasn’t there last week and Stewart saw plenty of action while played quite well as he has a quick first step and is very powerful in his run blocking. The left side continues to be the strong side for the Tigers as Mitch Hyatt was named ACC Offensive lineman of the week, grading out at 90% which included 3 knockdown blocks and zero sacks allowed.
The Eagle’s most highly rated recruit comes from the offensive line in 315-pound Redshirt Sophomore Aaron Dowdell. Dowdell was a four-star recruit out of Fairburn, GA and committed to UCF where he redshirted his freshman year before being removed from the team. Dowdell then moved to Georgia Military Academy where he was rated as the 141st JUCO player in the country as well as the No. 5 JUCO offensive guard in the country before joining Georgia Southern. The size of the Georgia Southern offensive line is not quite what you would expect from a modified option offense (with Dowdell and Left Tackle Jeremiah Culbreth tipping the scales at 315 and 320 respectively) but needless to say, this group doesn’t stand much of a chance on a potentially rain-soaked Saturday.
You didn’t see much of the Tiger backfield on Saturday night which resulted in the play calling being brought into question as the Clemson running backs saw only 13 carries on the night. While I did feel that the play calling does need to be further examined, the Aggies were daring the Tigers to pass the ball all night, and Coach Elliott and Scott took that bet and played to the advantages that the defense presented to them. Expect a run heavy mix this weekend in the sloppy weather with the full stable of backs on display. This gives the starting wide receivers a break as they once again carried the team. Tee Higgins made a very Mike Williams like catch and eclipsed 100 yards on the evening, while Hunter Renfrow just continued to do what he does. I don’t expect to see the starters on the field long on Saturday, so look for Trevion Thompson and Diondre Overton to see a bulk of the playing time.
You won’t see much of the Georgia Southern skill positions as Shai Werts accounts for 37% of the offenses rushing yards and 67% of the touchdowns on the season, but the other primary backs that you will see will be Wesley Fields and Monteo Garrett. The Senior Fields will get most of the rushing up the middle, while Garrett will look to break to the outside and be the pitch back for Werts. I don’t expect much from either this week due to the conditions and the talent discrepancy.
Once again and without a doubt the Clemson defensive line was the top performing unit from last weeks contest. The numbers may not reflect the dominance on the night due to the Texas A&M game plan of getting the ball out of Kellen Mond’s hand before he could find himself in trouble, but the necessity to drop the linebackers in coverage on the evening put the front four on an island, and they managed to deliver despite some, ahem, minor jersey tugs. Clelin Ferrell earned ACC Defensive Lineman of the week honors with his performance grabbing two sacks and forcing a fumble on the evening. To say this unit overmatches the Eagle offensive line is a massive understatement, so don’t expect to see a lot of the first team defensive line in the game for long on Saturday. It may be time to see some extended playing time for some of the new toys that Brent Venables was given this offseason.
The defensive front for the Eagles returns significant depth as all six members on the two-deep depth chart saw fairly significant action last season, however, this may be a scenario where experience may not carry over. Due a coaching change midway through last season, the Eagles have abandoned their standard 4-3 Nickel based defense and have converted to a 3-4 defense in an effort to utilize their team speed. This scheme leaves to much responsibility on undersized Nose Tackle Ian Bush (6’0”, 275lbs) to control the run defense. Look for the rushing lanes to be wide open for the Tiger running backs against this new alignment.
With the performance of the secondary last week, it may surprise some when I say that the group that I have the most concern about on the Clemson defense is the Linebacker corp. Lets get the positive out of the way, this is a group that is above average against the rush and utilizing the blitz, but the pass coverage is deeply concerning, particularly from Isaiah Simmons and Kendall Joseph. The middle of the field was wide open for a majority of the game due to the linebackers missed assignments in zone defense (Joseph tended to pass off coverages to players with other responsibilities), and Simmons was responsible for two more busted coverages from running backs out of the backfield. It may be early, but with two rush-based offenses on the schedule over the next two weeks, coach Venables will have his work cut out for him teaching up the linebackers prior to their exposure to the Syracuse spread attack on the 29th.
You will hear two new terms this weekend from the Georgia Southern linebackers as they utilize a ‘Dog’ linebacker and an ‘Anchor’ linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme. The Dog linebacker’s primary responsibility is supporting the Nose Tackle in the run game, while the Anchor linebacker position will take the responsibility of pass coverage from tight ends and slot receivers. Despite the exciting new terms, the player to watch in this group is just the plain old Weakside Linebacker Tomarcio Reese. The Senior linebacker was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the week against SC State in week one with 10 tackles and an interception and is someone that you will see around the ball a lot during the upcoming game.
This unit struggled on Saturday night, but positive first, Trayvon Mullen looks to be playing the part of a shutdown corner rather well. Further analysis of his performance on Saturday reflects a technically sound and schematically aware player that will be the backbone of this secondary. The rest of the players performances left a lot to be desired. K’Von Wallace led the team in tackles and was quoted asking quarterbacks to “keep trying us” in an interview early this week (which may not be the best timing going up against two option-based teams) The lack of safety depth has reared its ugly head quite early as after getting caught out of position for a second time, Tanner Muse was yanked for Denzel Johnson who was continuously out of position in coverage in the second half, leading to chunk plays. This team gets a break over the next couple of weeks and won’t see much action, but this may not be the best timing as the secondary needs the reps.
There isn’t much to report out of the Georgia Southern secondary, but their go to shut down corner is Monquavion Brinson. The Junior out of Atlanta has played in all 24 games of his college career and started all 12 last season and was named Second Team All-Sun Belt. Brinson bulled down 5 interceptions on the season, but since both him and his counterpart Kindle Vildor both stand at 5’11”, look for the Tigers to exploit their height advantage against the Eagle secondary.
Most Intriguing Matching:
Clemson Offensive Line vs. Georgia Southern Defensive Line
Talent discrepancy aside, going up against this new scheme may be just what the doctor ordered in order for Justin Falcinelli to improve his communication with his guards John Simpson and Cade Stewart. I don’t expect to see either quarterback with much pressure, but keep an eye on the assignments, particularly who will be responsible for picking up the ‘Dog’ linebacker in blitz situations.