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Straight Out of the Armchair: QT’s Monday Musings

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Georgia Southern v Clemson Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

You have to take what happened against Georgia Southern with a grain of salt.

WE SUCK AGAIN. Oh, wait, no we don’t.

They throw everything at you and Clemson plays vanilla. What you want is crisp execution and no injuries. Choice fumbled a ball he shouldn’t have and KB threw an interception on a play that was telegraphed (but it was also the fault of the TE and WR). Trevor Lawrence also threw an interception where he was surprised by the attacking LB.

The Sheriff was having none of it and speared the LB Goldberg style.

Beyond that, you can’t overreact to the game. Shai Werts is a gifted athlete playing QB for Georgia Southern (someone I wish we could’ve convinced to play DB at Clemson). The defense did a great job the entire day of bottling him up.

But I am going to surprise you...apart from the score at the end of the first quarter—I thought we played pretty good after another round of watching. You can nitpick, but it was a pretty good game overall.

Special Teams

This is where we can actually see something we can judge. It was windy so I give Huegel a pass, but missing inside of 40 yards isn’t something we want to replicate in a close game. Punting was still not great. One punt for 32 yards. Rodgers had a great punt return called back because TJ Chase was holding and he got nailed on another punt he should’ve fair caught.

Potter looks good!

Quarterbacks

Kelly B

Here is another shocker. I thought Kelly Bryant played pretty good. You need to score in the redzone and you can’t turn the ball over, but KB came out throwing some of his best balls and most accurate of the year. I also didn’t note any balls in jeopardy apart from the interception. On the first series he under threw a ball to Rodgers that could have been a TD, but Rodgers had a chance to go up and get it.

Beautiful ball to the freshman TE Galloway on third and ten. This is key and one of my main gripes about the KB led offense—converting on third and long. KB did it more than once against Georgia Southern (although he did miss on third and long on his second possession after the chop block penalty where he needed to get rid of the ball and hang in the pocket a bit more).

Speaking of TE’s, Galloway is a star in the making, just needs to not miss any assignments blocking. On the interception Dabo said that Galloway was supposed to get the WR’s CB, which makes sense, because the LG Simpson is supposed to climb to the second level after the catch is made. We didn’t see much of Galloway after that gaffe, which is unfortunate. To finish with TE’s, Garrett Williams is the starter here and clearly the best overall option. Richard didn’t play poorly like he did against A&M and caught some nice balls from TL.

KB was making the right reads in the run game with the zone read as well, gaining some chunk yards on the ground. We left the DT unblocked against the odd front, which seemed like an easier read for the QB.

My only other critique of KB in this game is the velocity on some of these short passes. They just don’t have the needed zip. This is curious because he can throw a bullet on some intermediate throws, but sacrifices velocity for accuracy on the short throws.

KB comes back in after the TL TD drive and lands awkwardly on the ball while running. Probably knocked the wind out of himself and bruised his ribs or sternum (hopefully nothing is broken, but Swinney said he was moving and passing fine at practice).

Georgia Southern plays ball control and with the offense turning it over and missing FGs you get a zero-zero game after the first Q.

Trevor Lawrence

My QB listens to a Christian playlist before he goes and plays—top that...

Lets highlight a sequence here. First down the ball gets out in a hurry to Derion Kendrick who picks up 6. Then DK drops a ball that would’ve been a first down. 3rd and 4. TL noticeably goes through a series of reads, notice the footwork, and finds TJ Chase open underneath for the first down. He got rattled a bit against A&M with recognizing blitzes, which threw him off a bit. In this game he was back to one of his strengths, reading through his progressions.

After his first drive is stalled by the Choice fumble, TL comes back and hits some nice balls to Richard, one on an RPO. Cervenka almost airmails a high snap, but TL gets it handed off to ETN. TL converts a 3rd and 4 on a quick out route to Higgins. Another RPO read, TL hits Renfrow on a deep crosser in the middle of the field who could’ve easily scored if he runs to the sideline, but instead cuts inside and does some weird dead fish impersonation. Get yourself the TD there Hunter...

TL shows a bit of the wheels and toughness picking up ten yards close to the goal-line. He can run the ball folks.

On a play where he was blitzed, he threw to his hot read JC Chalk later in the game—throwing into the blitz and finding Smith wide open where the blitzer had just vacated his position.

TL is extremely cerebral. Coach Swinney gave a great anecdote where TL on the sideline is able to explain and defend his decisions in the RPO game. He is already checking out of run plays to pass plays based on the look of the defense—something you must have in this offense from the QB and not something every true freshman would be comfortable making (or QB period—see FSU QB play...). At the goal-line TL checks out of a run play on third and three because he sees press man coverage on Higgins. He threw the ball a bit inside and not high enough (although I expect Higgins to make that catch regardless), but he isn’t wrong based on the look and can defend the decision. Very important.

Now the negative.

TL has a chance to just blow out Georgia Southern, but doesn’t.

He has a drive going late in the 3rd Q that stalls after Choice falls down, tripping himself up, on second down. And TL vacates the pocket and throws it out of bounds on third down. Looked like he could’ve had Ross on the sideline, but the safe throw. TL is very risk averse. Huegel misses the 47 yard FG.

Next drive he throws a deep ball to Higgins. Not a great throw, but it is under thrown and Higgins needs to work back into the DB to get that pass interference call. The next pass he misses the LB who deflects the ball and it is intercepted. TL almost didn’t throw an interception in high school and hadn’t thrown a ball in jeopardy through three games. Something to watch, but TL is usually very conservative and careful with the football.

Next drive is a three and out. Run play is a TFL when the A gap LB shoots the gap and isn’t picked up by the pulling Simpson. The next play is poorly blocked by the Oline. Cervenka and Hyatt let their men through and TL steps up in the pocket for a gain of three. On third and 9 he misses Renfrow down the seam. It seemed worse in real time, but it was really just two missed passes and the interception.

Next drive is handoffs to ETN for the TD.

TL made strides with an injured KB and more reps, but didn’t light it up the way he could have with another touchdown drive.

Running Backs

Feaster gets a swing pass out of the backfield in space! He ran with some serious desire and gained those YAC (yards after contact) yards today. Choice had a fumble and wasn’t effective other than a late TD. Dixon looked like a RB needing more carries. It would be a shame to burn Dixon’s RS if you aren’t going to get him over 100-150 snaps. I think you have to decide if he is going to eat into Choice’s snaps or not after this four game mark. Dixon showed some decent pass pro during the game as well (granted he got thrown to the side, but he made the initial block).

ETN was a beast. He excels at some of these outside runs versus straight A gap running. Get him to the edge of the defense and that is where he is lethal.

Wide Recievers

I saw better perimeter blocking overall. DK and Ross in particular, but most WR’s were holding their blocks better.

Other than than the tunnel screen interception where Ross could’ve fought a bit more for the ball, Ross had his coming out party. Great double move on the TL TD catch and run. Physical blocking throughout the day. No missed assignments that I could see. He should continue to cut into Overton’s snaps.

Offensive Line

First two drives we are running the ball effectively and getting good push until a chop block call. Offensive line is performing fine. There are a few missed assignments here and there, but nothing dramatic. Things get blown out of proportion when you can’t convert at the goal-line. Clemson needs to be able to convert and I like Swinney calling attention to it, but overall it wasn’t a bad performance.

Swinney puts in the second team and they perform very well. The final KB drive is one pass and the rest of the plays are runs where the second team paves the way. Including a one yard goal-line score.

Jackson Carman looks like he is almost ready for primetime. What a transformation over the summer. If he can get down ten more pounds we have ourselves another dominant LT. I would seriously consider moving him inside because he can move people in the run game (but I understand wanting to have a backup tackle).

I know Bockhorst got an unnecessary roughness penalty, but I don’t mind his attitude on the field. Play through the whistle. It isn’t his first brush with a potential penalty, so he will need to reign it in and play smart, but I love the attitude. He is the clear LG backup, but not sure why he isn’t being forced to learn and play some RG (Simpson, for example, was always a LG in high school and wasn’t great switching sides, not sure if that is a similar deal for Bockhorst).

Snaps are a bit of an issue still. Falcinelli’s snaps are too slow and Cervenka has a couple scary snaps. Cervenka also busted on one of the TL three and outs while playing RG where he gave a free run to TL, who stepped up and tried to run to avoid the sack. Giella actually snaps it the best, but isn’t athletic enough to challenge for playing time. The only other Oline problems were at the RG position. Stewart went out of the game early and Pollard had some missed assignments. He really needs to improve his flexibility.

Simpson bounced back today and long term only Center and RG seem to be the problem areas on the line moving forward. We will learn more at Tech.

DEFENSE

Not much to say about the first half. When the front four are in the game, there isn’t much that a rushing attack can do. This game wasn’t going to tell us anything about our pass defense either. Not worried about the yards gained by the DT playing RB Wright.

I think Xavier Thomas is taking that next step. Got his first sack and you can see the speed and explosiveness as he settles in. Sorry Chris Register (who looks a step slower coming back from injury), but your snaps should all be going to XT.

Mark Fields got a lot of playing time and was much better in coverage.

The only thing I am really worried about is looking toward the future. You could see the clear difference between the defense with the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the backups. The LBs don’t have the easy paths to the ball and yards come a bit easier. I’m sad thinking about life after these four. It also means that the younger players need to grow up during this season.

This is going to be tough to manage, but XT, KJ Henry, Pinckney, and non senior LBs all need more snaps. LB play is going to need to improve for next year when you have Tre Lamar (who could opt to jump to the NFL to save his body, unlikely but still an outside possibility) and Skalski starting with Chad and Shaq Smith backing them up. Those two need the snaps. I know JD Davis is serviceable and in the right spot, but we need to bring those two guys along (or lose them to transfers).

The defense gave up a long throw on a busted coverage that looked like a miscommunication and Wallace not getting back on the trick play (Jalen Williams changed the coverage call, maybe it is on him or Muse?). They scored on the next play and on the next possession moved the ball again until the starting Dline was brought back into the game. That is disappointing, but overall a great performance.

Previewing GT

Not too worried if we play assignment football on defense and don’t turn it over. Watch the gadget plays, fake punts, etc. Paul Johnson needs a statement win because GT is growing restless. Clemson should shut down the A gap and if we can get our LBs moving fast enough to cover the perimeter. The other triple option teams have been able to get some yards by attacking outside, but Simmons should be up to the task. Muse is another key piece and defending the run is his strength, he just needs to stay disciplined. The team will miss Dorian O’Daniel against GT, but should be up to the task. Wouldn’t mind seeing Wilkins line up a play or two at FS...

Stay healthy! No cut blocks that take out Wilkins or Lawrence for the rest of the year.

On offense, lets try to get up big early so we can save our star DLine. The only concern on offense is turning it over and winding up with a much closer game with less opportunities because PJ is running the clock and grinding out first downs. No one on defense is really that scary as the talent has slowly, but surely, declined under PJ. Victor Alexander (#9) is a Jack LB/DE and Brant Mitchell (#51) is a decent LB. They have a couple Dlineman (Saint-Amour and Branch) who are seniors and competent, but none of them get much penetration. If our Oline struggles to get any push, that would be concerning after this game.