Welcome to Week 3 of our Blue Chip Depth Chart Analysis! They may say that misfortune comes in threes, but I think they must have meant the Triple-Option offense as the Tigers will face their third such offense on the young season this Saturday as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Yellow Jackets. How do the Tigers match up against yet another run-based attack? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!
**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.
Kelly Bryant will return for the Tigers this weekend after an injury scare in which he landed on the ball when tackled, causing a deep bruise forcing him to the sidelines for the remainder of the game. Trevor Lawrence played the remainder of the game and didn’t miss a beat, and we expect both quarterbacks to receive equal playing time again this weekend. There is no doubt that Trevor utilizes the middle of the field much more efficiently than Kelly, but with ACC play beginning, look for the rotation to become less frequent as Bryant begins to take over as the complexity of the offense increases.
Clemson fans should be very familiar with TaQuon Marshall after he was bottled up in Death Valley last season with only 23 rushing yards on 15 attempts on route to a 24-10 rain soaked defeat. What you can expect to see different this season is the passing game from Georgia Tech. Marshall and the Tech offense are averaging 7 more pass attempts per game than last season with Marshall completing 47% of them. Marshall can be dynamic with his legs, but look for a few more passes on Saturday afternoon. Look for between 16 and 20 passes from the Yellow Jackets on the afternoon.
Sean Pollard returns at Right Guard for the Tigers as they return to their original starting five on the season. This group has been good, but far from consistent and Coach Swinney drove the message home last weekend when after failing to score in a goal line situation, he benched all five starters in favor of the second team. Despite the benching, John Simpson and Mitch Hyatt have performed extremely well on the left side of the line this year, and expect Clemson to utilize them as we expect an expanded role from the running backs.
The Georgia Tech offensive line is about what you would expect from a triple-option offensive line. Nobody weighs over 290 pounds in the starting five, but they make up for it in their quickness and ability to cut block. The Georgia Tech offensive line may look much different than expected on Saturday as starting Right Guard Will Bryan and Right Tackle Andrew Marshall found their way on the injury list and are questionable for the game. Look for Paul Johnson to utilize Left Guard Parker Braun and favor the left side of his offensive line.
We haven’t seen much out of the Clemson running backs in the first three weeks of the season as the Tigers have been sorting out their quarterback situation, but in the meantime, Travis Etienne found his way to the top of the Clemson running back yards-per-carry list, now that he qualifies, at 7.2 per carry for his career. With Adam Choice still holding down the #2 spot on the depth chart after a rough week against Georgia Southern, look for Tavian Feaster to receive the majority of the second team snaps despite his #3 spot on the depth chart. The Tigers have been showing off their youth at the WR position, but with the Tech linebacker core susceptible to the play action, look for Hunter Renfrow to have a big day over the middle.
With KirVonte Benson out for the remainder of the year with an injury, Georgia Tech will have to turn to Redshirt Freshman Jordan Mason. Mason’s only action in his career came in game #1 against Alcorn State where he rushed 11 times for 85 yards, so Mason will be the wild card on the afternoon. Don’t expect much from A-Back Qua Searcy as the dive play will more than likely be completely snuffed out by the Clemson Defensive Line, so Tech will be using the draw and counter plays with Benson and Marshall.
The best defensive front in college football just seems to keep performing better as Clelin Ferrell is making a case as the best defensive lineman in the country as he is tied for the most sacks in the nation (5.0) with Boston College’s Wyatt Ray. The strength of this line comes from its depth as Justin foster and Nyles Pinckney have show that they would be starting on just about any other roster in the country, with Freshman Xavier Thomas making a push for a spot on the two-deep.
The Yellow Jackets will no longer line up in their trademark 4-2-5 defense as Nate Woody has taken the reigns in Atlanta and installed an aggressive 3-4 defensive strategy with an emphasis on the Defensive Ends. Desmond Branch and Anree Saint-Amour are faster than average and will line up directly on top of the Clemson Offensive Tackles in an effort to avoid double teaming from the outside. The inside linebackers will then supplement the B-Gaps in run support with an emphasis on always having 7 men in the box. While it is an aggressive tactic, it leaves a large portion of the field open. Expect the quarterbacks to have some open receivers if they have time in the pocket.
This is a dream matchup for this linebacker corps as Isaiah Simmons and Kendall Joseph have a nose for the ball and are close to tops on the team in tackles. Simmons will have to be careful in picking up the running backs out of the backfield on pass plays, but I fully expect him to lead the team in tackles this week as one of his main defensive responsibilities will be the counter rush.
The Georgia Tech linebacker group in their 3-4 scheme have underperformed this year, mainly due to their glaring inability to handle the play action pass. On film, both Brant Mitchell and Victor Alexander have shown to dive to the line of scrimmage on the run fake, forcing them to try and recover quickly. Look for Hunter Renfrow to utilize the open middle of the field, and potentially a Tight End when Trevor Lawrence is in the game.
This is yet another weekend where we won’t see much from the Clemson secondary. Tanner Muse seems to be in the dog house a bit as Denzel Johnson continues to see more playing time, but I expect Muse and K’Von Wallace to play a significant role in run support this week. I expect Trayvon Mullen to be glued to Marshall’s favorite passing target, Brad Stewart, which should eliminate him as a threat.
Georgia Tech’s secondary is actually ranked the highest in regards to star rankings, but has been referred to as a group of ‘Role Players’. That certainly doesn’t speak to their talent, I think that phrase is just used in the Nate Woody defense as the secondary scheme is to keep it very simple and use their athleticism to try and make plays. You won’t see much zone coverage coming from this group, just man coverage with safety help over the top.
Most Intriguing Matchup: Georgia Tech WR’s vs. Clemson Secondary
Not what you would expect in a game against the Yellow Jackets, but with their increase in passing and a lackluster performance against Texas A&M still fresh on the mind, we will look to see how the Tiger secondary handles the smaller passing game that they will see. Keep in mind that this defensive backfield has only been truly tested once and the Syracuse passing game awaits.