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Straight Out of the Armchair: GT Bees Lose Their Sting

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Believe in Trevor Lawrence.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech
Amari is coming into his own...
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Yummy Paul Johnson meltdown tears...

I almost feel like I don’t have to type much this week. This feels like another blowout tune-up game heading into ACC play. Not much to complain about. Bobby Dodd conquered for a second straight time and four in a row against GT. With all the talk about the QB’s I’m not sure we are giving enough credit to this team for dismantling GT. This game wasn’t competitive after the first quarter (and after Trevor Lawrence stepped on the field).

Another road game under the belt and we got to witness the beginning of the coming out party for Trevor Lawrence.

And Trevor Lawrence is made the starting QB.

Credit to the coaching staff on making the change. Everyone can see TL’s potential that will only continue to expand with more reps and game situations. This is a move based on performance up until this point, but also based on trying to be competitive in the playoff (watching Tua at Bama, Haskins at OSU, and Fromm slightly improved at UGA is scary right now, especially Tua).

For the record, this is exactly what I thought the coaching staff should do coming into the season. Survive the A&M test with KB as the starter and grinding it out. Then you work TL in more and more until he earns it on the field. I said you had this weaker portion of the ACC slate to work through until going to FSU (which no longer looks like much of a challenge) to prep TL.

You could even argue that this is a week too early. Why not make sure that KB doesn’t transfer by having him be the starter (not that I fault the staff for their transparency). I’m a bit surprised that the change was made this week and not next week with the four game transfer rule looming. I know Brice has come in and had a few good series, but he is not ready to shoulder the load. He needs to improve his accuracy/ball placement, system knowledge, and put less balls in jeopardy. Losing KB would be a huge blow and I still think there is room for a two QB system going forward. You don’t want TL to being taking body blows or getting injured. If he is the starter, he will get enough reps and KB can come in and provide a change of pace to wear down the defense.

Kelly Bryant

In fact, I think KB will be more effective coming off the bench. Defensive coordinators know how to defend KB. They stuff the box, crash down on the horizontal game and force the long ball down the field to be completed. Those Go routes are fine and KB has done a much better job throwing the long ball, but it gets difficult to be an explosive offense with that set up. You must stay on schedule and grind out drives (and it doesn’t help when your horizontal passes are a weaker part of your game).

Going back and watching the game—KB didn’t play that bad. Really, he didn’t. Look at his drives:

ETN drop. Richard stopped for gain of one yard. And then on 3rd and 9, KB hold it and is sacked (and this is KB’s biggest flaw—he is horrid at converting third and long).

KB run of one. Ball in jeopardy where the stick route to Williams is thrown high and inaccurately. On third and ten, a good ball is thrown to Rodgers for a gain of eight.

Then TL comes it and rips off TD after TD.

KB comes in and puts together a 75 yard TD drive. Quick jet to Kendrick for 6. ETN run for a first down (they mark a yard short). ETN with a great spinning first down run that rips the soul out of the defense. KB for 6 on a designed draw. Fake pitch and throw to Chase OVER THE MIDDLE! That is what needs to happen more. Choice for 4. Another pass to Chase on the sideline. Two great passes—accurate and on-time. Choice for 5. ETN for two runs for the score.

KB’s last drive:

Feaster for 8 and 3 for a first down. KB throw to Overton is batted down and probably a ball in jeopardy. Didn’t have the zip on it that TL’s ball did earlier to Rodgers. KB runs for two and then Overton drops a ball he could’ve caught on third down. It was thrown a bit inside, but could’ve been caught.

OFFENSE

Not enough has been made about the job the offensive line did in helping establish the run. GT isn’t great on the defensive line, but the offensive line was able to push them around. Simpson again played better as a run blocker, pulling effectively. I took note of Carman and Bockhorst getting quality second team reps.

Hello Tavien Feaster! He went down early with a knee tweak, but wearing a knee sleeve he came back and ran with purpose. ETN and Feaster were YAC monsters. Very good to see Feaster not going down on first contact. ETN spinning his way to 8 more yards is a thing of beauty. I’d like to see Dixon get a few more snaps as Choice’s role recedes.

ETN was called out for not bumping the DE enough, resulting in the TL interception (although TL could’ve waited for the play to develop further). ETN also dropped KB’s first pass, but apart from those miscues he was electric, 11 rushes for 122 yards.

Justyn Ross—that guy is for real. What a weapon. More of Tee and Ross on the field please (maybe not the exact same place on the field, but on the field at the same time for sure). Ross was pushed out too wide on the play according to Tee. Also need to note how TL stood in the pocket to deliver the ball on the busted coverage for the Ross TD. Great recognition by TL and Ross finishes the job by running to the endzone (instead of running to the defender like Renfrow did last week).

Amari Rodgers impressed me this week. On the ten yard Out route that Trevor threw from the left hash to the sideline, Rodgers made a quality catch with his hands. TL threw another dart in perfect rhythm/timing where the ball was in the air as Rodgers was breaking out of his route. TL needs WRs who can catch his fastballs, and catch them with their hands, and Rodgers and Renfrow fit the bill.

I’m not going to harp on TL. What is setting him apart is his cerebral command of the offense. He has been making checks based on defensive coverage in ways that KB has always struggled. He is doing better with going through progressions when faced with pressure and handling blitzes (something to monitor going forward). But the real reason he is starting is because he is scoring TD’s instead of FG’s and he can convert on third and long. If you excuse the ETN interception, then TL was basically flawless against an ACC team.

The drive before halftime sets everything up—finishing the drive with a great playcall by Elliott (and I liked the playing calling this week with a few added wrinkles) with the quick pitch to ETN for the score. TL needed to convert multiple third downs on the drive, including one of the best throws of his young career to Renfrow who somehow got a foot down (and that was with Hyatt getting pushed down on a stunt and a free release to the QB). Remember that he needed to convert on 3rd and 15 because of a false start by Anchrum added in for good measure. He needed to scramble and get out of bounds. He needed to recover from a questionable throw and a couple missed throws (but really it was Ross bringing his man over too close). He needed to manage the offense, play with tempo, and move well in the pocket. Check, check, check, checks all around.

DEFENSE

Apart from the first quarter where the defense had a few missed assignments and GT strung together a couple good drives, this was total domination. Capped off with a defensive touchdown. We gave up too much in garbage time, which was disappointing.

I wanted to see the defense hold GT to a FG with the change of possession and short field. That is something to harp on.

On the first drive, multiple players needed to adjust to the speed of GT’s triple option. Ferrell missing an assignment. JD Davis not committing to the pitch or quick enough to recover, giving up the first down. Later Denzel Johnson missed some arm tackles and assignments. But this is nitpicking. The defense fought back, created havoc and pushed GT out of FG range.

In fact, this game could’ve been much worse for GT if we come up with any of the three fumbles we had in our hands or the interception throw right to stone hands Mark Fields. Lots of miscues for GT, but Clemson had a lot to do with forcing those.

Xavier Thomas is carving out a second team role for himself and will continue to be an instant impact force.

LB play remains a concern, especially with Kendall Joseph’s groin questionable and Chad Smith out until halftime. The targeting call was technically right since the QB was defenseless (he just threw the ball) and he made initial contact with the facemask of the helmet (which is lame because he didn’t launch, use the crown, and his head was up).

When Lamar is on and in position to hit someone squarely, that person is likely to fumble.

The real test for Clemson’s defense and specifically the secondary will be against Cuse. After that game we will know where we really are at a unit.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Xavier Thomas just destroyed that unsuspecting GT kick returner. He was flying.

We won’t talk about the punting.

Amari and the punt coverage continues to settle in. Powell had some nice kickoff return yardage beyond the 25 yard line.

BT Potter is a joy to watch kick it through the endzone.

SYRACUSE

Man I can’t stand Syracuse. I’ve long said I think Babers is one of the better coaches in the ACC. Clemson was unprepared for the tempo, the RPOs, and playing sound, disciplined football last year. KB getting knocked out of the game was also a challenge. This was a surprise after dominating Babers offense and scheme the year before. Eric Dungey, talk about players who seem to be at their programs for forever, is a mobile QB with a decent arm. He will stress the secondary and probably require a spy. Their team is undefeated and very confident. Could Syracuse and Duke be the two toughest games left on the schedule??