Welcome to week two of Shakin the Southland’s Depth Chart Blue Chip Analysis! Week #1 of the college football season has come and gone and after the Tiger’s 48-7 dismantling of Furman, it is time for Clemson to turn its attention to Clemson’s toughest non-conference foe, the Texas A&M Aggies of the SEC.
In week one we decided that we were going to do a comparison between the Clemson roster that ended the last season and the week one depth chart, but now, we will be using the Rivals rankings to compare the two depth charts at the time of recruitment and comparing their current talents between the two teams.
**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.
The Trevor Lawrence hype train has reached full speed in Clemson, SC, but don’t be so quick to write off Kelly Bryant. After a slow start, the senior finished 10-of-16 on his pass attempts and added 44 yards and a touchdown on the ground to retain his top spot on the depth chart. Lawrence was equally impressive and the coaching staff has stated that they will both play against Texas A&M, but Kelly Bryant can separate himself in this big game atmosphere as I expect him to take more of the snaps due to his familiarity with the offense and his ability to break the game open with his legs.
The Aggies will counter with Sophomore five-star recruit Kellen Mond. Mond received significant playing time last season after starter Nick Starkel fractured his ankle in the first game of the season. Mond saw a majority of the action in the season opener against Northwestern State (completing 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 184 yards) after winning the job from Starkel in camp due to his poise in the pocket and decision making. With Starkel now fully healthy, we will see just how long of a leash Mond will be given if things don’t go his way. We may see four quarterbacks on Saturday night and although Mond has the potential to compete, the top two appear to both be wearing orange.
It didn’t take very long for Tremayne Anchrum to stake his claim as the starting Right Tackle, as the Junior was named ACC Co-Offensive Lineman of the week as he was graded at a 94 by the coaching staff and had two knockdown blocks on the afternoon. Despite facing inferior competition, the men up front were able to keep the Clemson quarterbacks relatively at ease and off the ground all day while helping the offense amass 531 total yards.
If there is one area where Texas A&M has emphasized the use of excess scholarships, it is the offensive line as the current roster returns 11 scholarship athletes from last season. The Aggies struggled to replace the leadership of transfer Koda Martin, with Dan Moore Jr and Carson Green left to try and fill in the gap of the Syracuse transfer. Although they do return scholarship athletes, this squad was tied for 75th in the nation in sacks allowed last season, which is something that experience alone cannot fix. Although they may return numbers, the talent and experience lean towards the Tigers.
The Running back position for the Tigers may have just gotten a little more interesting as Lyn-J Dixon led the Tigers in yards with 89 on six carries, but Travis Etienne and Adam Choice will remain 1 and 2 on the depth chart for the foreseeable future. Choice laid a key block on Lawrence’s second touchdown pass and Etienne continues to tear off chunks, as he averaged 5.7 yards-per-carry in the opening contest. As for the wide receivers, Amari Rodgers showed that he can fill in for Ray-Ray McCloud not only on offense, but on special teams as well. Tee Higgins and the Freshman receivers put on a show, and no matter who is under center for the Tigers, they will have an abundance of talent to throw the ball to.
When it comes to the skill positions for Texas A&M, the conversation starts with Trayveon Williams. Although against inferior competition, the Junior rushed for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries to pace the A&M offense. The conversation begins with Williams, but at the RB position, it also ends as two-star Kwame Etwi is listed as Williams backup. (Although he did rush for 83 yard on 8 carries in week 1) The Clemson secondary will have to keep an eye on Jhamon Ausbon as the Sophomore Wide Receiver is expected to make a big impact for the Aggies this season. Although Ausbon was only third on the team last year in receiving yards with 556, that number led all Freshman receivers in the SEC. Although Williams and Ausbon are dangerous, the depth is just to deep on Clemson’s side of the ball.
Who should be listed at QB1 on Clemson’s depth chart against Texas A&M?
This poll is closed
The defensive line was exactly what we expected it to be on week one against Furman, dominant. Christian Wilkins led the team in tackles with 7, six of them solo and included one sack on the afternoon. The most impressive part of the performance for the Tigers was the depth as both Albert Huggins and Justin Foster added three tackles, two of them solo. Expect the Tigers to use a heavy rotation to keep the starting four fresh and ready to terrorize worn down offensive lines in the third and forth quarters.
The Texas A&M defensive line led the SEC in sacks last season thanks to a strong performance from returning Senior Landis Durham, who was tied for the SEC with 11 sacks all of last season. Much like the offensive line, the Aggies return a ton of players as 10 men from last season’s defensive line return to A&M this season. The Aggies return talent and experience, but it is just almost impossible to imagine giving this advantage to anyone else for the rest of the year.
The linebacker corps, which was an area of concern for the Tigers entering the season, turned in a solid performance in week one. Safety transplant Isaiah Simmons led the unit in tackles (5 total and 4 solo) as the Tigers linebackers were able to pin their ears back and attack the rush heavy Furman Paladins. Shaq Smith showed that there is also depth to be found in this group as he turned in a very impressive performance totaling 3 tackles, but was involved in many more. The linebackers struggled in pass assignments at times and that is something that will need to be watched this Saturday night, and the rest of the season
As deep as the Aggies are on both the offensive and defensive line, the same cannot be said for the linebacking corps in College Station. The Aggies came into the season already losing a pair of backups in Santino Marchiol (transfer) and Ikenna Okeke (injury) and to add to the issues, starter Anthony Hines missed the season opener as well (but is expected to play in week 2). Although they aren’t deep, the combination of Tyrel Dodson, Otaro Alaka and Buddy Johnson has the potential to be one of the better linebacker corps in the SEC. For the starters, there is a slight edge to Texas A&M, but since we are reviewing the two-deep depth chart…
There isn’t much to report out of the Tiger secondary after week one as Furman attempted only nine passes on the day, but the one thing that was recognizable was K’Von Wallace’s ability to locate and make a play on the ball. Wallace led the secondary and was tied for second on the team with five tackles, four of which were solo. Nolan Turner turned in a solid performance as well as the race for the backup safety spots are beginning to tighten up. We will have to wait and see this unit get tested this week to make further evaluations.
And just when you thought that the offensive and defensive line of the Aggies returned the most experience players, you take a look at the defensive backfield which returns a whopping 14 players from last years roster. CB Charles Oliver and Safety Debione Renfro will be the two names that you will hear a lot of in Clemson’s pass attack as I expect Oliver to be paired up with Tee Higgins. The rotation and talent in this unit is extremely strong and we will have to wait and see how Jimbo Fischer manages them.
Advantage: Texas A&M
Most Intriguing Matchup:
Clemson Linebackers vs. Texas A&M Running Backs
It was no secret that Linebacker Isaiah Simmons had a nose for the ball in the run game during the season opener against Furman, however, the safety transplant did struggle at times in the pass game. It really isn’t that hard to believe, as a safety, his instincts were trained to be the last line of defense. Now, Simmons and Kendall Joseph will have to successfully pass off receivers to covering safeties in order to pick up the running backs and tight ends. Simmons will have to do better in his coverage in the flat or Trayveon Williams could make the Tigers pay as a receiver out of the backfield.