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Straight From the Armchair, QT’s Take: Clemson Enters the Home Stretch

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NCAA Football: Wofford at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

No Turnovers!

This game came at a perfect time in the season. I know a lot of the fanbase doesn’t want to see a home game against Wofford, but playing two easy teams to go along with two SEC teams is really important. Teams with 10 game schedules get to beat up on another bad conference opponent to go along with two cupcakes and maybe one good OOC opponent (the OOC scheduling across the country has gotten bad). SEC teams often schedule three powderpuff games. Clemson’s OOC scheduling is some of the best in the nation. Two division games and then an open date before

Clemson got to rest Xavier Thomas for another game. The defense will need his pass rushing down the stretch. John Simpson got to rest a sore ankle. Played a lot of people.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Another 36 yard punt. Yuck.

High snap and a miss from Potter. Dabo said he got his foot caught in the ground (curse you sod!). But he came back and made the last one, which was good to see. Potter is going to continue to grow into being a starter in his first year. He just needs to be solid when Clemson really needs him.

OFFENSE

This is the Travis Etienne appreciation post. He broke James Davis rushing TD record in two and a half years and will beat Spiller’s record in due time. We take for granted just how good ETN has been and he is entering into the greatest all-time running back at Clemson conversation. Certainly these past four games are probably the best stretch I have personally seen (I have long been a Terry Allen guy historically and Spiller for all-purpose but ETN is challenging). But I am most pleased with ETN’s pass catching. Caught another really good ball. Probably the most important progression during the season is ETN’s ability to catch the ball. ETN as a pass catching threat is a problem for opposing defenses.

I was happy to see Rencher get a TD on his birthday. From here on out I’d like to see more Mellusi and Dukes to get them prepared for next season, especially in pass protection or catching the ball out of the backfield. Give those guys some serious game work against NC State.

All three starting wide receivers scored. They all looked to be in a better rhythm with Trevor Lawrence. Former 4-star Cornell Powell with some nice catches.

If Trevor Lawrence can keep his interception number at 8 through the rest of the season—he could quietly creep back into the Heisman consideration if other guys above him falter. Hurts lost his game and voters aren’t wanting to give Oklahoma another Heisman. Tua needs to return from injury. Burrow could struggle against some of these better defenses. Same for Fields. I’m not saying Trevor Lawrence will win it, but he and Travis Etienne could be in the running for a trip to the Heisman final if they continue on this trajectory. Unfortunately, they won’t have a Heisman moment but it is now a possibility. This is the Trevor Lawrence we thought we would see coming into the season. Efficient. Using his legs a bit more. No turnovers and spreading the ball around. He should shred the NC State defense.

I was watching the backup lineman in this game more than anything else on offense. Hard to take away too much from a Wofford defensive line, but I was encouraged by the play of Putnam and Rayburn. Just like Tyler Davis, landing Putnam was really important for the near future of the offensive line. Putnam could be starting next season if Vinson can’t recover. Reeves seems to be back at Tackle, which is a good move for depth next season. Hopefully Rayburn will be able to challenge Cade Stewart next season for the starting center job. Trotter got some snaps and still needs to put on ten pounds of mass and increase his flexibility, but for an initial grayshirt offer, he was holding his own.

The offense got off to a fast start and steamrolled an inferior opponent. Do it again against Dave D on the road before the real home stretch. National narratives need to slow their roll—this offense is clicking.

DEFENSE

Nine straight games with under 300 yards. Very impressive. And this was a good Wofford team and a difficult scheme to cover that stresses a defense. The team played with great discipline apart from about three or four plays. I saw the defensive line holding the point of attack and setting the edge consistently, showing really good closing speed against an ultimately overmatched Wofford team.

When I said a couple of years ago that Logan Rudolph was loved by the staff and thought he would be an elite player. He had a tackle where he about ripped off the players head as he body slammed him. He is getting off blocks just a bit better, which is making a difference in his production. KJ Henry got off of blocks better in this game. Tyler Davis continues to impress (how important was that recruiting battle over FSU last year!). Chad Smith continues an upward curve. Simmons got an interception and continues to make the case for being a top 10 overall draft pick (if not higher).

A couple of busts that weren’t good to see, but most were late in the game. Wofford had an open pass that they dropped in the first quarter that was wide open. Nolan Turner got sucked in and he and Muse couldn’t recover. The other play that was a long gain was a good play design from Wofford that put Turner in conflict covering a RB out of the backfield in coverage. An option pitch late in the game gave up the first touchdown where Wallace needed to crash harder and the rest of the defense wasn’t getting off blocks. A few things to tighten, but overall really solid and nothing an opposing team can pick apart. Mascoll had an offsides that was just a mistake on his part.

Got to see more of some true freshman. LaVonta Bentley got kicked out for targeting, but while he was in the game he showed that he is a striker. Jake Venables showed some improvement and coming back from that hamstring injury he is moving a lot better. Spector keeps showing he can be trusted as a backup (he did have one play where the RB got behind him but just a good play by Wofford because Muse couldn’t get over either). Tayquon Johnson has the size, but will need to clean up the technique to get on the field next season. Xavier Kelly seemed to favor his shoulder/ac joint as the game continued, I would imagine the coaches will try to get him healthy heading into the open date. Jefferies seems to have passed him on the depth chart as the next man off the bench. Ruke looks better and better and I was glad to see him log more snaps to hopefully get closer to 100. He still has a long way to go, but you can see the length, frame, and athleticism at close to 300 pounds.

Glory days. They’ll pass you by. Glory days.