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Straight From the Armchair, QT’s Take: Clemson Tigers Exorcize Demon Deacons

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Talented Clemson freshman class is given an early college football baptism.

Clemson University Football Team Lead Protest March After Death Of George Floyd Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I apologize for the delay in posting this—I was helping out my parents in Washington state and got stuck in these horrible fires and smoke. Never been in anything like it and my respiratory system is shook as I breathe some of the worst air on earth (currently hovering over a tiny air purifier). If you have loved ones in this, make sure they are alright.

And Away. We. Go.

Complete Wake dominance from the second offensive series onward. This is the opener and coaches will tell you it is the toughest game of the year prepare for with your team unknowns and no tape of the opposing team. Once teams empty the playbook there isn’t much they are able to install during the season from week to week, but the first week is a wild card. Sam Hartman is a decent QB with a solid arm. Greene wasn’t bad as a WR. Basham is a legit NFL pass rusher. Clawson is a great coach. Wake is an average team, but not a complete pushover and we made them look pedestrian.

More absences than I was expecting heading into the game. Talking about or even speculating on this is dicey (and the reason Dabo has every right to withhold all the information from the media and public). It deals with a student-athletes private health records. But, it does show that depth is going to be a very real concern each and every week. Cornerback was the position hit hardest, but it won’t be the last.

Offense

  • Really loved the increased tempo. 82 plays overall, but the important point is that the pace was much crisper and seemed to be an emphasis.
  • Fewer 50/50 shots. This makes a lot of sense without a proven elite WR at the ‘9’ position (yet). TL was spreading it around and using all parts of the field. 22/28 with some drops. Very efficient. Accuracy looked good. Missed an easy one to Ladson, and gave up the early sack, but overall Trevor Lawrence was in total command of the offense.
  • WE HIT A TE OVER THE MIDDLE. 7 catches for the tight ends. Chalk had the most athletic catch of his career for his first TD. Galloway is as advertised. Allen did good trench work and will surprise folks this year.
  • I’m fine with passing in these early games because it is clear that the passing game needs work and the young receivers need game reps and just experience against quality live competition. That said, this team should probably establish the run first regardless against quality opponents. ETN is just too good not to take advantage. The Oline also likes to run block.
  • ETN tripped a few times on plays he would normally break. He looks great and just needs to stay healthy to break a lot of records this year.
  • Wide Receivers: Some good, some meh. Rodgers had the stumble and dropped TD, but he turned it around with some nice grabs and showed a burst in the open field. Powell got a grab (BREAKOUT!). Spector with a nice grab in the middle of the field. Got to remember that Ngata and Ladson didn’t have anything close to full camp, but going to need more from them. Joe made a spectacular catch, scooping one off the ground. Ajou is super raw but you can see the potential.
  • Offensive Line: Cade Stewart—ok, ok. He missed some blocks and wasn’t moving guys off the line very much, but I didn’t see any complete whiffs and he showed better movement. The interior is still a work in progress to be sure. Putnam played well, but still needs more muscle to really move people and Bock still gets off balance and loses his base too often in pass pro.
  • Really happy with the Tackle play. Jackson Carman was a beast. McFadden had a really good day stepping into a starting position. They had Basham on Carman and then tried to move him around on McFadden and it didn’t work. Young line gets its first start and passes the test.
  • Second team Oline was roooouughh...definitely a work in progress. Hunter Rayburn didn’t travel and he is basically your interior depth. Trotter also didn’t travel, which is unfortunate because they both need those game reps. I thought Walker Parks played the best of the reserves. Paul Tchio looked decent in backup interior reps—Clemson is going to need him at some time during the season.

Defense

  • Bresee gets an offsides and then a sack to push Wake out of field goal range on the very first possession. Manimal, and we get him for three years.
  • I told you that Myles Murphy wasn’t getting as much buzz as Bresee, but that was partly because he was already firmly entrenched in the two deep and being counted on to play a huge role this year. With Foster and XT out and recovering, but on the path back to the team, the DE’s won’t be a liability for long.
  • Nothing on the ground for Wake. Nothing.
  • Joseph Charleston was the first to go in on Nickel packages. I thought of the younger Safeties, he probably played the best overall.
  • Jake Venables did a good job in the first half in meaningful snaps. It’s clear that he has worked on playing more quickly this offseason. He and Spector played a good half, especially in run fits. Tyler Venables was the first SAM off the bench. He provides a lot of versatility and is much faster than you might expect (the national broadcast even remarked on his recovery speed). Tyler missed some assignments in coverage, but showed he can fill that spot.
  • Speaking of LB play—Lavonta Bentley ended Sam Hartman’s night with this hit at the 7:18 mark in the 3rd Q. Just brutal. The ball came out and although Skalski hit him too and wrapped up, Bentley laid the wood. Maguire, even with a club hand, showed his speed.
  • Let’s talk about the first defensive drive and the secondary. On the first ball to Greene it seems like Booth is playing some underneath zone where he cuts off his coverage and expects Safety help over the top—not sure what happened there but looks like the Safety is late and not on Booth. Second play is definitely a PI on Zanders (and one the ACC refs will now be looking to call). Bad play. Loses leverage, grabs, panics with the ball in the air a bit and falls down. Also should note that Zanders had a shoulder strap/brace that goes on your arm to help support the shoulder (usually only given and worn after a shoulder separation or shoulder issue of some kind). But Venables said he graded out over 80, which is pretty good for a first game. The Safeties were a bit late on some rotations, especially with cover 2 rotation, and had some miscommunication. Turner didn’t wrap up on the big play where the WR get away and Maguire chased him down.

Wake goes fast and tries to stress your secondary and defensive alignments. With all of these new starters—it was amazing that there weren’t more busts. My point is—lets not panic yet. It was not the best secondary of Dabo’s career, but it was down a starting corner (Booth was going to start regardless, is my understanding) and Goodrich is a key reserve. Now the coaches have tape and two weeks to make needed corrections.

  • Booth got burned on the one play that should’ve been a TD but the Wake WR just flat out dropped it. But, again, no need to panic. Booth improved in the second half and will still be a major contributor this season. LeAnthony looked solid and Sheridan Jones was able to handle both CB spots. Fred Davis had the PI, but is a definite hit. Can’t have that late hit by Greene.
  • Defensive end: Murphy was awesome. Henry has made strides. Lost contain a few too many times. Mascoll still needs a good bit of work. Looking forward to getting Foster and XT back.

Ugly

Tyler Davis going down to some kind of ankle injury. Hope it is not too serious, but high ankle sprains can be very tricky, especially for big guys. Luckily the position is deep, but Tyler—if healthy—could compete for All-American honors this year.

Meh. First game—no ugly...just happy to have CFB.

SPECIAL Special Teams

BT Potter is showing why we were so high on him in high school. He has hit 90 straight extra point makes, he’s the best kickoff player in recent Clemson history, and he nails a 52 yarder.

Bresee just blew up the field goal kick attempt. That will be fun to continue to watch all season.