We can’t pull all that much from a game like this—positive or negative. You want to stay healthy and let players get game reps/let the backups play as if this was a preseason game. It is a bonus if you can get some crisp, sharp execution. I’ll try to refrain from any sweeping generalizations (and so should you—no one should be saying Twittertastic things like Puma should supplant DJ—yikes...). Georgia Tech is going to be the gauge for where this team is relative to the ACC (GT looked awful in week one and below average overall after two weeks).
Overall, the execution on defense was again stellar for a second week. Basically we will just deep dive into some backup performances. On offense you had a great first quarter, you stalled a bit with a few rough possessions/turnovers, then one last good drive and it was backup time.
Should we skip ahead and just talk about Jeremiah Trotter Jr?? Boy did he look like a special talent. He should be second string by the end of the year and starting next season. The arrow is that high on him.
The only player who didn’t have a great game was probably Tyler Venables. He actually had good coverage on the long throw where Joseph Charleston was supposed to get over the top, but he missed two tackles where he can’t whiff in the hole. If I am getting super critical then Sheridan Jones was also up and down but everyone else was great. Mascoll and Henry still need to take another step. Yep, that is all the bad I got.
The first team defense was lights out—I won’t dwell on them too much. Ruke was super disruptive and living in the backfield.
Linebacker play was really good. Skalski looks a step faster than he did last season. He got to UGA WR Arian Smith last week and covered TEs, got to RBs in the flat today.
Simpson played a good bit of SAM covering the slot. I think they were trying to see how he would hold up and if they can leave him on the field even more.
Gregg Williams seemed to be moving around much better, acclimating to DE size. I’m still hopeful he can make an impact next season.
Payton Page, the big man, keeps showing up too. Glad to see him get more quality work.
I pause to watch every single Mukuba play. Beautiful. Phillips was also flying around in the game. Good to see Mickens step into the interception. He knows what to do, just needs more strength, speed, and physicality to crack the rotation.
We can move the pocket! We can run the QB! We can run the ball and use some RPOs! Hey look—the return of the sprint draw! And we got a jet sweep or two!
First, DJ looked much better moving in the pocket and running in the red zone. Baffling that none of the rollouts or movement happened against UGA. He fired high on a couple of balls (Ross was so open on the one rollout, any HS QB could make that throw...) and was lackadaisical with the tipped screen, but I thought he looked much, much better for most of the game. Definitely something to build on and the first three series were really good. The only throw that really stunk was the rollout heave downfield that should have been intercepted. Under thrown into double coverage (and yeah, normally you do just want to give our WRs a chance, but that was not a pretty ball). Overall the timing and accuracy were above average for the day.
Without a mobile QB, Clemson is going to need to be able to consistently run the ball. So I liked the gameplan of just developing some continuity with the offensive line and trying to run no matter the box. Everyone on the Oline played a better game, especially Putnam. Bockhorst is still on the ground too much but he also was moving people on double teams and the protections calls were better. But don’t get giddy—this was SC State, we need to see this against Georgia Tech before being able to gauge where the Oline is at right now.
Enjoyed the Will Taylor package. Keep adding to it as the season progresses. Get creative with it—throw in some RPO, wildcat, or option possibilities—put him in motion, use the two QBs on the field. I like adding the running threat to keep the defense on their toes. Shame the TD got called back on a ticky tack penalty.
Pace and Shipley showed a burst and some yards after contact, which was encouraging. Lyn-J needs to get this thing figured out with Coach Spiller because his experience and ability to bounce it outside (yes, I know coaches don’t want him to do that on every play but when the A gap is consistently blown up??). Dukes? Ugly fumble.
Wide receivers played better but I can’t believe how bad the perimeter blocking has gotten. This is TE’s and WR’s. SC State is blowing up plays because guys can’t hold a block for two seconds? Beaux Collins almost got EJ Williams killed whiffing on his block (very surprised at how good EJ looked despite the thumb injury, however). Glad to see Justyn Ross get in the endzone (should’ve had two if DJ didn’t airmail the super easy throw). Ross is going to need a bit more time to round into alpha shape and looks to have slimmed down after all the layoff time. Clemson will need him.
Galloway and Allen both need to step up as blockers. Too many whiffs and nudges. Clean it up.
My biggest takeaway from the game is probably that we are too thin at WR. If Ross (or Williams with the thumb) goes down it gets scary fast. Ngata has to be one of the most frustrating players ever for these coaches. He got banged up in the SC State game (very glad to see him go back in) and doesn’t seem to react all that well to bumps and bruises. Toughness is a constant issue I hear. Same with Ladson who doesn’t have the dominant #WRU mentality. Those two are key pieces, however, because Ajou, Beaux and Dacari just aren’t ready for the spotlight just yet. Ajou is the closest, but still struggles with consistency (makes splash plays but can’t consistently win down the field like you need). I like what I saw from Dacari and Beaux needs a bit more mass to hold up. Those three and Stellato need reps. I still don’t understand putting Will Brown and the Swinney bros in the game in the 3rd Q.
And I know it is pretty ridiculous to complain when it is SC State but going forward these players need those snaps. We’ve all applauded for Will when he scores his TDs but in the sixth year the routine grows a bit stale. Yes, give everyone time and keep everyone happy but also do the developing part by giving reps to those who need them. Again, SC State is fine but lets not do that if we are blowing out Georgia Tech (you can do it against UConn and USCjr though...).
Puma is a modern medical marvel. I was so nervous to see him QBing an actual game (even if it turns out it was a partial tear or something). Just remarkable. He looked better than he did in the Spring and has cleaned up some of his throwing mechanics. Please don’t have him run another draw play though—yikes.
Love the returns. Will Taylor with one of the longer punt returns in recent memory and Shipley can return kickoffs. All I ask—if you are serious about returning kicks then get rid of the scrubs on the kick return teams (or at least do it for big games). You can’t have good blocking when guys on punt coverage are blown off the line every single time (and you all should know who I am talking about...).
Swanson’s punts need some improvement with hang time and distance.