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Clemson vs SC: Position Grades (Defense & ST)

A mixed bag

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Clemson Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports

This game was a mixed bag for the defense. In the 1st half, there was a point where they’d scored more points than the offense with a pick six and their 2nd straight game in recording a Safety. However, the back four also got torched with numerous big plays that kept U of SC in the game and ultimately allowed them to win it. The offense and special teams’ issues put the defense in tough positions all game with U of SC have a short field at least three times. At the end of the game the defense did their job and forced a 3 and out to give the offense the ball back with a chance to win the game. Unfortunately the ST decided to give the ball right back to U of SC and waste the opportunity.


I wanted more pressure from the DEs this game but it looked like the staff didn’t want Rattler scrambling and getting easy yards. Henry continued his excellent play this year while Murphy was once again quiet this game. It’s been a disappointing year for him and the hope is that he’ll return and improve his play in 2023. The DL as a whole shut down the Gamecocks running game and the DEs played a roll in that. Had we gotten more pressure on Rattler perhaps he wouldn’t have had those long bombs down the field but the DEs played well enough for the tigers to win this game.

Grade: B-


The DTs played well in this game. They held U of SC to only 54 yards rushing and put pressure on Rattler at times. U of SC couldn’t get going on the ground and the screen game was defended well too. There were disappointing performances this game, but none of that can be laid at the feet of the front 7, especially the DTs. Ruke Orhororo has been the 2nd best DT on the team this year and was once again a force in the middle. He’s earned himself some money when he goes in the draft. Bryan Bresee still looks to be getting himself back to where he was in 2020 but given the circumstances of this year, it’s understandable. We know his talent and that he has the inner drive to be great.

Grade: A


Jeremiah Trotter is a one-man wrecking machine. He started the game strong with a pick 6 and followed up that great play by leading the team in tackles and recording a sack. He’s been an absolute force at MIKE and will continue to hold down the middle of the defense going forward.

Simpson and Carter played well and helped keep U of SC under 60 yards rushing. I’d have liked a bit more pressure from these two on Rattler but they are far from where the issues in this game lay.

Grade: B


After the terrible performance against Wake Forest, the secondary stepped their game up. This was due in large part to a return of healthy players and the front 7 getting more consistent pressure on opposing QBs. This game provided a return to the struggles we saw against Wake. Rattler had 360 yards passing on 64% completion rate. The Gamecocks had 5 players average over 10 yards a catch! The front 7 did their job and made U of SC one-dimensional, but just like Wake that one dimension was enough to keep them in the game.

Mukuba played probably the worst game of his career. He was beaten for long play after long play and was not playing with his eyes at all. It’s truly unsettling seeing our best Safety repeatedly burned by U of SC’s WRs. He personally had four targets his way that resulted on 175 yards and two TDs. RJ Mickens played well and grabbed an INT that kept the Gamecocks from capitalizing on a bust by Mukuba on 4th down. Unfortunately we lost him after a targeting hit in the 3rd quarter and missed him dearly after.

Grade: F


The game plan was fine. We needed to shut down the Gamecocks running game and put pressure on Rattler so he couldn’t make the same plays he did against Tennessee. In the 1st half this was working well. The defense recorded an INT that resulted in a TD as well as a safety. U of SC couldn’t run the ball and only put up 14 points, seven of which was aided by a short field after the special teams fumbled the ball to them.

The 2nd half saw U of SC post another 17 points against the defense. The first TD was again due to the offense getting nothing done and a short punt that was returned for to the Clemson 26. The second TD was a result from a terrible bust that went 72 yards. The defense did what they could in the 4th to give the offense chance after chance to take the lead but it was for naught.

The busts in the secondary were unacceptable and the staff should have moved some players around once it was apparent where the issue was most glaring.

Grade: C


Special teams was terrible this game. There were two fumbles that directly affected the outcome of the game. After the defense recorded a Safety and momentum seemed firmly on the Tiger’s side, the staff decided to get tricky and have Shipley hand the ball to Mafah who promptly fumbled as it looked like he was trying to pitch the ball forward for some inexplicable reason. This short field resulted in a TD by U of SC and they were right back in the game.

I feel terrible for Antonio Williams as he is the best WR on the team and plays with heart and grit. He was trying to get some yards to put the offense in a better position for a game winning FG and he unfortunately didn’t secure the football. Should he have fair caught the ball and given the offense a chance? Hindsight says yes but given how inept the offense had been to that point I can’t blame him, or the staff, in trying to get some yards to make their job easier.

Potter did not get a chance for a game winning FG but I have no doubt he’d have nailed it provided Clemson was within 55 yards. Swanson averaged 45 yards per punt but out-kicked his coverage and allowed SC two short fields that they cashed in for TDs.

Grade: F


What grade do you give the Clemson Defense and ST against SC?

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