Game two is in the books after a ludicrous 2nd week of college football that saw multiple teams go down, at home against supposedly overmatched opponents. That didn’t happen to the Tigers as Saturday was a comfortable, if frustrating victory. Let’s take a look at the offense and see how they graded out.
DJ looked much better in the first half of this game and looked to build off of the success from the 2nd half of the GT game. He was in command of the offense and led his first 5 offensive drives to TD with a combination of runs and very well-thrown passes. This is the DJ that we saw against ND in 2020 and if he can replicate this level of play in the ACC then we will be in a great spot at the end of the year. What stood out the most to me in this game was his manipulation of the pocket; DJ didn’t allow himself to get rushed and in a couple of situations when the D brought the heat, he stood tall and delivered the ball accurately and on time. That pass to Beaux in the 2nd half was a beauty.
Speaking of the 2nd half, it obviously wasn’t as good. After that first TD, we didn’t score again and a myriad of miscues and mistakes took place. Despite that, I believe DJ still looked in command and the mistakes were more on the OL and WRs dropping passes, again. His one big mistake was the INT but I give equal blame to DJ and Spector for that play. Spector was in the right of stopping short with he saw the defender in the hole ready to light him up but he needs to knock the ball down in that case or let it pass him by, never tip it up. DJ should have recognized that Spector was going to stop short but that will come with more reps between him and the WRs.
Cade didn’t look great in this game. He’s still going to be great, but a few issues were on display. He’s too quick to abandon the pocket and try to make something flashy happen. Hs needs to trust his OL and let plays develop but again this will come with experience and maturity. He will be fine.
Not a great showing for the OL after also being lackluster against GT. We failed to cross 150 rushing yards against Furman! I will say that Miller looked better this week on at least recognizing his roles and responsibilities. Furman tried to bring pressure from the right side and confuse him as GT did and I thought Miller handled it much better.
Putnam is ok in pass protection but still not there in run blocking. I noticed far too many instances where he was stood up by the Furman defender or just didn’t get any real push. He has to clean that up by Wake or NCSU. Tate and Parks were ok and McFadden continues to be our best OL. They have another game to show some improvement because as good as DJ looked making decisions on when to leave the pocket and showing his strength to fight off defenders, we shouldn’t have seen as much of it against Furman as we did.
Though we didn’t cross 150 yards rushing, that’s not an indictment on the RBs. In fact, we only gave our collective three-headed beast 21 rushing attempts between them. I believe this was a combination of wanting to focus more on the passing game with DJ and the WRs as well as tons of mistakes in the 2nd where the offense never got back into a grove. Though they had few carries between them, they made the most of their touches and all averaged over 4 yards a carry. Shipley continues to be elusive and Mafah is a bear of a man to bring down. Pace showed improvement from a rather lackluster game against GT. They’ve been the steady and strong group we thought they’d be - if only they could get some consistent running room...
Allen and Briningstool continue to impress. I loved seeing young Briningstool get the first TD pass of his career; Allen has been making tougher catches than our WRs do. Both TE’s block well and they need to get a majority of all snaps. I’d love to see us run more two-TE sets with these guys because good things seem to happen when they are on the field. Luke Price, however, has not been good this year. He’s been brought in only to block and on a number of occasions just hasn’t done so. If he can’t clean that up he needs to sit and we give his snaps to Sage Ennis.
DJ and the coaching staff made a point of spreading the ball around this game and our top WRs had at least 3-4 passes caught between them. Beaux Collins is obviously the best WR we have on the team right now. His route running has continued to improve and impress and that 3rd quarter catch for a TD was very nice to see. It seemed the staff wanted to get EJ Williams’s confidence back after some bad drops against GT. He looked ok in the 1st half against Furman but again had some ugly drops in the 2nd half. With Randall coming back from injury this week, EJ needs to step it up or lose snaps.
Ngata is the ever present enigma. He makes some good plays but then disappears or hurts himself! Hopefully, it’s not serious, but this has been his entire career at Clemson. After everything we heard in fall camp, the plan was for him to be the alpha of the group but Antonio Williams and B. Collins look better than him at this point.
Speaking of Antonio Williams, he once again showed that he should overtake Spector in the slot. He just has the “it” factor we’ve been missing at slot once the GOAT Renfrow went to the NFL to break pro athletes’ ankles for a living. He’s not afraid of contact, has the toughness we seem to be lacking at the position, and might be the 2nd best route runner behind B. Collins. I’d give Spector one more game as a starter but if we get more of the same, Williams is who we need to ride with for ACC play. He’s a difference maker.
I wasn’t as impressed with the coaching in this game. I chalk some of that up to keeping things close to the vest and we shouldn’t need to run anything elaborate against Furman. I liked that they used this game to try and focus on the chemistry between DJ and the WRs, but I did not like the lack of emphasis on the run game. When there are only 21 rushing attempts with our stable of RBs it just seems to be a waste. As much as DJ and the WRs need chemistry, so too do the OL and RBs. I want to see more smashmouth football against LA Tech and challenge the team to impose our will as we did at the end of last year in the running game.
All in all a better performance in week two, except for the OL, but again it was against Furman. Next up is Defense and ST and oh boy how quickly things change from week to week.
What grade do you give the Clemson Defense & ST against La Tech?
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