I usually start these off with a little reflection on the previous week’s game. Today I’m starting off with thoughts for the Bresee family after the passing of Bryan’s sister Ella. There are few things sadder than the passing of a young person well before his or her time and I cannot imagine what Bryan and his parents are going through right now. It certainly puts last week’s game into more perspective in terms of complaining about some of the sloppy play and inconsistent focus. The team got a comfortable win and now moves on.
Night games are always fun and now fans will get treated with all the LED action they added in. This should be an entertaining game because of the style of play Louisiana Tech brings to the table. True “Air Raid” system teams are not going to shorten games and muddy things up the way we have sometimes seen teams coming in for a “money” game do. They will be aggressive and that should make for a much more open game than what we saw last week. Now it comes down to doing a better job of executing for more than just a half of football. Time is running out to turn a corner before the most pivotal division matchups occur.
Clemson offense vs. La Tech defense: I’m feeling better and better about DJ at quarterback after last week. He’s not been perfect but his command and presence are far beyond anything we saw last year and he’s delivered a lot more good throws than bad. He’s also been effective running and scrambling. Now if the skill guys and line can tighten things up a little more, we might have something brewing on this side of the ball.
I’m still aggravated with the relatively pedestrian running game. I’m hoping the staff is just making an effort to establish DJ here in these early games knowing that the running can be there when the harder games come. I’d still feel a lot better if they can rip off a 200+ yard performance ahead of the Wake and NCSU tilts. Shipley has looked pretty good and is finding the endzone like he did last year. Kobe Pace finally started looking more like the guy from last year in the second half last week. He was RB3 after the GT game with Mafah overtaking him. Missouri cranked out over 300 yards rushing on this defense two weeks ago.
I’m sure I’m not alone in anxiously awaiting the debut of Adam Randall. I try to temper this knowing he’s facing his first live action after the ACL, but he just looks like that super alpha X WR we really need for this offense to take off. Fellow freshman Antonio Williams is definitely going to be a star and having both guys show out would be a great sign that the once feared Clemson WR corps will be that way again soon. Beaux Collins is coming along nicely so that could be a three headed monster through 2023.
Tight end has been a bright spot so far this season. Davis Allen continues to make some big time catches down the field and has been a steady blocker. Jake Briningstool got a touchdown last week and has flashed his impressive talent as well.
We’ve heard that La Tech likes to play man coverage and be aggressive. It would be a very good sign for the Clemson WR to beat that for some explosive plays. Teams are going to dare this offense to win in the air until it can show the ability to really hurt people over the top. There needs to be improvement in run after the catch with this unit as well.
Clemson defense vs. La Tech offense: Folks should definitely know that Coach Swinney uses his media outings to send messages to his team as much as anything. He really treated last year’s offense with kid gloves in public knowing it was a fragile group to begin with. When he went after the defense after last week’s mediocre showing, I actually took it as a good sign that he feels they are mature enough to respond to a public lashing of sorts in the right way. I fully expect them to be playing with their hair on fire this week even with Bryan Bresee out dealing with his family’s loss. Hopefully Xavier Thomas and/or Tyler Davis will be good enough to play some snaps as both are game time decisions at this point. Luckily DT is a very deep group and can weather a little attrition.
The Tigers were terrible vs. the screen game last week and got hurt some vs. GT as well. I’m anxious to see the unit clean that up because there is no shortage of talent and ability across the defense at all three levels. It is simply a matter of execution and recognition. Sometimes it just isn’t a great outing and the other team has some guys who can play. We saw the 2018 defense give up huge yardage and points to Jake Bentley, Deebo Samuel and company but then be dominant in the playoffs against better units than the Gamecocks had. Hopefully last week was the wakeup call to get this group really elevating its play. Furman’s WR Ryan Miller is a good player with a lot of Renfrow to his game so I tip my hat to him.
La Tech ran the ball a ton last week vs. SFA which is a little surprising to see with a Mike Leach disciple like Cumbie coaching the team. I don’t think that will be the case this week and figure the Bulldogs will attack with a lot of quick game and screens similar to what we saw last week, just with more tempo. It will be interesting to see how Wes Goodwin deploys his defense. Will he go primarily nickel with just two pure LBs? Three safeties? Will the Dime of Doom make an appearance this week? I would like to see more Lavonta Bentley who just seems to make plays anytime he is out on the field.
Special Teams: Aidan Swanson wasn’t nearly as good this past week and the unit had the bad turnover in the second half on the muffed punt by Will Taylor. Hopefully they got that out of their systems. The kick return unit hasn’t had any real chances due to kickoffs being sent into the endzone so it is hard to gauge if that group is going to be better just yet. B.T. Potter hasn’t had a lot to do other than kicking off and extra points to this point. Coverage teams have been solid. Upsets usually require turnovers or some crazy stuff in this phase of the game so the Tigers just need to be solid here this week.
Overall: This is the final tune-up before the real meat of the schedule. The team will be playing with some heavy hearts but also getting to compete in what is always a magical atmosphere with a night game. It has been a while since Clemson faced a true Air Raid system so it will be an interesting challenge for the defense. I think the running game finally hits another gear this week. I think La Tech is going to have some success on offense with what they do but turnovers and negative plays will happen enough to allow the Tigers to pull away.
Clemson 48-La Tech 20