Clemson came out and did what it was supposed to do despite being down half a dozen impact players (and then more went down in the game). This was a good chance to see a lot of players and recognize some of the flaws and limitations emerging on the team. This is a great thing because you want them to come out now and not against Wake or NC State. Wake did not look nearly as talented as last year—the depth just isn’t there—and for my money NC State is looking like the toughest matchup of the season (unless ND can figure it out at QB). I don’t want to sound overly critical, this was a decent effort against a La Tech team that can be explosive.
- Really cool to see the gray and support for the Bresee family. E11a Strong. Great gesture by Cumbie and La Tech to wear the shirt pregame and write notes.
- Let’s start with the DJ vs Cade debate that should have never been a debate at all. DJ came out and started strong in the scripted portion of the first quarter. Disappointed that the offense had to settle for FGs but DJ trusted the pocket, stepped up, and even delivered balls down the field. DJ didn’t have a perfect day, but this is an example of guys around him struggling more than DJ (missed assignments, drops, sketchy (RB) pass pro). More of that below, however. This was a good day for DJ and he showed he is the leader of the team. He ran the ball better than any other game I can remember, putting a few defenders on skates. Cade came in and looked like a rookie. More balls in jeopardy and not being able to run the base offense, staying within the offensive framework without needing to freelance. Cade will be good—really good, but he needs to improve his arm strength a bit more and/or learn his limitations to protect the ball/limit turnovers.
- 3rd and 7 with 5:47 to go in the 3rd Q and DJ surveys the field and hits Allen on a stick route for the first down. Love it! That is what progress looks like and a QB that is confident when delivering the ball.
- Shipley struggled with some pass protection that got highlighted on the broadcast but he sure does run hard in the game. The offense needs RBs who can grind out some yards and he has a nose for the endzone. I like the rotation of Shipley, Mafah, and the Pace getting the backend of reps. That is the right rotation right now.
- Ngata caught a long ball! It makes a huge difference when WRs can win those battles down the field. Since we are stuck in our archaic offense—those need to happen, so I will celebrate it. A. Williams and Beaux Collins turned in good performances as well. Williams should be the starter and Collins is best at helping DJ out when plays break down (often doing better than the original play design).
- I posted on the tweeter that I was anxious about seeing Randall on the field. He showed up immediately. He doesn’t look close to 100% but I will take it with this receiver group (and if it means I have to see less of Drew Swinney starting to creep into more meaningful snaps).
- BT POTTER. Automatic for the people.
- Payton Page had a great day at DT. Filling some big shoes and he was active and disruptive. Capehart also showed why he is such a special talent. Granted the starting Center for La Tech got injured early but Capehart was moving his man back two or three steps consistently blowing them up. If Capehart can learn to finish plays—disengage and get to the QB or ball carrier, he has an NFL future. Capehart had one play on 2nd and Goal where he singlehandedly blew everything up. Good to see both come such a long way to start to fulfill their potential.
- Ruke and Myles Murphy showed up. Encouraged to see Murphy take that next step—liked his pursuit, finishing some drives.
- Barrett Carter. Mr. Disruption. Batted balls. QB pressure. Almost caused 3-4 turnovers. He was all over the field. Very unfortunate that he fumbled on the blocked FG recovery (the 56 yarder was a rookie Coach Cumbie mistake, along with the early 4th down call), but Carter had a great day. Carter got a hand on the ball that deflects to Greene for the interception but the defense totally let the WR free in the zone and he would’ve probably scored if it wasn’t for Carter’s deflection.
- Trotter (my breakout player of the year on defense) with a nice interception.
- Mickens stayed disciplined on his interception catch, which was a beauty of a catch. Mickens is sometimes late because he doesn’t have the speed of other Safeties but he is opportunistic.
- Much better discipline in covering the screen game from the defense.
- Woodazzzz comes to play. He has a bright future.
- The screen was better managed with advertising and the light show enhanced the run down the hill. We still need to figure out how to fill the hill before the team runs down but the light show was a step up.
- I loved Dabo ripping into the refs for not calling the pass interference on the Randall play. Randall also sat and sold it with the confidence of a veteran.
- Look—the middle of the field shouldn’t be this space that the defense can COMPLETELY take away from the offense. I get that the D is playing single high safety and challenging the offense to complete one on one passes. Take what they give us works up until a certain point where it becomes that defense out scheming the offense. It means that corners are on islands and our offense and WRs are losing to La Tech corners and Clemson gets stuck relying on 50/50 balls.
Our answer to man coverage CAN’T be just chucking it up along the sideline with go routes and back shoulders. We had one slant throw that bounced off of Ngata’s hands. Our scheme isn’t using enough seam routes, crossers, or slants to challenge the Defense. Challenge the Safety with deep posts and layered reads that attack mid and deep in the middle of the field. This also happened with Trevor (hesitancy to throw over the middle) and hasn’t been corrected with the new offensive coaches.
- Our WR talent is consistently inconsistent. Great catch by Ngata and then a doink right off the hands with the easy slot throw.
- DJ still isn’t doing a great job of recognizing blitzes and more importantly how to attack the defensive gaps and blitzers. It was better on Saturday but not where it needs to be to burn defenses for bringing pressure. This is also on Olineman being able to pass off rushers and not missing assignments—again, it was better on Saturday but the missed assignments are just mental errors that need to be cleaned up.
- I’ve seen the coaches try to put the blame for the early sack on DJ. I don’t see it. If it is a ‘hot’ read I’m not sure what route DJ’s supposed to hit—nothing is open (which speaks to the predictability of Clemson routes and the struggle for players to get open—he could’ve immediately hit the TE but on 3rd and 10 that isn’t great). Tate doesn’t get either rusher and Pace kinda gets one. La Tech only sent 5 as the DE drops and the LB and Safety rush. Tate should’ve taken the LB and Pace the crashing Safety. Instead, no communication means Tate helps too much to double team the DT and lets the LB loose while Pace goes inside man and gets beat too. These are fundamental things the Oline still misses on (but I will say it was better this game and overall in the run game there was a better job of getting a hat on a hat).
- Punt return and punt coverage teams need work. Giving up too many yards, not blocking anyone. A few too many walk-ons that could hurt the team if those players are used against ACC competition.
- I don’t see the explosiveness from Will Taylor as a punt returner (cue the A. Williams high school punt return tape...).
- BUSTS. Too many defensive busts in the secondary. Been awhile since we have seen some of these. Davis got caught cheating on a play (or thought there was supposed to be Safety help over the top) for a big gain, wide wide open. CB depth is not what we thought it would be going into the season. Pride got beat on a deep ball and Lukus was shaky—they all let the La Tech WR’s get in front and beat Clemson down the field. Correctable but concerning red flag. Sheridan Jones was out with a stinger and it was good to get everyone playing time but Wiggins needs to be a standout to solidify the group.
- Safety play was also up and down. Mickens made some nice plays but he was late on some corner routes (the 3rd and 11 in the red zone) and T-bone got beat on some deep shots. I don’t know why La Tech didn’t feature their TE more—on an inside slant he makes roasts Mickens and then makes Tbone fall down. Lukus is hustling and makes the saving tackle. Safety play has been good but really rough at times too.
- DJ put one ball in jeopardy that should’ve been picked off in the red zone. Not a great 2 minute drill from the offense at the end of the first half (with another ball in jeopardy on a miscommunication with Beaux and DJ).
- Play call selection was too pass heavy in the first half. I don’t actually hate it because that is the area that needs the most work but the run game is going to need to be the strength of the team. Good to see Shipley bust one where he uses his speed to get to the house. Also way too many third and longs for this team.
- EJ Williams wasn’t on the field much and that is never a great sign at this point in the season. Remember that the 4 game mark is where players start making decisions. Clemson needs the WR depth.
Overall a decent showing against a La Tech Offense with some weapons that gave the coaches quality data to analyze heading into true conference play. The La Tech and GT defenses, however, haven’t been good against other P5 teams. The offense needs to do better schematically and needs to do better around DJ. The offense needs to be better because the defense is looking good but not top 5 good or even top 10 good. The defense is tracking more in the 15-20 range (the defense has the talent to be top 5 but too many busts and chunk plays given up right now), which is great but this team needs more from the offense. But for the first part of the season—I will take it and enjoy it.