Game 1 is in the bag and the Tigers won a convincing, if at times unimpressive, victory against the GT Yellow jackets. We saw some good and some bad on offense but how does each position grade out?
We got a look at the new DJ and there were things to like and still worrying signs. His footwork in the pocket looks to have improved as has his mobility. He willingness to run the ball will be a factor that teams need to account for and he would have had 3 rushing TDs if not for the turf. He had some very nice passes, especially in the 2nd half, and that scramble throw for a TD was encouraging to see. He also didn’t put the ball in jeopardy which is huge, I still believe he was down and that was a blown call by the officials.
However, he still looks like he’s locking onto his first read and not going through his progressions fast enough. Some of that may have been on the OL or in the trust he has with his WRs, or lack thereof. He missed some passes he’d like back and I believe the word I’d best use for his play style is “Safe”. With our defense, safe may be enough to win the ACC but will it be enough to do more than that? He’s got two more cupcakes to improve and show something special.
Cade is special and is the next great QB at Clemson. Though limited in his snaps, and going against GT’s 2nd and 3rd string he looked comfortable, in control and energetic. There’s a different feel in the offense when he has the ball in his hand. The word I’d best use for his play style is “Moxy”. He has the IT factor that Watson and Lawrence had. I’m trying to curb my enthusiasm but as Coach Streeter stated, he has earned the right to play. He will make more mistakes than DJ but I believe he will also make more wow plays. He will only get better with time and look for him to play a lot more snaps these next two weeks.
This was not the performance we wanted to see from the OL in game 1, at least from the right side. We had some bad snaps, missed protection calls, little push from the G-C-G combos, and the freshman Miller looked lost at times. We had less than 200 rushing yards against GT which is not acceptable. For this team to be successful we need a strong running attack and we know the RBs are all good to great players given some room.
They played better in the 2nd half and I’m going to hold out hope that they gel together now that they’ve seen live bullets flying their way and that both Miller and Putnam settle down and grow into their new positions. Encouragingly, the left side of the line held up well with Tate and McFadden and Parks looks ok at RG.
With little running room most of the night the RBs still made due with what they had and ran hard. They showed pretty good blitz pick up and made the catches thrown their way. I love Pace but think that it’s going to be hard to keep his No. 2 spot from Mafah, he’s just a beast of a man to bring down. Shipley looks strong, agile and looks to have worked on his hands. He deserved those two TDs and we can expect more to come.
Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool looked sharp. Blocking was strong and they may have better hands than our WRs, though Allen needs to layout for that pass at the goal line. When we FINALLY decided to attack the middle of the field, the offense found it’s footing. We need to lean on them as much as we can because we haven’t had true weapons at TE for some time.
This is the position group I’m most frustrated with. This grade is a C only because of two players, Beaux Collins and Antonio Williams, otherwise I’d rate this group a D-. Collins had a couple of drops, but unlike others we’re about to talk about, he made plays and caught the only TD from the receiver position. His route running has improved from last year and he is our best WR right now.
Antonio Williams should start at the slot or “5” position. I like Spector but he’s not a difference maker. Williams very much is. He looks smooth and sure handed for a true freshman and has some burst. He actually lead the WR group with the most catches - 4 for 37s - and was the only other bright spot.
Now for the bad.
Nagata should be on the bench. We’ve heard praise from the coaching staff on how well Ngata has been playing in practice but it doesn’t translate to the field. He couldn’t get separation, he had bad drops and ended the game with only 1 catch against GT. That’s unacceptable. There are no more excuses. He has a few more games to prove himself more than the recruiting bust he appears to be.
EJ Williams does not look healthy. He was tentative, also dropped passes, only had 1 catch, and once Randall is healthy may very well lose his starting position. I will reserve harsher judgement until he is fully healthy but so far it does not look promising.
I’m encouraged with the progress of Collins and A. Williams and can’t wait to see Randall play. I believe that will be our starting 3 in a few weeks.
We had a new OC, TE coach and OL coach starting this game. I liked the plan we had early in the game, and the adjustments made after halftime. I feel we went conservative at times but we did open it up eventually and attack the middle of the field (Finally). I won’t be too harsh of a judge considering we put up 41 points but I hope to see more improvement and for the staff to try and impose our will on lesser teams sooner.
Defense will be next!
Spoiler Alert: Things look much better.