Category Archives: Clemson: Auburn With A Lake

Finally, it’s Game Week.

So let’s start by looking back at the last four games of last season.  Georgia went 4-0 and JT Daniels compiled a passer rating of 178.50, which, had he done that over the course of the entire season, would have been top ten nationally.

The criticism of Daniels’ performance, such as it’s been, has generally focused on the quality of the defenses he’s faced.

Graham offers a rebuttal of that criticism.

So does Josh.

There’s a good case to be made there, but I also think there is an argument to be made regarding context.  Mississippi State’s roster was depleted.  Georgia faced South Carolina after Boom was canned and a major portion of the secondary elected to opt out of playing.

That being said, I think there’s a decent possibility we’re overemphasizing Georgia’s passing game.  Why do I say that?  Because the two closest games Georgia played in those four were against two defenses that elected to sell out to shut down the run.  And it worked, too!  MSU held Georgia to eight yards rushing (0.35 ypa); Cinci held Georgia to 45 yards rushing (1.88 ypa).  The Dawgs won both games, but only by seven and three points, respectively.

And here’s the thing:  last season’s Clemson’s offense (43.5 ppg) was better than Mississippi State’s (21.4 ppg) and Cincinnati’s (37.5 ppg).

Forget the sign stealing; if I’m Venables, I’m going to be sorely tempted to follow a similar game plan in an attempt to make Georgia’s offense one-dimensional.  Then again, if I’m Monken, I have to think that’s something Venables is considering and look to scheme around that, which means throwing the ball on early downs to open up the run game.  Wheels within wheels…

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The Clemson advantage

Okay, maybe I’m missing something here, but when ClemsonSports.com says it’s found two specific areas that could give the Tigers an edge on Sept. 4, and they’re these…

One-two defensive punch

Brent Venables is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. The 50-year-old has led the Tigers to five top-5 yards per play allowed finishes in nine seasons. Clemson will enter 2021 with a shot at having their best defense yet.

The Tigers have a plethora of former five-star recruits on the defensive line, return the top-10 tacklers from last season, plus have super seniors starting at linebacker and safety. All signs point to this unit being dominant thanks to the great combination of talent and experience.

To begin every season, defenses usually are further ahead than offenses. In Athens, the Bulldogs are breaking in new starters at center and guard, while the wide receiver position has had some preseason attrition.

Clemson could have the advantage on this side of the ball thanks to all the returning pieces for Swinney’s program. The Tigers are stacked on defense.

Clemson’s consistent offensive structure

One of the biggest storylines from the offseason for Clemson occurred in the SEC. Tennessee once again had a coaching search and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott emerged as a premium candidate for the SEC East program. However, the 41-year-old decided to stay put and is back for his seventh season at his alma mater calling the offensive plays.

That’s huge for the Tigers as it will give the program staff continuity in a year where there are a ton of moving parts with personnel.

The Tigers are breaking in new starters at quarterback and running back to go along with a pair of new starters on the offensive line. Starting left guard Matt Bockhorst may even be moved to center.

Despite all of that, the scheme will remain the same and this should make the transition much easier. That will pay off in Week 1 going up against a very talented Georgia defense.

… well… um, can’t Georgia say the same damned things about itself?

This is probably a good time to reiterate that we can forget about all the other bullshit and just say whichever team’s offensive line carries the day should win.

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All aboard the Dawg train

This clip is worth watching, if only to hear Aaron Murray say, “but you’ve got a quarterback, finally, in Athens”.  Wonder how long that “finally” covers, LOL.

Nice fist bump, too.

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“When something’s happening, it’s a bad thing.”

Josh and Graham try to pick themselves off the floor after yesterday’s injury news and take a look at what might be in store for Georgia’s defense in the opener.

For now, the one thing I’m hanging my hat on in the wake of Tykee Smith’s injury is that Brini played very well at the STAR against Cincinnati and by all accounts has had a good preseason.  That being said, Clemson’s receivers are on an entirely different level than the Bearcats’ group.

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(Chicken) Shit’s getting real, now.

Shot.

Chaser.

Who’da thunk it would be two Cali kids pushing Southern chicken?

(Also, note that JT’s reppin’ the “G” in that pic.)

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Tall boys

Sure, any piece listing Ole Miss’ backfield as the top offensive group position in the SEC deserves to be taken with a grain of salt, but I’m linking to it because of this:

Clemson wide receivers

The projected starters: Frank Ladson Jr., Joseph Ngata and Justyn Ross

The buzz on this unit: Ross (6 feet 4, 205 pounds) missed last season with a spinal issue that required surgery, but he recently was cleared to play. Early plans seem to be to use him in the slot, and that should terrify opposing coordinators (and linebackers and safeties, too). Ross had 66 receptions for 865 yards and eight TDs in 2019, and should be the go-to guy this season; he has first-team All-American talent. Ladson and Ngata haven’t quite met expectations, but both have big-time potential (and excellent size: Ladson is 6-3 and 205, and Ngata is 6-3 and 220). They combined for 25 receptions last season as reserves, but have the talent to serve as more-than-able complements to Ross. E.J. Williams provides excellent depth, and sophomore Ajou Ajou (it’s pronounced “uh-JOE uh-JOE”) has a ton of upside. (Ross and Williams attended the same high school: Central High in Phenix City, Ala., which is about 35 miles from Auburn’s campus.) And true freshman Beaux Collins and Dacari Collins (no relation) have received a ton of praise from Clemson coaches. This unit has big-time size, speed and strength. TEs Braden Galloway and Davis Allen are weapons, too.

The size of this unit was noticeable at Clemson’s spring game.  Makes you wonder how good Uiagalelei is throwing the 50/50 ball.  We’ll find out in a few weeks.

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Screen game

Data point to take notice of here:

One thing that stat made me curious about was the number of Travis Etienne’s receptions last year:  48, third on the team and third nationally at the position.  That’s not to say all of his receptions were off screens, or that Clemson didn’t run screens to other receivers, but it does make me wonder if the Tigers have another back on the roster capable of taking up some of that slack.

I also wonder how much of that pressure will fall on Georgia’s inside linebackers.

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“Offensive line play has never been a strength of the Clemson offense.”

I’m probably getting to the point where my obsession over the line play in the opener is turning unhealthy, but in the meantime, here’s a nice scouting breakdown of Clemson’s offensive line.

As the header indicates, Clemson’s scheme doesn’t rely on having an overwhelming line group.

Fortunately for them, the offensive system they run does not require elite offensive play to be successful. Misdirection is a hallmark of Clemson’s run blocking schemes, and it allows them to create better angles for their offensive line to block the first and second-level defenders and wider running lanes for their backs.

The author thinks the matchups favor Georgia, but not across the board.

Overall, Georgia’s defensive front matches up well against Clemson’s offensive line. On the perimeter, Nolan Smith and Adam Anderson will be facing one of the best matchups of their careers, Smith in particular. Smith’s greatest weakness is his length, and at times, he has struggled against offensive linemen that can use their long arms to keep him out of their bodies. Clemson’s left tackle does not have the length to make that a factor.

However, the best matchup for Georgia is along the interior offensive line. The best unit on the Georgia defense is the interior defensive line. Stars Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt both returned for their final season for the Dawgs and are also joined by sophomore Jalen Carter, who is poised for a breakout season following a solid freshman campaign. They will be facing the weakest link along the Clemson offensive line and should be able to wreak havoc in the middle of the field. This mismatch should disrupt the timing of the Clemson offense and create pressure for Clemson’s first-year starter at QB, D.J. Uiagalelei.

Eh, maybe.  I think the bigger issue is whether Clemson can generate enough on the ground to keep from being one-dimensional.  If the Tigers can, Uiagalelei should be okay.

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“How does UGA beat Clemson?”

In a clip that echoes many of the same points Brent Rollins made (which makes sense, since he asks pretty much the same question as in the header) Graham and Josh look at what Notre Dame and Ohio State did last season to exploit the Clemson defense.  It’s worth watching, because they post successful plays from both losses.

I do want to temper any sense of unbridled enthusiasm you may get watching that with a couple of considerations.  One, we’re all drooling over what Monken is going to be able to do with his tight end room, but it’s worth remembering that his top three players at the position (I’m not including Gilbert, since he’ll be used as more of a flex option) have a whopping total of seventeen catches between them.  We’re counting on potential a lot more than production at the moment.  That may work out, but who knows for now?

Two, I don’t think Ohio State’s offensive line has gotten the credit it deserves from that game.  They didn’t just hold their own against Clemson’s defensive line; they pretty much won in the trenches all night.  I know I’m repeating myself here, but if we get the same production in the opener that the Buckeyes did, I think you can pretty much ignore the rest of the fine points, because, barring some unfortunate, diarrhetic attack of turnovers, the Dawgs are winning that game.

What gives me the most grounds for optimism, though, is Todd Monken, who’s been through the wars on both the collegiate and professional levels.  I don’t see him being spooked by Venables.  He’ll have his charges ready.  It’ll be up to them to execute the game plan.

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From Larry Culpepper…

… to D.J. Uiagalelei.

As the first household brand to partner with a major college football player for a national ad campaign, Dr Pepper has struck a deal with Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to feature the sophomore in television commercials that will air across the country.

Uiagalelei, the heir apparent to Trevor Lawrence, has started just two games in his college career. Yet he’s become the face of a national ad campaign for a giant American brand.

Welcome to the world of NIL.

“Every time I turn on the TV every Saturday, I always see a commercial with Dr Pepper,” Uiagalelei said in an interview with Sports Illustrated earlier this week. “When they reached out to me, it was a no-brainer.”

Uiagalelei, a 6′ 4″, 250-pound California native with a rocket arm, will play himself in Dr Pepper’s latest version of a long-running ad campaign built around a fictitious college football town called Fansville.

… This is Dr Pepper’s first such agreement with a college athlete since the NCAA granted athletes the right to profit from their name, image and likeness.

I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved to see this.  There’s no way his offensive linemen will block for him in the opener now.  Jealousy, for the win!

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