Category Archives: Clemson: Auburn With A Lake

“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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Playing the strength of schedule card

I see where the “ACC sux, so Clemson can’t really be that good” narrative has emerged again in the comments.  To those of you who swear by that, have you looked at Georgia’s schedule this season.  No, I mean, really lookedBill Connelly has.

2021 Projections

Projected SP+ rank: Sixth

Average projected wins: 9.8 (6.6 in the SEC)

  • Likely wins: Charleston Southern (99.9% win probability), at Vanderbilt (98%), South Carolina (97%), UAB (94%), Missouri (90%), Kentucky (90%), Arkansas (85%), at Tennessee (82%), at Georgia Tech (81%), at Auburn (67%)
  • Relative toss-ups: vs. Florida (57%), vs. Clemson (40%)
  • Likely losses: None

Of the six projected top-50 teams on the Dawgs’ schedule, only one comes to Athens. That’s an issue, but they’ll likely be favored in every non-Clemson game all the same.

Georgia plays Georgia Tech in Atlanta, a place where the Dawgs haven’t lost in two decades.  Georgia Tech is Georgia’s fourth most difficult 2021 opponent, according to Connelly.  Six — count ’em, six — SEC teams are judged weaker than are the Jackets.  (Hell, two SEC teams are judged weaker than UAB!)

Clemson is an experienced, successful opponent.  Dabo and his staff are what Florida fans try to convince themselves Dan Mullen is, elite at identifying and developing talent.  Their starting quarterback got thrown into the fire last season as a true freshman and started two games, one of which was on the road against the number four team in the country.  His stats:  59-85, 781 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs.  Clemson averaged 37 points in those two starts.

In other words, they’re going to be a tough out for Georgia in the opener.  If you want to argue that the worth of a team should be measured by its strength of schedule, be my guest.  Just don’t be offended when that same line of thought gets thrown UGA’s way at season’s end when the discussion turns to which teams should be considered the best in the country.

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“How was Clemson’s defense beaten last year?”

Good starting piece from Brent Rollins on how Clemson handled (or, perhaps more accurately, didn’t handle Notre Dame’s and Ohio State’s offenses in its two losses last season.

Before diving into that, though, this is a pretty impressive bit of information:

One important thing to remember when watching their defense is the unit returns almost every player and is obviously loaded with talent and experience. In fact, of the 29 players who played at least 100 snaps on defense last fall, only four are no longer on the roster (all lost via transfer, including current Bulldog Derion Kendrick).

They’re experienced.  But also, as Rollins points out, that means Georgia should have a pretty good idea of what it has to handle in the opener.

The main points can be summarized as follows:

  • Tempo.  “Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is well known for his defenses making numerous checks and adjustments based on what an offense shows (see how much they move in most clips), especially even as the play clock winds down. Thus, the Buckeyes worked supremely fast in certain situations.”  Maybe it’s a fine line between signal stealing and just being able to figure out what the offense is going to run based on sets and final formation, but either way, OSU caught Clemson with their collective pants down repeatedly.
  • Tight end usage.  Okay, not gonna lie — this one has me licking my chops.  “While the Buckeyes often used formation and motions to get the ball to their tight ends, the Irish used a lot of crossing routes. This play came against man coverage, but others (including below) against zone off a blitz. I would expect Todd Monken to use a combination of both, especially given the size and versatility of the Bulldog tight ends.”
  • Play action deep shots.  That’s part of the Monken playbook and he’s got (1) the running game to sell those and (2) the quarterback to take those.
  • Handle the blitz.  An area of deep concern for Georgia, given the uncertainty of how the o-line will be set for the opener, as Venables is as blitz-happy a coordinator as you’ll find.  “Venables and the Tigers blitz as much as anyone in college football, from any and all angles/positions. Their overall blitz percentage (40.0) is 12th-most in the Power 5, and that jumps to fourth-most on third down (51.3 percent). They are also quite successful at getting to the quarterback when they do, as they had the fourth-most quarterback pressures in the Power 5 when blitzing.”  That being said, he’ll be challenging the returning quarterback who had the best passer rating against the blitz last season.
  • Winning the line of scrimmage.  Yeah, easier said than done.

That last point is still my number one key to the game.  The team with the o-line that wins the most, wins the game.

If Georgia’s getting north of six-and-a-half yards per rush, we can celebrate early.  Something tells me it’s not gonna be that easy, though.

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Clemson confidence

It’s one thing when a Vanderbilt opens up practice to the media.  It’s another when Dabo Swinney does it ($$).

Dabo Swinney found himself feeling extra generous Friday afternoon. Yes, the first day of preseason camp always brings fresh excitement, the promise of a new season and buzzing energy. But this year is different.

“It’s been a long 18 months with everything that’s gone on,” the Clemson coach told a couple of dozen reporters ahead of the Tigers’ first practice.

“So I’m going to open practice up.”

In a move that some of his more paranoid peers usually avoid, Swinney allowed reporters to watch all 20-plus periods Friday afternoon, with a promise to follow suit Saturday.

He’s got a strong reason to feel good.

Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross has been medically cleared to play this season, coach Dabo Swinney said Friday.

Despite that clearance, Ross must wait on his return to full-contact practice a little bit longer as he sits out the next week due to COVID-19 protocols.

Ross has been out since March 2020 with a congenital fusion in his spine, a condition he was born with but was unaware he had until he felt as if he had a stinger in his neck during spring practice.

Ross will have a year and a half’s worth of rust to shake off in the opener, but Clemson’s offense should be more formidable with him than without him.

One other noteworthy mention from Raynor’s piece:  it might be worth keeping an eye on true freshman running back Will Shipley, who’s been getting a fair amount of buzz.  I assumed that the Tigers were going to use a committee at the position to make up for Etienne’s departure, and that’s still the likely case, but Shipley may be a special talent who steps up and grabs a bigger role for himself than anticipated.

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Is Ross healthy?

With regard to the opener, one thing I’ve been keeping an eye on is the health of Justyn Ross.  If he plays, he will be a major factor, especially if it’s true that Clemson plans on using him out of the slot.  (That will be a real test for whomever lines up at STAR.)

I still haven’t seen anything announcing he’s fully ready to go, which is understandable given the nature of his injury.  This, from yesterday, is the clearest thing I’ve seen so far:

It strikes me that “he’s headed for full clearance” is doing some lifting there.  We shall see what we shall see.

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Mark Richt has lost control over driving.

Shot.

Chaser.

Leave the bottle on the bar.

He playin’.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Crime and Punishment

It’s Bo time!

Here’s a quarterback who knows the value of showing a little love to his offensive linemen:

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A recurring thought on Clemson

Three tweets from David Hale:

Getting a healthy Justyn Ross back will be huge…”  I continue to maintain that Georgia’s opening game will be decided by which team’s offensive line has the most success, but if you’re looking for the key player, I’m becoming more convinced that Ross’ health is the second more important factor.  Clemson’s got a lot of talented, lanky receivers, but they didn’t get as much out of the group last season as you would have expected.  Ross back in the lineup makes them a more dangerous bunch.

It’s interesting that with less than two months to go, there’s still no word on whether he has a clean bill of health.  It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

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Alex, I’ll take “Delusional” for $200.

Does anybody wanna tell ’em?

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