Note: Variety is the spice of life. We all need a small bit of diversity in our lives, and we at TGT have diversity with our friends. We have the token ACC football fan in our circle of close friends, and he happens to be an alumn from Clemson and resides in the Palmetto State. We reached out to our friend, who will go by “Rub Howard’s Rock”, some time ago to write a guest post previewing the upcoming UGA-Clemson game from a Clemson fan’s perspective. The following are his unedited comments.
From the Eyes of a Tiger
By: Rub Howard’s Rock
With the season opener quickly approaching I have been asked to provide an assessment on Clemson’s football team from a Tiger fan’s perspective. The offseason arrests have been relatively quiet and it looks like Mark Richt’s requirement of incoming freshman to take a concealed weapons permit course and Dabo’s requirement for players to stay in their apartment when partying have paid off. Injuries on the other hand have taken their toll. Georgia took some hits in the secondary, and Clemson’s spring game had players dropping like flies.
Here is my take on Clemson.
We have a solid group of returning starters. Tajh Boyd is back at quarterback, 4 of the five starting offensive lineman are back, and 3 of the 4 primary wide receivers are back. Most importantly, the offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, is back. Tajh still has some room for improvement. He needs to cut down on interceptions and improve in avoiding pressure. This plagued him in the South Carolina game last year, but he showed signs of improvement in the LSU game. It’s funny that the Chic-fil-A Bowl was the only game all year that the announcers didn’t mention Tajh Boyd lost 25 pounds in the off season from cutting down on Chic-fil-A sandwiches.
While the majority of the offensive line returns, there is some confusion on who will start and where. This will need to be hashed out in the next few weeks. Nuk Hopkins will be hard to replace from the wide receiver core. Sammy Watkins will move to the boundary receiver to create one-on-one match ups, but Clemson needs another receiver to step up to prevent extra help from the safety spot. Clemson’s run game has been modest, but regardless we have to replace Ellington this year. Current indications are that this will be done by a committee of backs.
Clemson’s offense has put up points like a high school basketball team the past couple of years, but this will be a tough task against an SEC defense. Yes, an ACC fan can admit that most of the SEC is tougher competition. I think a key to the opening game for Clemson will be tight end play and the offensive line’s ability to protect. It looks like we might start a true freshman in Jordan Leggett at tight end, who put on a show this spring. He will likely get the start due to Brandon Ford graduating and Sam Cooper being injured.
What defense? I know, right. Under Kevin Steele Clemson’s defense was constantly confused. Brent Venables has tried to simplify things and there was a little improvement last year. Clemson’s offense can affect the play of its defense. When you run a fast paced offense, you run the risk of not giving your defense a break if you have a couple of three and outs in a row. Regardless, Clemson has trouble putting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. This obviously makes an already weak secondary even weaker. Our secondary already thinks offside rules from soccer applies, and often just lets receivers run past them. On the plus side, Clemson picked up Gary Peters last year, who saw significant playing time, and has freshman MacKensie Alexander coming in this year. Improvements on the defensive side are expected to continue this year, but it will be a tough task with Aaron Murray slinging the ball around and two stud running backs coming at them.
I think this game will be more like 2002 than 2003. I have to go with my Tigers 30-27 in a nail biter.