Alabama (Bama) played against LSU last week and won 10-0. The only reason why they pulled out with a victory was because LSU’s quarterback and offense couldn’t do anything. Later reports stated that Bama brought in former Heisman trophy winner Trent Richardson to play on the scout team to mimic what it would be like to face LSU’s #7 Leonard Fornette. It worked, they held him to 33 yards on 27 rushing attempts, that’s 1.2 yards per rush. Without establishing the run, Bama could put more pressure on the quarterback (QB) who lacked experience as it is, resulting in defensive domination.
LSU has one of the best defenses I’ve watched all year and they were able to shutout the #1 team in the country for 3 Quarters. Until Bama scored a late rushing touchdown by their dual threat QB Jalen Hurts to go up 7-0 in the fourth Q.
Bama has played against (ranks at the time) #6 USC, #19 Ole Miss, #16 Arkansas, #9 Tennessee, #6 Texas A&M, and most recently #15 LSU. So they have had a tough schedule so far, but they have steam rolled most teams up until the LSU game.
Clemson has played against (ranks at the time) Auburn unranked (they are #9 now), #3 Louisville, and #12 FSU.
Clemson has been challenged all year and barely scraped by on games like Troy and NC State, but a win is a win. Unlike LSU, Clemson has one if not the best offenses in the NCAA. In order for Clemson to win the National Championship they need continue their momentum with the offense and not make freshman and lackluster mistakes.
It all starts with Clemson’s leader and offensive playmaker DeShaun Watson. He’s had his ups and downs all year and I’ve been very critical of him because I know he has the potential to be a Heisman Winner, and not just in the running. Like Bama’s QB, Watson is a dual threat, meaning he can scramble away from defenders to pick up a first down and throw a ball 50 yards down the field and score before the defense even knows what happened.
There has been a lot of speculation the past week whether Watson was injured in the first half of the Syracuse game, but anybody who follows Clemson knows, Watson is a competitor and will work and strive through the adversity brought forth upon him. He was able to go out if needed for the second half of the ‘Cuse game, but didn’t because they already were blowing them out 30-0.
Like I said in my Clemson vs Louisville blog, Watson has made freshman mistakes through his decision making. The last two games versus Syracuse and FSU he has been getting better with these types of decisions on identifying different coverages. Unlike earlier in the year, he has been money on most of his throws connecting with all his big time playmakers.
Need to establish the run
Wayne Gallman is the downhill runner Clemson loves. He runs through holes at a 100% every time. He hasn’t had many longer runs over 20+ yards like he’s had the past two years, but he’s a workhorse and is always involved in gaining the yards needed to push down the field.
Having a dual threat QB and Gallman, makes the defense’s job that much harder because they need to account for both playmakers rather than just one. Clemson should bring back some of the end around plays utilizing their speed receivers like Artavis Scott and Ray Ray McCloud, which I’ll address with Wide Receiver U in a little bit.
Bring in the damn Jumbo Package. I can’t stress this enough, the jumbo package has yet to fail when used. The Jumbo Package consists of bringing in defensive lineman #42 Christian Wilkins and #94 Carlos Watkins. They’ve yet to be stopped on fourth and short and on goal line attempts. Can’t forget about the things that work.
Wide Receiver U
Anybody who knows Clemson, is aware of the talent they have every year at the Wide Receiver position. From years past; DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Adam Humphries, Dwayne Allen (TE but a savage), the list goes on.
This year the playmakers are: #7 Mike Williams, #13 Hunter Renfrow, #16 Jordan Leggett, #3 Artavis Scott, #8 Deon Cain, and #34 Ray-Ray McCloud. Literally their entire offense are a threat. It’s not just one guy, that’s what makes this offense one of the most feared opponents to go up against.
Unlike in the National Championship last year, Mike Williams and Deon Cain were not factors. Williams was hurt and out for the year with a neck injury and Cain had team related issues where he didn’t travel. Clemson lost to Bama 45-40. It was heartbreaking, I didn’t cry but I felt dead inside, I don’t know what’s worse.
Williams is this years DeAndre Hopkins, he can run the deep ball, he goes up and catches the ball, and is a fade threat in the back of the end zone. Cain is also a deep threat and has many similarities to Williams. These two will likely be double covered on and off all game because of their talent.
But because Clemson has so many weapons, this is where Bama is going to have problems.
Hey Bama remember this guy? That’s Hunter Renfrow who scored not 1 but 2 touchdowns and danced on your faces. You guys should probably cover and pay attention to him this season, or else Repeat City.
Jordan Leggett is another threat where FSU learned ALL about his skill set. The last drive was all Leggett where he caught 3 of his 5 receptions, a total of 122 yards receiving and a touchdown. Leggett is 6 foot 5 255lbs, can run, catch, and block. He reminds me of a smaller but equally agile Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots.
The offense can’t do it all though. Defense and Special Teams play a critical role in every game. The offense could score a thousand points but if the defense lets up a thousand and one, they still lose.
Often overlooked and not given enough credit, special teams is huge in setting up field position for both the offense and defense. I remember in the NC State game when it was close and everything was going wrong, Clemson’s punter Andy Teasdall punted a ball 18 yards setting up NC State with great field position.
The great thing about team sports is that one guy can’t do it all. Everybody must actively participate in order for the team to get the W.
Ray Ray McCloud or Artavis Scott need to be trusted with Kick and Punt Return specialties. Personally in a game with this much pressure, I would put the veteran back to receive punts because McCloud has made some mental mistakes costing Clemson points on more than a few occasions. Scott however, is one of the fastest players on the team and speed kills. Look for Scott to shine in this role, similar to his and McCloud’s role in the offense as slot receivers catching screens and lighting up the defense.
Every offense has it’s leader and it’s often the QB. Well on the defensive side, it’s different. Sometimes the leaders are the guys who have been there the longest with the most experience, other times it’s the guys who silently lead by example. Its the guys who are out there grinding with them every play and loving every second of it. The guys who push them to be better everyday. Fortunately for Clemson they have all of these leaders.
Ben Boulware plays similarly to Jamie Collins because he has the vision to cover the entire field. He’s pretty good in coverage and can make dynamic plays, though sometimes he gets beat. He has keen awareness to jump snap counts and provide the bull rush pressure top stop the run and force poor throws. He’s one of the more vocal leaders because he helped lead this team to the National Championship last year. After a big play he’s the first one coming over to a teammate to smash helmets with, he’s an animal and I’m glad he’s on the team.
Kendall Joseph is the silent type of leader and many outside of Clemson do not know the impact he’s had on the defense. He’s overshadowed by playmakers like Christian Wilkins, Boulware, Tankersley, and Watkins. Yet still one of the leaders. He has 69 tackles, nice. 7 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, and 11 QB Hurries. Look for his impact on the field next Clemson game.
Like Joseph, Jadar Johnson is a quiet leader and quoted as, “He usually is pretty quiet and low key and everything like that so when you hear him speak up, you know he is saying something for a reason”, said Christian Wilkins, “You really have to pay attention to him, unlike someone who is outspoken all the time.”
Because Safeties Jayron Kearse (Vikings) and TJ Green (Colts) got drafted into the NFL along with standout Cornerback Mackenzie Alexander (Vikings), someone needed to step up as the leader in the secondary. And so far he has taken over the role swiftly and commands the same vibe his mentors and teammates before him, “WE TOO DEEP”.
And finally one of the most dynamic leaders, the most ambitious, fun having, defensive linemen in the nation. Defensive End and sometimes Defensive Tackle, Christian Wilkins.
He’s a monster at 6 foot 5 inches tall, weighs 300 pounds and can gallop like a moose and destroy all those who stand in his way. I personally think he’s the top defensive player in the nation because of the impact he’s had on the field, but I may be biased. I’d put him up next to LSU’s Duke Rylie as defensive MVP. He has 68 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks. He’s also caught a touchdown pass on offense, a 2 PT conversion, has a blocked field goal, and blocks on offense in the Jumbo Package.
He’s a true vocal leader and leads by example. My favorite thing about Wilkins other than his on the field play, is his personality among his teammates. Before the season there was a video of him riding a bike on the turf catching passes from Watson. After the win over Syracuse they did the #MannequinChallenge and he was in the center of it.
After every offensive or defensive touchdown, he sprints onto the field and is the first player to congratulate them. You can tell he truly loves the game and his teammates.
I truly believe Clemson is the superior team over Bama this year and I think they win by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter 38-31, good guys.
If you like my long form breakdowns of Clemson football let me know in a comment or on Twitter @TheAlbumWeb