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Archive for July, 2009

Spiller, Ford preseason All-ACC

Posted by cuorange on July 31, 2009

This is a couple of days old, but if we have learned anything from last year, this means nothing. What I actually found more interesting is that there were no Tigers on the defensive team.

I fully expect the Tigers defense to be a top 20 unit nationally again this year, and I love the fact that there are no “stars” on the defensive side of the ball, but rather a group of “good” players who play together as a team.

Time will tell, but I expect Kevin Steele to turn it up a notch from the defense of the last couple of years team that seemed to bend for 3 quarters and break in the clutch.

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Early Preview – South Carolina

Posted by cuorange on July 30, 2009

Game 12 – November 28, 2009 – Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
7-6 5 20.8 317 6 20.1 292

I can’t remember the last time Clemson lost to South Carolina in Columbia and neither can Steve Spurrier, because he wasn’t the coach then. True, they’ve only played there twice under Spurrier and both were close losses (13-9 and 23-21), but losses nonetheless.

This year is going to be different. Spurrier and the Gamecock staff have said after four years they finally understand how important the Clemson game is.

Stephen Garcia is going to be the leader of the Gamecock offense and there is 0 experience behind him. Garcia threw 122 passes, but only completed 53.3% with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. Reid McCollum and Aramis Hillary are on the roster, but its Garcia or bust for the Gamecocks.

The Cocks lost almost every running back on the roster, besides Brian Maddox (121 Yds), though Garcia (198 Yds) has shown the ability to run and scramble. They do have talented true freshman Jarvis Giles and he could be the answer, if not in game one, then certainly by game 12.

The receiving corps suffers two big losses in Kenny McKinley and Jared Cook, but another true freshman, Ashlon Jeffrey, could be ready to step in.

A weak OL killed the Gamecocks in ’08 and they lost two starters off that group. 2.9 yards per rush and 94 yards a game on the ground is not going to get it done in the SEC or against Clemson for that matter.

The SC defensive line is stocked with talent with the only real loss being Jordin Lindsey. Clifton Geathers, Nathan Pepper, Ladi Ajiboye and Cliff Matthews can all play. This group gave up 133 yards per game on the ground last year and I would look for that number to improve.

Eric Norwood returns at LB along with the addition of two JUCO transfers, but the Cocks lost Jasper Brinkley and Marvin Sapp, while Darian Stewart moves to safety.

The defensive backfield takes some big hits with the loss of Emmanuel Cook, Captain Munnerlyn and Carlos Thomas. Two freshman, including Stephon Gilmore, enrolled early and could vie for playing time, but this is going to be an inexperienced group on the whole.

The Skinny: Different year, same story for Carolina. The skill players have potential but are unproven and young. A brutal schedule will take its toll, despite the off week prior to the Clemson game for the 3rd consecutive year. The Carolina defense will be solid, but the offense will struggle again.

Early Conclusion: Spurrier’s 5th year and he is staring at perhaps his first losing season at Carolina if the ball bounces the wrong way once or twice. The Gamecocks are generally thin (QB, RB, WR, LB, DB) and could be devastated (as in ’07) by a key injury or two. That’s not a good thing when you play in the SEC.

Until the Gamecocks prove different, Clemson has the edge in this series and certainly at Williams-Brice Stadium (for some unknown reason).

Clemson 23 South Carolina 15

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Early Preview – Virginia

Posted by cuorange on July 29, 2009

Game 11 – November 21, 2009 – Death Valley, Clemson, SC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
5-7 5 16.1 300 6 21.7 333

This was one ugly game last year with the Tigers winning 13-3 in the rain at Charlottesville.

There is a definite talent discrepancy between the two teams and playing in Clemson gives the Tigers even more of an advantage.

The Cavs have experience and depth at QB with Jameel Sewell returning from academic difficulties, while Mark Verica gained valuable experience in ’08. Verica completed 63.8% of his passes, but had 16 INTs and only 8 TDs. The wild card is CB Vic Hall who started at QB vs. Virginia Tech and exceeded 100 yards on the ground.

Leading rusher Cedric Pearman (774 Yds, 5.1 Avg, 7 TDs) is gone. Mikell Simpson who was held to 262 Yds by injuries in ’08 does return, but you get the feeling that the Cavs will really miss Pearman.

The Cavs lose their top 5 receivers (including Pearman) and the WR/TEs figure to be a hole that this team will have a tough time filling.

The good news is 4 starters return on the OL and the Cavs are going to need it to improve on their 97 yards per game rushing totals from ’08.

Only one starter is lost off the defensive line that gave up 150 yards rushing per game and totaled 29 sacks. That experience should lead to a reduction in rushing yards given up and an increase in sacks.

Three of four starting linebackers depart leaving huge holes at LB. Inexperience and just above average talent means that this unit is probably going to be a liability unless someone steps up.

On the flip side, 3 of four defensive backs return and they also get former starter Chris Cook back from academic difficulties. This should be a good group.

The Skinny:Clemson has the advantage in almost every area, except maybe the OL (and that is debatable) and the Tigers are playing at home. I can’t see Virginia scoring enough to win.

Early Conclusion: Clemson recovers from the loss to FSU. After a sluggish start the Tigers get in high gear and run away with the game.

Clemson 37 Virginia 13

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Early Preview – N.C. State

Posted by cuorange on July 28, 2009

Game 10 – November 14, 2009 – Carter Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
6-7 7 23.5 329 7 26.3 391

After being shut out by South Carolina to start the season and then only scoring only 3 points on offense in the third game against Clemson, the Wolfpack hit their stride in the second half of the season scoring at least 21 points in 7 of their final eight games (including bowl game).

This is Tom O’Brien’s third season in Raleigh and this team is beginning to look more and more like the Boston College teams of O’Brien’s past.

Sophomore Russell Wilson is the heart and soul of the Wolfpack offense. Though only completing 54.5% of his passes, Wilson only threw 1 interception (and 17 TDs) in 275 attempts. Wilson is also a rushing threat with 388 net yards on the ground.

The Pack loses leading rusher Andre Brown (787 Yds), but return Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker (injured in ’08), along with freshman Brandon Barnes. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this group will be improved.

The losses at WR are minimal and the group will be experienced. The Pack has a game breaker in Owen Spencer who averaged 22.3 yards per catch on 31 receptions while scoring 5 TDs.

N.C. State loses two full time starters off the OL, as well as 2 other part time starters. OL is the typically the strength of O’Brien coached teams and I expect that this group will be improved.

While losing two starters off the DL, the Pack return 7 experienced linemen and this will be the best DL N.C. State has had in years.

The loss of one starting linebacker is offset with the return of 3 experienced players and the recovery of Terrell Manning who was injured in ’08.

The secondary loses two of four starters, but returns seven players that started at one time or another and is an experienced group.

The Skinny: 5 straight victories against the Pack has the Tigers teaming with confidence. The problem is that both of N.C. State’s lines will be solid, if unspectacular. Clemson has the advantage at RB, WR, DL (very slight) and DB. State has the advantage at QB and OL (does this sound familiar?). LB is probably a wash.

Early Conclusion: N.C. State’s line play bottles up the Tiger’s offense and Russell Wilson makes enough plays in Raleigh. This game will remind Clemson fans of the slugfests when O’Brien was at Boston College.

N.C. State 20 Clemson 16

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It’s third and long…again

Posted by cuorange on July 27, 2009

It’s common knowledge that Clemson struggled on third downs last year, finishing 111th of 119 teams and converting 29.94% of the time.  Close losses to Maryland (20-17), Wake Forest (12-7), Georgia Tech (21-17) and Nebraska (26-21) highlighted this issue even more, as in each of those games the Tigers missed opportunities to convert on crucial third downs that may have made the difference in each game.
 
On the opening drive of the Maryland game, Clemson drove 64 yards to face a 3rd and 2 at the Maryland 8.  An incomplete Cullen Harper pass later a Mark Buccholz field goal gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead.  The Tigers lost by 3.
 
Five days later Clemson went 2 for 14 on third downs, including 0 for 8 when the distance was between 7 and 10 yards in the loss to Wake Forest.  The Tigers lost by 5.
 
Dabo Swinney’s debut against Georgia Tech was marked by a 3 for 12 success rate on third down.  A third and 6 from the Tech 17 led to a sack of Harper and a Buccholz field goal.  The Tigers lost by 4.
 
The Tigers third down struggles reached epic proportions against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.  Sixteen times the Tigers faced a third down.  In only 3 instances did the Tigers successfully convert.  Six times the Tigers faced a third down in Nebraska territory.  One of these was converted.  Clemson lost by 5.
 
The table below shows how Clemson’s 2008 third down conversion rates compared to Oklahoma’s.  It’s not even close.  While the 1-3 yard category is relatively close the other three aren’t. 
 

Team 3rd and 1-3 3rd and 4-6 3rd and 7-10 3rd and 11 or more
Clemson 60.71% 38.10% 20.69% 8.33%
Oklahoma 67.19% 64.44% 38.33% 29.03%

 

What stands out more than anything though is how many times Clemson faced third and 7 or more.  Of 831 plays run the Tigers faced third and 7 or more a total of 84 times (10.1%).  One of every 10 plays the Tigers ran from scrimmage was a 3rd and 7 or more.  Incredible.
 
Oklahoma, on the other hand, faced 3rd and 7 or more only 91 times in 1,106 plays from the line of scrimmage (8.2%).   The Sooners ran 275 more plays than Clemson  and only faced third and 7 or more seven more times than Clemson.
 
It’s not rocket science to figure out that the Tigers need to avoid negative yardage plays, especially sacks of which the Tigers allowed 33 for 256 yards last year, ranking 103rd in the country.  Oklahoma you ask?  They allowed 13 sacks for 95 yards and finished 3rd in the nation in that category.
 
If 2009 follows the pattern of 2008 the Tigers will convert about 47% on 3rd and 6 or less.  Once the distance goes to seven or more the conversion rate falls to 16%.  The more mobile Willy Korn and/or Kyle Parker as well as an improved offensive line should help the Tigers avoid as many sacks and 3rd and longs this year and it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.  
 
*These numbers may not match the official NCAA stats because I treated all touchdowns as a conversion, even if the score would not officially be counted as a first down for NCAA statistical purposes.

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Early Preview – Florida State

Posted by cuorange on July 27, 2009

Game 9 – November 7, 2009 – Death Valley, Clemson, SC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
9-4 8 33.4 372 5 20.2 295

Very big game for the Tigers if they hope to remain in the ACC hunt and it’s a game Clemson should win.  The game is in Clemson and the talent level is comparable, with a slight edge to FSU.

Junior Christian Ponder returns after throwing for 2,006 yards and 14 TDs last year.  His 13 interceptions have to worry the coaching staff, but considering it was his first year starting, the chances for improvement seem pretty good.

The Noles lost their top rusher (Anton Smith, 792 Yds, 15 TDs) and the lead blocker in FB Joe Surratt.  This group will probably be a notch or two lower than last years, but Ponder is also a capable runner (423 Yds, 4 TDs).

The talent at WR is not where it was in the old days under Bobby Bowden.  Taiwan Easterling (30 Rec) and Bert Reed (23 Rec) figure to be the top threats, but this group will not be as potent as ’08.

The OL was the shining star of the ’08 team despite being inexperienced.  This very well may be the best offensive line in the ACC and is definitely the strength of the team.

The defensive line takes some serious hits.  Gone are Everette Brown, Neefy Moffett, Benjamin Lampkin and Paul Griffin.  The replacements have potential, but figure to be inexperienced and not quite as good as last year.

The top 2 tacklers are lost from the linebacker position and this will also be an inexperienced, though talented, group.

The Noles lose 6 heavy contributors from the defensive secondary, including Myron Rolle.  The replacements are talented, if inexperienced and should improve as the season moves on.

The Skinny: Clemson has done well against FSU in recent history winning 4 of the last 6.  The home team has also won 7 of the last 9 in the series.  That said, the Seminoles can match the Tigers speed and have a superior offensive line. 

Early Conclusion:  I give FSU the advantage on the offensive line and Clemson the edge on the defensive line.  A subtle nuance here is the existence of Kevin Steele on the Clemson sideline as DC.  Slight slight edge to Clemson.

While the lines cancel each other out, Clemson has better skill players (except QB), offensive backs, linebackers and probably secondary players.  FSU gets the advantage at QB.  The FSU defense is vulnerable.  Clemson is at home.

Clemson 27 Florida State 24 

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Hunter’s career is over

Posted by cuorange on July 26, 2009

Stanley Hunter’s career as an active member of the Clemson Tigers is over. Hunter suffers from epilepsy and a change in medication has caused several seizures, some close together.

Hunter will remain with the team as a student coach.

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Early Preview – Coastal Carolina

Posted by cuorange on July 24, 2009

Game 8 – October 31, 2009 – Death Valley, Clemson, SC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
6-6 7 22.3 370 9 24.1 355

The inevitable “Orange and Black” game on Halloween. The Tigers take on in-state FCS team Coastal Carolina for Homecoming. This the first meeting between the two teams, but Coastal is not new to  FBS match ups, most recently getting eviscerated 66-10 by Penn State in Happy Valley to open the 2008 season.

Offensively the Chanticleers are led by QB Zach McDowell (2,064 Passing Yds, 16 TDs), but must replace the top two RBs.

WRs Brandon Whitley (32 Rec, 382 Yds, 3Tds) and Marquel Willis (27 Rec, 387 Yds, 6 TDs) return, as do 4 members of the offensive line.

Coastal plays a 4-3-4 defense and returns 9 starters on this side of the ball. However, this is a defense that gave up 43 points to Liberty and 47 points to VMI.

The Skinny: With the location of the school, facilities and coaching staff, it’s only a matter of time until Coastal becomes a force in FCS football. It probably won’t happen in 2009, but the building process has begun and with this game deep in the season (as opposed to opening day vs. Penn State in ’08), I expect the Chants to be improved and better prepared.

Early Conclusion: There’s a possibility Clemson could overlook this game sandwiched between Miami and Florida State, but those chances are greatly reduced with Dabo at the helm. Clemson starts slow with the Miami hangover affecting the early play, but the Tigers pull away in the 2nd half and then coast while looking ahead to FSU.

Clemson 44 Coastal Carolina 16

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Early Preview – Miami (FL)

Posted by cuorange on July 23, 2009

Game 7 – October 24, 2009 – Land Shark Stadium, Miami, FL

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
7-6 8 27.1 326 7 24.2 317

No team in the ACC has more talent than Miami. No team in the ACC, not even Clemson, wastes more talent than Miami.

As they have for the last few years, the Canes showed flashes in 2008 – a victory over Virginia Tech being the highlight – but suffered some close losses and lost to California in the Emerald Bowl by 7.

Sophomore Jacory Harris has the QB position thanks to the transfer of Robert Marve. Harris threw for 1,195 yards and 12 TDs, while suffering only 7 INTs in 2008 as a true Freshman.

Graig Cooper (841 Yds, 4.9) and Javarris James (286 Yds, 4.2) lead the rushing attack that averaged 129 yards per game in ’08.

The losses at receiver are also minimal (no one lost had more than 18 receptions) and the younger players who gained experience on the field and as redshirts last year mean this group will be improved.

The line returns three starters, plus one part time starter and should be a serviceable line. The play of this unit, will make or break the Canes offense.

A much improved and experienced defensive line will lead Miami on defense. Seven players return who have started at one time or another, so look for the 152 yards per game rushing number given up last year to decline.

There are some losses at LB, but with the return of Colin McCarthy this group should hold it’s own.

The defensive backfield loses a starting CB and S, but returns 6 players with at least 6 career starts.

The Skinny: Miami will be improved on the field, but the question is will they improve on the sideline (coaching). This team is chock full of talent that could challenge for the top 10 under the right coach. The question is do they have the right coach.

Early Conclusion: Miami’s early schedule is brutal: @ Florida State, Georgia Tech, @ Virginia Tech, Oklahoma. This is probably the toughest game to gauge at this point (July) as no one knows how the Canes will react from one game to the next. That said, the lines appear to be solid on paper and the offense is full of talent at skill positions. Playing at home gives the Canes the advantage.

Miami 24 Clemson 20

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Early Preview – Wake Forest

Posted by cuorange on July 22, 2009

Game 6 – October 17, 2009 – Death Valley, Clemson, SC

Record O St Rtng Pts/Gm O Yds/Gm O D St Rtng Pts/Gm D Yds/Gm D
8-5 9 21.0 308 4 18.3 297

The Demon Deacons return a ton on offense including Riley Skinner at QB (2,347 Yds, 13 TDs) and their entire RB corps, minus a total of 123 yards.

The receivers take a hit with the loss of D.J. Boldin (81 Rec) and are less experienced than last year, but have potential as a group.

The Deacs return 9 of their top 10 offensive lineman and the running game will benefit immensely from this – they averaged 121 yards per game on the ground last season. This group has 119 career starts between them (second most in FBS).

The defensive line takes a hit at the end spot, losing three DEs, but otherwise is a steady, sturdy and experienced group.

Wake loses all three starting linebackers, including Aaron Curry, and this will be the weakest group on the defense.

The secondary loses 3 starters, including 1st team All American Alphonso Smith, but does return Alex Frye and Brandon Ghee.

The Skinny: Wake gives Clemson fits from time to time, but typically this happens in Winston-Salem. The last time these two played at Clemson in 2006 the Tigers blasted Wake 44-10. Last year the Tigers couldn’t move the ball vs. Wake despite repeated chances in a 12-7 loss that served as Tommy Bowden’s last game.

Early Conclusion: Wake’s seasoned offensive line will allow the Deacs to move the ball and Skinner is a steady, if unspectacular QB that makes few mistakes. Wakes offense improves, but their defense suffers from major losses. Ultimately the home field proves to give the Tigers the extra edge needed.

Clemson 26 Wake Forest 21

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