Sitting at 4-3 (2-2 in ACC) in the last week of October—the midway point of the college football season, here are a few things we've learned about Clemson, so far this season:
*C.J. Spiller can be replaced.
*Jacoby Ford's threat downfield hasn't been.
*It takes time for some five-star prospects to live up to the hype.
MVP: RB Andre Ellington
Ellington was a strong candidate back before the start of preseason camp when we named Kyle Parker MVP. Suffice to say that Ellington's earned every bit of his midseason MVP award.
The redshirt sophomore running back from Moncks Corner leads the team with 642 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns on a 102 carries. He's also caught 11 passes for 100 yards and a score.
Ellington also leads the ACC in scoring with 10.3 points per game.
Any preseason concerns in regards to explosiveness in the rushing game have been answered. He's carried six times for 20 or more yards and 16 times for 10 or more.
Top NFL Prospect: TE Dwayne Allen
There's no change here from our preseason pick. Allen leads the team in catches (20) and receiving yards (269), plus one touchdown catch. He's one of three players to register a catch in every game this season.
As expected, Allen's spent a good part of the season trying to work free from double teams.
With the emergence of a couple of wide receivers, Allen is a dark horse for postseason MVP honors.
On the Rise: Chris Hairston, David Smith, Dalton Freeman, Antoine McLain, Landon Walker, Mason Cloy
Freeman was our guy heading into the season. He, along with the two guys to either side of him, has been the heartbeat of the offense.
The six-man offensive line rotation has paved the way for 175 yards rushing a game. They've also kept Kyle Parker relatively safe. Clemson is also 15th in the country in sacks allowed, giving up less than one per contest.
That number also ranks first in the ACC.
Top New Comer: WR DeAndre Hopkins
It's too easy to stick with our preseason projection.
But the question begs to be asked. What's more obvious: Ellington picking up the MVP or Hopkins' mention as Top New Comer?
Hopkins has emerged as one of Parker's go-to wide receiver targets. The freshman is second on the team with 17 receptions and second among wide receivers with 165 yards receiving and a touchdown.
‘Nuke' has also become quite the fan favorite, too, drawing cheers of his nickname after each catch during home games.
Unsung Hero: FB Chad Diehl
We'll stick with Diehl, for now. Although he's not blowing people up like we've noticed in the past, Diehl plays a big part in clearing the way for Ellington and Jamie Harper.
With the lack of tight end experience, he's been asked to do a lot of new things this season.
Diehl's blocked on the line, flexed out, motioned to one side, and then back to the other. He's even caught a couple of passes.
As Clemson continues to pound the ball on the ground, Diehl will have an important role on the offense.
MVP: DE Da'Quan Bowers
It's going to take one heck of a push for DeAndre McDaniel to win this award, as we projected in the summer.
Bowers is first in the country with sacks (10) and tackles for loss (17½). He's also got the Clemson single-season sack record (16), set by former Tiger great Keith Adams, firmly in his sights.
No one's talking about Bowers being a bust now.
Top NFL Prospect: Bowers
Some folks thought we were crazy when we dropped this idea back in July.
Does anyone still disagree? Multiple services have listed him as a potential top 10 pick in recent weeks, leading many Clemson fans to ponder the notion of whether or not Bowers will return for his senior season.
Whatever happens, Tiger fans should enjoy his final five games of the year, starting this weekend against Boston College.
On the Rise: S Jonathan Meeks
Meeks' uptick in playing time couldn't be timed any better for our awards. After playing zero snaps against Auburn and Miami, he played three versus North Carolina, 22 against Maryland and 41 in the Georgia Tech game, which he started.
So far this season, he has 14 tackles and two pass breakups as his playing time increases on a week-to-week basis.
Corico Hawkins, the preseason pick, is sixth on the team with 31 tackles. He has five tackles for loss and two sacks and has shown steady improvement from game to game.
Top New Comer: TBD
There are three candidates: Darius Robinson, Martin Jenkins and Justin Parker— our preseason pick.
Robinson, who's played the most snaps of any freshman on the defensive side of the ball (58), has an interception.
Jenkins has played 51 snaps and picked up six tackles in six games.
In six games, Parker has nine tackles in 39 snaps.
Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Parker would see more playing time in the second-half of the season.
Unsung Hero: NG Miguel Chavis
We like the intensity that he brings to the table, so we'll give him the nod.
The part-time starter at nose guard has played 174 snaps—the fewest among any of the five guys apart of the regular rotation. He's second among that group with 24 tackles.
Chavis has six quarterback pressures, but no sacks.
Preseason award winner Marcus Gilchrist is second on the defense with 414 snaps and fifth with 31 tackles. He's also grabbed an interception.
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