Here we sit, just after a Thursday-night victory by the orange-clad Tigers of Clemson over the Cardinals of Louisville. As of this report, twenty-eight of the forty Clemson Freshmen on the roster have participated in the three games this season. In our series of reports throughout the season, we continue to document the progress of these Tiger freshmen and their accomplishments.
If you took one thing away from this past Thursday’s game, it would have to be that these young Tigers were not letting the “bright lights” turn into “big eyes”. How would these freshmen do in their first real test on the road, on national television with a hostile home crowd bearing down on them with untold decibels of noise?
Well, guys, I am glad to report that these kids looked like true veterans, not the least bit intimidated by the “black out” and the sold-out Papa John’s Stadium filled with the Cardinal faithful. You would have never known that the likes of Hyatt, Fruhmorgen, Cain, Wilkins, McCloud and Huegel were making their first career appearances at a college football venue outside of Clemson.
Let’s take a look at Mitch Hyatt—the one player that everyone, including myself, wanted to see respond to the hostile environment. After watching the game three times, I did not see one breakdown or missed assignment in his game. From the outset, the edge on his left side of the line was set, and you never saw the young tackle get out of position or lose a battle to the very experienced defensive line unit that he faced. Also, let’s mention that starting right tackle Joe Gore was injured in the second series of the contest, forcing true freshman Jake Fruhmorgen into duty. Fruhmorgen stepped right in and performed with no issues until sustaining an injury himself, coming out of the game in the second quarter.
We can’t talk about this game without mentioning the unsung hero. On his two kicks, Greg Huegel was as solid as they come. The first kick came from thirty-six yards out from the right hash. It was a perfect snap, hold and kick that split the uprights, giving the Tigers the comforting knowledge that he had passed this first major road test. Huegel would go on to nail another kick from twenty-seven yards later in the game to go two-for-two on the evening.
Now let’s talk about Christian Wilkins’s night in the Bluegrass State. Wilkins started out by joining the first team defensive unit on Louisville’s second series, pairing the Connecticut native with Scott Pagano on the interior of the Clemson defensive front. A solid performance here as well, Christian was constantly pushing the pocket and disrupting the middle. On several occasions, Wilkins pressured the quarterback with his pursuit and rushed incomplete passes. So far this season, Wilkins has two solo tackles to go along with two assists and two tackles-for-loss.
Finally, let’s talk about the two wide receivers: Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain. Both players had roles in the game and both had no faults. They again showed that they are advanced beyond their years with their smooth and cool demeanor, regardless of the venue or situation.
McCloud had four receptions on the night and Cain grabbed a couple, showing the Clemson faithful that these young skilled players are going to keep impressing and showing that they are as cool as the other side of the pillow. Three games into this season, McCloud has 13 receptions for 113 yards, averaging 8.7 yards a catch. While his teammate from Tampa, Cain, has added 6 catches for 70 yards and 11.7 yards per catch.
Stay tuned, as CUTigers continues to report on these freshmen as the season progresses!