Welcome to another edition of What We Are Hearing!
First, I’ll mention a couple quotes we received from recruits since the game on Saturday. 2016 WR prospect Jayson Hopper said, “Loved the atmosphere even when it rained. Thought the team played great! Loved watching them air it out.” 2016 4-star LB commit Tre Lamar: “The game was great, and it was a great win for Clemson, both offensively and defensively.”
Gary will have a recruiting update tomorrow, with a list of recruits who will be in attendance on Saturday night. One of the visitors will be DE Yetur Matos, who is an impressive specimen for the 2017 class. He is very high on Clemson and will be making the trip south from Virginia. In case any of you missed it, Xavier Thomas—one of the top prospects in the state for 2018—just announced that Clemson is now his leader over FSU and South Carolina. Also, Clemson has extended an offer to RB Devon Lawrence, brother of 5-star DT Dexter Lawrence, out of North Carolina. The two brothers were on campus for an unofficial visit about a month ago with their mother and a friend, and Dexter announced last week that he will be making an official visit to Clemson for the FSU game. I imagine the two brothers will be making the trip together once again. The inside word was that his visit last month went very well, and that information was confirmed by the scheduling of his official visit. We’ve heard it time and again, but the biggest challenge is to get these prospects on campus. Once they come, Clemson almost always has an excellent shot.
Click HERE to see Gary's recruiting wrap-up from the GT game.
Ryan Carter, Austin Bryant and Ryan Norton will miss the BC game due to injuries. All are expected to be available for the following game at Miami.....Players of the game against GT were Leggett on offense, O’Daniel, Boulware and Kearse on defense and Seth Ryan on special teams….Christian Wilkins hails from the state of Massachusetts….Clemson’s first bowl victory was the 1940 Cotton Bowl against BC….A win will give Clemson a new school record of 14 consecutive home victories….Clemson has won 8 consecutive games, which is tied for the 5th-longest active streak. Michigan State is 4th and is facing a tough game at Michigan this weekend....If Clemson beats BC, it will be the Tigers' 15th win in its last 16 games. The last time that happened at Clemson was from 1947-49, when the Tigers won 15 in a row. That remains the longest streak of consecutive wins in school history....The 2008 Clemson victory at BC was the first career win as a head coach for Dabo Swinney….6 of the 10 meetings since BC joined the ACC have been decided by a touchdown or less. BC won the first 3 meetings after joining the ACC. All were decided by a touchdown or less, and two were in overtime…..2 of Clemson’s wins in the series came during undefeated seasons—in 1948 and 1950….In 1983, Doug Flutie rallied BC from a 16-3 deficit to beat Clemson 31-16. It was Clemson’s only loss that season….Clemson had just 2 losses and 2 ties from 1981 to 1983. One of the losses and one of the ties came against Doug Flutie and BC….Clemson and BC played 3 times at Fenway Park in Boston. Clemson won the first meeting in 1941, just 13 days after Ted Williams finished his famous .406 batting average season. The other two meetings resulted in a tie and a loss for the Tigers….Last season, Cole Stoudt was the recipient of the Leather Helmet Award for the MVP of the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy. Past winners for Clemson have been Vic Beasley, Tajh Boyd, Chandler Catanzaro, Richard Jackson and C.J. Spiller. A Clemson kicker won the award in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, Richard Jackson tied a Clemson record with 6 FG's….This game will be designated as the breast cancer awareness game, and Clemson players will honor the cause by wearing pink accessories on their uniforms....Saturday is Homecoming for Clemson. The Tigers are 68-20-3 in Homecoming games and 38-4-2 since 1971....
What a crazy week so far in college football! It began with the news about Steve Sarkisian on Sunday afternoon, was followed Monday with news of Florida’s QB being suspended for the season for use of PED’s, and of course culminated in the sudden news about Steve Spurrier on Monday night. On the subject of PED's, Dabo said that there is a protocol in place, and all the players are well aware that they are responsible for clearing with the staff anything they intend to put into their bodies. Dabo said that the situation at Florida provided an opportunity to reiterate the importance of that protocol with the players.
On the subject of the latter, I know most of us are happy to see Spurrier go, but I have mixed feelings about it. It would have been nice to beat him one more time on his own turf and add him to the list of legendary coaches who lost their final college game to Clemson. He would have joined the likes of Woody Hayes, Barry Switzer, Lou Holtz and Paul Dietzel! It also would have improved our record versus Spurrier to 5-6. Still, it is nice to know that the Spurrier era in Columbia—one which took the South Carolina program to unprecedented heights—has finally come to an end. It was interesting and entertaining to listen to Dabo’s remarks about Spurrier’s retirement. He reminisced about the humorous exchange they had in which Spurrier told Dabo that Pluto was no longer a planet. Dobo pointed out that since we beat South Carolina and ended the streak last November, scientists have reversed themselves and decided that Pluto is indeed a planet after all. The recollection from Dabo that I found most interesting is that Spurrier called him shortly after the 2013 game in Columbia and told him, “You kicked our butts! Just couldn’t hang onto the ball.” Dabo said Spurrier also called him to offer some comforting words of encouragement after the loss at UGA last season. I’m sure Dabo won’t lose any sleep over the retirement of his rival, but after listening to him yesterday, I got the feeling he was slightly ambivalent about the news as well. Interestingly enough, Tuesday was not only the day Spurrier announced his retirement, but it was also the 7th anniversary of the day that Dabo was appointed interim Head Coach. Life certainly has its ironies.
Enough about the former ball coach. The Tigers are coming off of their most impressive win over GT in over a decade. The offense marched right down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive and never looked back. The game was never close. Many in the national media were expecting this to be a much closer game and a potential let down for Clemson after an emotional win over Notre Dame; it was anything but that. Clemson’s domination over its ACC rival was almost as impressive as the win over the Irish. It was also the Tigers’ most complete game in all three phases. The AP seemed to agree, bumping Clemson up to the #5 spot over LSU. You could make the argument that Clemson looks like the most complete team in the nation right now, along with Utah. The defense—perceived as a weakness in the preseason—has proven to be one of the best in the nation, and the offense is starting to play up to its potential.
It’s hard to say enough things about what the defense has done so far. They just held Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense to 71 yards and 1.7 yards per carry, which is a record low for GT since Johnson has been there. It is the second-lowest rushing total in Johnson’s career. The Yellow Jackets were averaging 311.8 rushing yards per game before Saturday. Sure, there were some bad plays allowed by the defense on missed assignments, but those are forgivable when you dominate the line of scrimmage the way our front seven did. The entire defense has been playing inspired football through the first 5 games.
And it was nice to see the offense open up a little bit and put a team away! In the previous two games against Louisville and Notre Dame, the offense had chances to seal the game but didn’t—leaving the defense responsible for securing the win. This time, however, the offense was able to close the books on the Jackets. Not only did the offense build a big lead and continue to score, but even with Nick Schuessler in the game, they were able to melt away the clock with an eight-and-a-half-minute drive of 90 yards. That’s a nice change of pace from the stress of having the defense on the field in the last minutes with the game on the line. It was also very encouraging to see Deon Cain and Trevion Thompson making big catches on long passes. That is the biggest thing that has been lacking from this offense. The offensive line and running game have been far better than expected, but after losing Mike Williams, the deep ball just hasn’t been there as much as last season. Cain had his best game of the season so far. He has the size and skills to fill in nicely for Williams. He just hadn’t been far enough along mentally, but I think the light may have come on for him. Look for us to target him at least a couple of times down field on Saturday night. Cain had a 38-yard reception, and Thompson had one for 33 yards, so just seeing that on film should force BC to respect Clemson’s vertical passing game and big play ability. Hunter Renfrow will get his first start. He has been one of the big surprises of the season so far, although Dabo sang his praises all through camp, and even I was able to notice how good he looked in the few practices I observed. Dabo said that Renfrow looks like a chemist or anything but a football player, and he's right. If you passed him on the street, you would never guess he's a starting WR for the Clemson Tigers, but he sure looks the part when you see the plays he makes on the field.
The special teams have now forced a fumble and a safety in consecutive games, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. The coverage unit was much improved, so that is a relief. The one thing we don’t need to do Saturday night is give BC points on special teams or their struggling offense a short field. Huegel is now a very respectable 6-8 and Lakip is 1-1.
Click HERE to read my grades and analysis of the GT game.
This Boston College team is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, their defense is ranked #1 in the nation. On the other, to call their offense anemic would be an understatement. The Eagles have scored just 3 touchdowns in their last 16 quarters and were shut out by both FSU and Wake. Some might not consider a shut out to FSU terribly embarrassing, but Wake? You don’t have to look very far to figure out why BC has had such a hard time scoring. First, they don’t have the great running back we’re used to seeing up there, like Montel Harris or Andre Williams. Their leading rusher is actually freshman QB Jeff Smith, who has 284 yards rushing. Their leading backs are Tyler Rouse and Marcus Outlow, who average 4.4 yards and 4.5 yards per carry, respectively, but keep in mind that their averages include games against Howard and Maine. Bigger than their lack of a great back is their lack of a true quarterback. Starter Darius Wade suffered a season-ending injury against FSU, and since then two freshmen—Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie—have been splitting playing time. Steve Addazio has said that only one of the QB’s will play against Clemson, but he has yet to announce which one in the hopes that it will make preparation more difficult for Clemson’s defense. The two candidates are basically polar opposites. Flutie is a pocket passer and is 20-37 for 336 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 INT on the season. His QBR is a respectable 151.69. Smith, on the other hand, is a running QB. He’s only 9-30 for 86 yards passing, but he leads the team in rushing with 284 yards and 6.8 yards per carry, with 3 touchdowns. Flutie is not entirely incapable of making things happen with his feet—he has 6 rushes for 50 yards.
The Eagles are coming off an abysmal offensive performance against Wake, in which they were shut out and turned the ball over 4 times. It was reminiscent of the game last season between Wake and Virginia Tech that ended 0-0 in regulation and went to overtime. The Eagles suffered a gut-wrenching loss on Saturday, getting all the way to the goal line before running out of time due to terrible clock management. The Eagles could have kicked an easy FG to tie or run two pass plays to win, but instead they inexplicably tried to run the ball into the end zone, which used up the remaining time before they could spike the ball. A loss like that has to make the temperament of this team pretty precarious.
As noted earlier, Tuesday was the anniversary of Dabo's appointment as interim head coach. The first two teams he faced as a head coach were GT and BC, so the fact that the anniversary was sandwiched between those two games makes this week extra nostalgic for him. It's also the Breast Cancer Awareness Game, and we know that is a cause near and dear to Dabo's heart. As if that weren't enough, it's Homecoming weekend for Clemson, so there is a lot going on this weekend. In spite of all the story lines swirling around the game, the rankings and the additional attention the program is getting right now, I am certain that the players are blocking it all out. That was my intuition last week when I predicted a 41-17 beat-down of Tech, despite Vegas listing us as a 7-point favorite, and the team validated that intuition. I think this team is as focused as any team in the nation right now, and we are going to see the exact same focus and effort on Saturday night that we have seen the last two weeks. By the way, every player I talked to this week to a man said that he LOVED Dabo's rant after the GT game. None of them can express their opinions on twitter, so it made them proud to see Dabo stand up for them in such a demonstrative way. Obviously, that is out of character for Dabo, so I think it surprised a lot of them. I also think it struck a chord with each and every one of them and motivates them to go that much harder for their coach.
Having said that, much has been made about BC’s impressive defensive rankings. They are currently #1 in pass defense, rush defense and total defense. They are #2 in scoring defense. They do have some good athletes and team speed on that side of the ball. However, those rankings are a bit askew due to the competition they have played, which includes Howard, Maine, Northern Illinois and Wake. Granted, they did hold Duke to only 9 points and FSU to 7, so their defense is certainly respectable, but I’m not willing to concede that it’s a top-10 defense just yet. FSU is essentially a one-dimensional offense, and Duke struggled to score against Northwestern as well. The inside scoop is that the staff feels BC’s defensive front won’t be able to get enough pressure on Watson and that he will be able to sit in the pocket and pick them apart. We’ll see if that assessment bears out, but I like our O-Line versus the BC D-Line. I also give a big advantage to our front seven against the BC offensive line. Regardless of which QB the Eagles go with, I think our defense is going to give him fits. If they thought it was tough to score on Wake, just wait until they are trying to throw against our secondary with guys like Lawson, Dodd and Boulware coming after them. If I had to guess, I would say the more nimble Smith will start the game at quarterback for the Eagles because it will be tough for Flutie to throw the ball against this defense, and Smith makes them a little tougher to defend. But maybe Addazio will hope for some magic to emerge from Flutie’s prominent pedigree. Either way, you will see a true freshman or redshirt freshman under center in one of the most intimidating environments in all of college football.
I think Clemson’s offense continues to improve. Ray-Ray makes a couple of big plays, and Cain shows he is able to stretch the field. Gallman will continue the tear he is on, and I hope that Peake will break out of his slump. Regardless of the names, Clemson simply has too many weapons, and even if BC’s defense lives up to their billing early, I believe they will be worn out by the second half after an avalanche of three-and-outs by their offense. No Matt Ryan or Flutie Hail Mary well help BC this time. Clemson wins the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy for the seventh time in its eight-year history.
The prowl toward the CFP and a 15th ACC Title in ’15 continues….
CLEMSON 38 Boston College 7