CUTigers.com's Hale McGranahan joins Gamecock Anthem to answer five questions about this weekend's rivalry game...
1. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris came in and completely revamped the
Clemson offense this season. We all know about the pace and misdirection
Morris likes to use, but after watching his offense for 11 games, how
would you describe what most makes his scheme unique and effective?
I wouldn't say this offense is unique because good quarterback play makes
it go, but it certainly is effective when the quarterback is playing at a
high level. Remember, Morris learned this offense from Auburn offensive
coordinator Gus Malzahn when they were both high school coaches. A year
ago, Malzahn had Cam Newton running the show. He won the Heisman and those
Tigers didn't lose a game all season.
This season can be broken down into two parts.
The first eight games and
the last three.
Tajh Boyd was playing at a Heisman-like level for the first eight games
this season -- 2,379 yards and 24 touchdown passes to just three
interceptions. And Clemson was 8-0.
Over the last three games, two of which they've lost, Boyd has thrown for
876 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.
There's also the zone-read aspect of the offense. Boyd's not the runner
Newton is, but he's shown flashes as a dual threat quarterback this
season. Making the right reads, knowing when to pull it and when to give
is also a critical part of this no-huddle, hurry-up offense.
2. Quarterback Tajh Boyd looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the
country for the majority of the season, but has struggled as of late --
what has been the biggest reason for Boyd's recent issues?
It's a simple answer, really. Interceptions. As I just mentioned, through
the first three games this season, he had three. He's thrown six in the
last three games.
At N.C. State, Boyd spent a good bit of the night running for his life.
Against Wake Forest, he trusted his arm strength a little too much.
At Georgia Tech, it was a combination of the two.
3. Who's the Clemson player that most outsiders probably aren't talking
about but has been key to the Tigers' success this season?
Even the so-called insiders were looking past Phillip Price. Here's a
former walk-on tight end who won the starting left tackle job this past
spring and never let it go. Not many (more like none) of the media-types
who cover Clemson on a daily basis thought that would last very long.
Guess what? It has. And he's been a steady presence on the left-side of
the line all season.
Even as Price proved all the naysayers by playing well this season, I
don't think anyone on the outside or "inside" really appreciated just how
important he was to the operation until last week's trip to N.C. State.
Price, who suffered an MCL injury against Wake Forest a earlier, didn't
play against the Wolfpack. The Tigers allowed six sacks. They gave up 18
in the other 10 games.
Price thinks he'll play in Columbia and they're going to need him to help
keep Melvin Ingram and Jadevon Clowney out of Boyd's face.
4. Sammy Watkins has obviously meant a ton to Clemson, can you put into
words just how much he has meant and how much of a bonus it could be this
weekend to have him back in the line-up?
In the summer of 2010, Watkins visited Clemson's campus for the first-time
when he attended the Dabo Swinney Football Camp. We showed up expecting
Charone Peake to be the best and the brightest star in the wide receiver
group. This rising junior named Quinshad Davis looked pretty good, too.
Then Watkins showed up. And there was no doubt as to who the best receiver
at the camp was. It wasn't even close.
Anybody could have watched Watkins workout for those couple of days and
said, 'That guy is going to be a good college football player. That guy
could play in the NFL one day.'
But who could have imagined that Watkins would show up and make an
immediate impact like he has? Sixty-eight catches, 1,034 yards and 10
touchdowns in nine games.
He'll play on Saturday, and that'll be huge for Boyd.
5. The single most important thing Clemson has to do to win this game is...
Call it coach-speak, cliché -- whatever. They have to take care of the
football. Over the last three games, Clemson's got 11 turnovers. They had
eight in the first eight games.
It's as simple as that. Take care of the football.
From the other sideline: Clemson
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