Frisby's Corner: Week Five
Ok folks, we took care of business on Saturday afternoon. A victory over Mississippi State was a necessary step in our date with destiny. Our reward is a short week and a crucial Thursday night ESPN meeting with Kentucky. This week's question is, "What did we learn about this team from the win over MSU?"
What we learned is that we have a team with players who are willing to listen to coaching and make the proper adjustments.
What we learned is that we have a bonafide bend but don't break defense, with a considerably deep depth chart that is working diligently to overcome a weakness in stopping the run.
What we know is that we have a highly rated pass covering secondary that will be put to the test Thursday night. I think the MSU game was just what the doctor ordered for the Gamecocks. The game gave us the opportunity to work on the area that ailed us the most, stopping the run. It also provided us with the opportunity to get a game under a new quarterback's belt. Let me share some perspective, observations and opinions as to where we stand heading into this all-important week five of the season.
I think we are starting to work out the kinks offensively. Coach John Hunt has made some adjustments up front (insertion of guards James Thompson and Seaver Brown) that look promising as the season progresses. Coach Hunt's changes, coupled with a quarterback with the ability to scramble, may just be the difference this team has been looking for.
Quarterback Chris Smelley was impressive in his start on Saturday. I was impressed with his poise under pressure and his decision-making (except for the interception he threw on the run.) Smelley does not get "happy feet " in the pocket and seems to have a sixth sense as to when to step up in the pocket when pressured. He has good touch on his passes and does not force the ball into coverage. If there is something he can work on, it's his velocity. There will always be a quarterback debate as long as there is a visor on the sideline. However, with another good showing Thursday, Chris Smelley could go a long ways in showing the consistency from the quarterback position that this program has been looking for.
There are, however, some areas that still need work in the passing game. We have not consistently stretched the field yet this season. We are thriving on short to mid-range routes with tight end Jared Cook making some semi-deep receptions. I think we will see more long balls as the freshmen speedsters develop.
The dynamic duo of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis found running a bit easier this week. Their one-two punch was enough to keep MSU off-balance for most of the day. Coach Spurrier continues to look for ways to weave Boyd and Davis into the fabric of his offense. Boyd is becoming known for his Gayle Sayers type running style, while Mike Davis uses his low center of gravity and speed like a wrecking ball. Boyd thrives in the open field, while Davis seems to especially relish short yardage and goal-line situations. Both players are dangerous threats as receivers out of the backfield and cause a myriad of problems for opposing defenses.
I think Coach Spurrier will settle on Kenny McKinley and Freddie Brown as the starting receivers. These have been the only two consistent receivers all year. As I mentioned earlier, Coach Spurrier will continue to develop the freshmen receivers and see if one or two of them can come up with a big downfield play as the season progresses. Look for Coach to use Chris Culliver, Joseph Hills, and possibly the Barnes Boys to stretch the field with fly routes. When the field is stretched, look for Smelley to throw the ball deep down the seam behind the safety on a post route or deep on a crossing pattern. Either way, look out for some deep balls as the season progresses. Deep balls will be needed to keep defenses honest. I really believe we have the talent, it's just a matter of development.
Our trio of tight ends has become an increasingly valuable part of the offense this year. Andy Boyd is providing quality blocking, and we have been seeing a fine display of pass catching from both Weslye Saunders and Jared Cook. Look for this trend to continue. Cook has been impressive from the hybrid tight end position. Defenses have a terrible time trying to cover him with a linebacker.
Dion Lecorn showed some promise on Saturday. An ability to make plays will get you some additional opportunities as a reward in a Spurrier offense.
I noted in my last article Coach Spurrier's reluctance to use Chris Culliver in pass catching situations as of yet. However, he has proven to be a breath of fresh air on special teams. In my opinion, if this guy can face the onslaught of a kick coverage team with success, he can catch some balls for us. Look for Coach to integrate him into the receiving rotation on Thursday.
The defense did what was needed on Saturday. I love the play of Emanuel Cook. This guy is all over the field. He covers the field horizontally and vertically with the same intensity. Stoney Woodson came up in run support with some quality hits and played well in coverage from his safety position. Eric Norwood's motor is constantly running. Norwood is second to none when he attacks upfield. His pressure will be instrumental in our efforts on Thursday night. It will be imperative for the defense to pressure Andre Woodson out of his comfort zone. Woodson does not have good feet, so keeping him on the move disrupts Kentucky's whole scheme.
The secondary played another outstanding game. I already mentioned Woodson and Cook. Quality performances were once again turned in by Carlos Thomas, Captain Munnerlyn and Darian Stewart to name a few. On the defensive line, Ladi Ajiboye continues to impress as well. Once again, the defensive depth is our strength. We worked on bottling up the run between the tackles. We got good penetration and lateral pursuit and were successful in limiting, if not containing a good rushing team for once this season. Look for the same approach to the Kentucky game, with plenty of men in the box and man coverage on the corners. Don't rule out some zone schemes to keep UK confused throughout the night.
I said last week that these next few weeks will test the mettle of this team. I really believe this is a team of destiny. Let's keep taking steps in the right direction. Beat Kentucky! Go Cocks!
The headline read, "4 missed field goals, blocked punt doom Clemson." Not so fast my friend. I think they may have left out the wee little fact that Georgia Tech just outplayed Clemson on Saturday afternoon. Let's be real. Mark Buchholz may have missed four field goals, but two of the four (from 48, 50) he would have missed anyway, and the third (from 47) he was more likely than not to miss. Georgia Tech's defense basically dominated the line of scrimmage. The GT defense did an "Emeril Lagase" on Clemson; they "kicked it up a notch." GT's Philip Wheeler was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half on Saturday. I overheard a young Clemson fan say in reference to Wheeler, "Momma, their go that man again." The Yellow Jackets, as a defensive whole, proved true to their name. They were swarming like bees around the Clemson offense.
There is a bright side. Clemson fans. After weeks of analysis and painstaking comparisons, I have come to the conclusion that Cullen Harper is not quite as bad as Will Proctor. There, I admit it. He actually throws a half decent ball when his receivers and backs decide to catch them. However, there are a few drawbacks to his game. He has not quite mastered throwing from his back as of yet (6 sacks against GT), and his long ball is going to be a concern for the remainder of the season.
Ok, I am very sorry to have to do this. But until further notice, I am revoking the nicknames to wit: "Thunder" and "Lightning." A cease and desist order will be issued immediately. The players formerly known as "Thunder" and "Lightning" will revert to their government names of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, respectively. However, they do retain the right, based on current performance statistics, to utilize the monikers "Distant Rumble" and "Static Electricity" if they so choose. Seriously, there was an Amber Alert out in Atlanta for Davis and Spiller on Saturday.
This loss doesn't bode well for Clemson in a watered down ACC. The Tigers await Virginia Tech this week with plenty of questions to be answered. For starters: Where is the offensive line? Does Clemson ever plan on assembling a special teams unit? It's obvious there is nothing at all "special" about the special teams. It's rumored that they show up at the top of "The Hill" in a short yellow bus, now that's special!
I really think it's back to stacking the box against Clemson and pressuring the QB. I don't think many teams respect the fruitless efforts to establish a downfield passing game. To compound the problem, James Davis is not a receiving threat out of the backfield, and Spiller is questionable at best.
I noted last week that Cullen Harper had not cost CU a game "yet." He still hasn't. He may have that opportunity this week against Virginia Tech, though. I thought CU's first test of the season would be against Va. Tech. Georgia Tech proved me wrong on that prediction. Clemson's season hinges on this upcoming game. Let's see how much you want this one, Tigers. I'll see you next week.
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