May 4, 2016

Top Plays from 2015: #11-15

TopPlays11-15

Artavis Scott leaps into the endzone against Notre Dame (Photo via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America)

 

Clemson just capped off one of the best season’s in school history en route to a 14-1 record with an ACC Championship, Orange Bowl win, & a berth in the national championship game. In this feature we’ll take a look back at the Top 20 plays from the memorable season starting with #15 through #11…

#15. Jayron Kearse destroys the Georgia Tech triple option
Despite the shaky finish to his season, Kearse played like a man on a mission in the first few games. This hit to thwart Paul Johnson’s triple option will go down as one of the highlights of his career and the 2015 season as well. It will be interesting to see if Kearse can bring this type tenacity to Minnesota on Sundays.

 

#14. Carlos Watkins registers a fat guy touchdown against App State
Not much to say about this play other than it’s flat out awesome. Venables makes the perfect play call here as you can see Watkins drop back into coverage to be able to make the interception on a quick slant. Once Watkins had the ball in his hands he channeled his inner Deshaun Watson en route to the endzone.

 

#13. Deon Cain silences the Williams-Brice crowd with a long touchdown grab
Obviously this is a great snag by Cain down the sidelines, but can we talk about the throw from #4 first. He launches that ball from his own 37 yard line all the way to South Carolina’s 12 yard line. That’s 51 yards in the air and on the money. Goodness this kid is special. Just great body positioning to shield off the defender by Cain on the fly route as well. Clemson fans are hoping to see a lot more of this connection in the Fall.

 

#12. Eric Mac Lain plants a trash talking Oklahoma lineman on his rear
So there’s a little backstory to this clip which is why it’s this  high in the rankings. Leading up to the Orange Bowl the Sooners star defensive end Charles Tapper (see below) was asked if any of Clemson’s offensive linemen stood out to him. He responded with a casual “not really.” Fast forward a couple days later, and it’s safe to say he would probably answer differently if he was asked the same question after the game. Mac Lain surely made him eat his words on this play. The little love tap on the helmet is icing on the cake as well.

 

#11. Artavis Scott brushes off two Irish defenders for the score
This play is a perfect example of one guy having more “want to” than his opponents. Scott isn’t known for his size or speed, but his physicality and football instincts cannot be questioned. This score put Clemson off to a roaring start in the Death Valley downpour. It also ended up giving Clemson the necessary cushion to survive Notre Dame’s furious 4th quarter comeback.

 

See the previous top plays here:
#16-20

**As always check out our SUR Message Boards for the latest Clemson discussion and make sure to checkout our weekly Podcast for commentary from the SUR staff**

Podcast: NFL Draft Review, Recruiting Notes, Tweets of the Week

The SUR team recaps the NFL draft Clemson style and finds some interesting tweets, including one from our feathered friends in Columbia.

Time Marks:
01:20 – Shaq Lawson
03:40 – Kevin Dodd
06:26 – Mackensie Alexander/Jayron Kease
11:17 – T.J. Green
15:04 – B.J. Goodson
17:11 – D.J. Reader
19:32 – Charone Peake
21:53 – Zac Brooks
24:54 – Random NFL Draft thoughts (Tunsil, etc)
33:13 – Recruiting News and Notes
43:31 – Tweets of the week
54:17 – Coming Up on SUR

You can also download and subscribe to the podcast here via iTunes.

Figure The Odds: Troy Visits Clemson

We work through the 2016 schedule from easiest to most difficult based on Win Probability* for Clemson. Today: Game 2 of the 2016 season: Troy Trojans.

*Win Probability based on expected metrics for each team and 3,580 college football games from 2011-2015. Win Probability algorithm is updated periodically and may change prior to the game being played.

Previous games: S.C. State Bulldogs

State of the Program: Linebacker

StateofProgramLB

Clemson’s linebacker group will be led by RS sophomore Kendall Joseph (Photo: Anderson Independent Mail) and senior Ben Boulware (Photo: Kim Klement/Fox Sports)

 

Returners
SR-Ben Boulware82 tackles 8.0 TFL 3.5 sacks 2 INT 3 FF
RS JR-Dorian O’Daniel36 tackles 5.5 TFL
RS SO-Kendall Joseph6 tackles 
SO-Jalen Williams14 tackles 2.5 TFL 2 sacks
SO-JD Davis6 tackles
SO-Judah Davis10 tackles 0.5 TFL
RS FR-Chad Smith: Redshirted

Signees
Tre Lamar
★★★★★ 6’4″ 240lbs (Roswell, GA)
You’d be hard pressed to find a high school linebacker better put together from a physical standpoint than this 5-star Clemson signee. Lamar already looks the part of a college upperclassman and he pretty much stepped right into the #2 spot at the MIKE position when he arrived on campus in January as an early enrollee. During his recruitment, Brent Venables was able to secure Lamar’s commitment during the “All-In Cookout.” Georgia and Auburn pressed hard, but once the Roswell native was committed there was no wavering on his end. As far as this season is concerned, Lamar will certainly be on the field this Fall and he’ll be waiting in the wings should anything happen with Kendall Joseph.

Shaq Smith
★★★★★ 6’3″ 225lbs (Bradenton, FL)
As if one 5-star wasn’t enough Brent Venables decided he’d go out and get another. The process was certainly not an easy one though. Smith had been committed to Clemson for several months before deciding to back away from that pledge in order to take visits. He maintained that he would still end up being a Tiger, but the general consensus was that he would instead sign closer to home at Maryland. Despite the public’s perception Venables stayed in constant contact with Shaq and it paid off in a “recommitment” at the Under Armour All-American game just days before he arrived on campus as an early enrollee. Smith can play both inside and out, but the staff has chosen to place him behind Ben Boulware at WLB for the time being. Just like Lamar, Shaq has also found his way into consideration for the two deep and it’s only a matter of time before he can officially lay claim to the #2 spot on the depth chart.

Jamie Skalski
★★★ 6’1″ 225lbs (Newnan, GA)
Skalski will draw countless comparisons to current Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware, and rightfully so. Not only do they look alike, but their styles of play mimic each other as well. Both backers are stocky, hard-hitting linebackers that play until the whistle blows. Skalski is also a talented soccer player, and his skills were put to use during his high school career as he handled virtually all kicking/punting duties at Northgate. He’s been pretty adamant about getting a shot to handle kickoff duties when he arrives this Summer, but if he doesn’t win that job I’d expect him to spend his first season redshirting.

Commitments
Baylon Spector
★★★ 6’2″ 205lbs (Calhoun, GA)
Spector committed to Clemson back on August 15th during a visit to campus to move his younger sister in for her freshman year. He chose the Tigers over several smaller schools, but he committed Clemson before the big boys really had a chance to evaluate him. Spector also has some pretty serious ties to Death Valley as his father Robbie played wide receiver for Clemson back in the late 80s. Baylon plays on both sides of the ball at Calhoun, but is a projects perfectly into Brent Venables hybrid SLB/Nickel spot that Dorian O’Daniel will start at this season.

Board Overview
There seems to be a lot of confusion as to how many linebackers Clemson plans to bring in this cycle. Spector who is the lone commit figures to be a SLB/Nickel type of player and I’m not sure if the staff actually considers that a linebacker spot or more of a glorified 5th defensive back position. Nonetheless, Clemson has no shortage of options at their disposal for the addition of 1 or 2 pure linebackers in the 2017 class. The two headlining targets at this time are Drew Singleton (Paramus, NJ) and Justin Foster (Shelby, NC). Clemson is in the top two for both with Michigan being the biggest threat for Singleton and Tennessee being the biggest threat for Foster. One note to make in reference to Foster is that he is already pushing the 250lb mark on the scales which could possibly put him in line for a move to defensive end down the road. Most schools are still recruiting him as a inside linebacker, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Some more prominent names to know in regards to the 2017 class include KJ Britt (Oxford, AL), Jordan Anthony (Bradenton, FL), James Houston (Plantation, FL), and Tadarian Moultry (Birmingham, AL). Looking ahead to the 2018 class there are also a few players that hold Clemson offers to their name and they are Dax Hollifield (Shelby, NC), Jake Venables (Central, SC), and Terjada Mitchell (Virginia Beach, VA).

Previous Articles:
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Tackle
Defensive End

**Make sure to check out the SUR message boards for further discussion about Clemson sports**

Figure The Odds: The highest win probability for 2016 season

We work through the 2016 schedule from easiest to most difficult based on Win Probability* for Clemson. Up first, the third game of the season: South Carolina State.

Coming tomorrow: A team that gave the Tigers fits for a half.

*Win Probability based on expected metrics for each team and 3,580 college football games from 2011-2015. Win Probability algorithm is updated periodically and may change prior to the game being played.

NFL Draft Preview: Where Will the Tigers Land?

Here are the various sources used for each breakdown of the Clemson prospects. Continue scrolling to see each prospect’s corresponding big board ranking and mock draft results.

Big Boards

 

Top 5 Most Accurate Mock Draft Analysts Last 5 Years(TheHuddleReport.com):

Popular/Reputable Mock Drafts:

*If you don’t see a Mock Draft under a prospect’s name, it means he was not selected in said Mock Draft. *

Shaq Lawson

  • Miller’s Big Board – #2 EDGE, #15 Overall, “Best vs Run,” “Best 4-3 End”, “Lowest Risk”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #13 overall
  • Boris – 11. Chicago Bears
  • Long – 11. Chicago Bears
  • Standig – 20. New York Jets
  • Clark – 19. Buffalo Bills
  • Mayock – 13. Miami Dolphins
  • Miller – 19. Buffalo Bills
  • WalterFootball – 12. New Orleans Saints
  • Zierlein – 20. New York Jets
  • Reuter – 8. Cleveland Browns

Kevin Dodd

  • Miller’s Big Board – #8 DE, #29 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #30 Overall
  • Boris – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Long – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Standig – 42. Miami Dolphins
  • Mayock – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Miller – 26. Seattle Seahawks
  • WalterFootball – 32. Cleveland Browns
  • Zierlein- 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Reuter – 12. New Orleans Saints

Mackensie Alexander

  • Miller’s Big Board – #5 CB, #43 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #48 Overall
  • Long – 28. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Standig – 34. Dallas Cowboys
  • Miller – Rd. 2 Pick 31- Carolina Panthers
  • WalterFootball – 37. SF 49ers
  • Zierlein – 25. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Reuter – 48. Indianapolis Colts

TJ Green

  • Miller’s Big Board – #2 Free Safety, #44 overall, “Best Potential”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #73 Overall
  • Standig – 59. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Miller – 29. Arizona Cardinals
  • WalterFootball – 84. Washington Redskins
  • Reuter – 29. Arizona Cardinals

Charone Peake

  • Miller’s Big Board – #9 WR, #55 Overall , “Biggest Sleeper”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 3- Pick #4 – Dallas Cowboys
  • WalterFootball – 105. SF 49ers
  • Reuter – 113. LA Rams

Jayron Kearse

  • Miller’s Big Board – #4 SS, #103 Overall, “Best Coverage”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 4- Pick #24 – Cincinnati Bengals
  • WalterFootball – 178. Denver Broncos
  • Reuter – 136. Denver Broncos

DJ Reader

  • Miller’s Big Board – #28 DL, #236 Overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 7 – Pick #13 – Oakland Raiders
  • WalterFootball – 159. Houston Texans
  • Reuter – 119. Houston Texans

BJ Goodson

  • Miller’s Big Board – #25 LB, #234 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 7 – Pick #6 – Miami Dolphins
  • WalterFootball – 107. Miami Dolphins
  • Reuter – 98. Denver Broncos

Eric Mac Lain

  • Miller’s Big Board – #23 Guard, #421 Overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed

NFL Draft Profile: Shaq Lawson

As the 2016 NFL Draft nears, we’ll take a look at several Clemson Tigers expected to be drafted. This includes observing the prospects’ strengths and weaknesses, clips from the season, and current analyst projections.

Going into the 2015 football season, expectations were skyhigh for Shaq Lawson. Coming in as a highly rated recruit out of Daniel HS and Hargrave Military Academy, most already knew of his talent and were just waiting for him to explode. Stuck behind defensive ends such as Vic Beasley, Tavaris Barnes, and Corey Crawford, Lawson had to wait until 2015 to fill into a starting role, but showed spurts of his potential in 10 tackles for loss in 2013 and 11 in 2014. This past season, his first as a starter, Lawson would produce 25.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks. Plenty of defensive end talent has come through Clemson, and one could argue Shaq Lawson is the most complete.

Lawson’s Positives:

  • Size – Prototypical defensive end size, built like a Mack Truck at 6’3″ 269 lbs. Has the filled out frame needed to contend with the largest and strongest offensive lineman in the league. “NFL Ready” would be the best way to describe Lawson’s build. Can step in on day one and make a difference.
  • Motor – Consistently putting pressure on blockers and working to shed them to get to running back or QB. Violent and aggressive defensive end, Lawson knows how to use his strength and power to work over offensive linemen. Notably tends to come up with extra push and energy in critical situations. Good example of this push and his motor is in the Florida State game as the Seminoles attempted to convert a 4th and 1.

 

  • Run Defense/Setting the Edge – Lawson’s large frame and strength allows him to be much more than a pass rusher as a defensive end. He knows how to push and use his hands, keeping the ball carrier to the inside. The ability to shed blocks in the run game is what provided Shaq with 25.5 tackles for loss in 2015, as few OL can prevent Shaq from controlling the line of scrimmage. Your best shot is running plays to the side opposite of Lawson. Example of Shaq quickly shedding the tackle’s block and creating a TFL.

 

Shaq utilizes his patented spin move in the run game. Quickly beats the tackle to the inside to place himself 1-on-1 with the ballcarrier.

Watch Shaq in a run defense situation in which a tight end tries to block him. Uses his power to simply toss the would-be blocker out of his way and makes a stop.

 

  • Pass Rush – The best way that I can describe Lawson as a defensive end is “complete.” He really can do it all. Has the size, the motor, the ability to stuff the run, and last but not least, is a terror rushing the quarterback. Shaq has a variety of power and finesse in his pass rushing game, able to administer several moves against the opposing tackle. He may hit you with the bull rush one play, then come back with a spin in the next. This versatility allows him to be deadly. Watching Lawson’s film, the best options are to either double team him and/or run the play to the opposite side(where you run into Kevin Dodd). There are few instances in which an offensive tackle will contain Shaq Lawson throughout an entire play. First example  of Shaq’s pass rushing prowess comes from the championship game, in which Lawson is initially held up until he unleashes a lethal swat to the outside of the tackle.

Lawson ends up getting double teamed by an Irish duo including likely first round draft pick, Ronnie Stanley(#78). Lawson shows off the spin move, forcing the two to tackle Shaq and take a holding penalty.

Miami tries to pull the right guard around to block Lawson.

 

Clemson only brings a two man rush of Dodd and Lawson here. Lawson impressing with the hands and footwork. Starts outside and hits the tackle with the quick cut back inside. Finishes the play off by slamming Kaaya.

 

When you need a big defensive play, call Shaq Lawson. Lawson comes up big in the ACC Championship to force a fumble and help thwart a UNC comeback. More hand strength to get to the outside. Not quite Vic Beasley quickness, but still finds ways to get around the tackle.

Reasons for Hesitation:

  • Shoulder – Lawson’s shoulder was flagged by one team during the medical check portion of the NFL Combine. Even though it was later re-evaluated and passed, it could still provide hesitation to teams, especially considering such teams would be considering Lawson as their first round draft pick. In addition, there is word that his shoulder could need a type of minor surgery prior to the 2016 season.
  • Late Start – One of Lawson’s reoccurring knocks is that he tends to be slow off the snap. Generally can make it up in the college level, but the pros will take advantage of a DE that doesn’t get off the ball quickly. It’s certainly a coachable flaw and one that Lawson can work on and improve as he gets into the league. A consistently explosive first step will take his game to the next level. Here’s an example against FSU where his late get off never allows him to have a presence in the play.

Another instance where Lawson is last to get out of his stance, and is easily handled by Stanley of Notre Dame.

 

  • Conditioning – Lawson will need to work on his conditioning and ability to go 100% throughout a full game. This past season he had tendencies of not going overly hard on certain plays that were run away from him, conserving it for use later. Naturally, when you play nearly all snaps in a game and a high motor, it’s difficult to keep your breath each play. But it’s still something that NFL teams have noted and will hope to improve. Conditioning is likely partially responsible for late get-offs in games as seen above. Notice a bit of fatigue in the clip below against FSU…

 Projections:

Josh Norris(RotoWorld) – First Round – 18. Indianapolis Colts

Matt Miller(Bleacher Report) – First Round – 11. Chicago Bears

Daniel Jeremiah(NFL.com) – First  Round – 16. Detroit Lions

Walter Cherepinsky(WalterFootball.com) – First Round – 12. New Orleans Saints

Dane Brugler(CBSSports) – First Round – 17. Atlanta Falcons

My Projection – First Round – 16. Detroit Lions – The Lions could use an additional pass rusher, especially considering they only have three DE’s under contract currently. Toss in the fact that Lawson privately worked out for the team and received rave reviews in an explosiveness drill, and this could provide a likely landing spot for Lawson. I considered going with Chicago at 11, but they run a 3-4 defense and Lawson is used to playing in a 4-3.

The Latest:

April 25th – MMQB(Peter King) via Rotoworld – “Peter King of The MMQB keeps hearing the Bears “will go defense” at pick No. 11. This site and others have projected a left tackle for the Bears to complete a revamped front five over the last two seasons. King, on the other hand, mocks Clemson’s Shaq Lawson to the Bears as an extra edge rusher for the defense. King adds Lawson could need a minor shoulder procedure prior to the season, almost certainly on the same shoulder that was flagged by one team during the NFL Combine.”

April 23rd – NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein via Rotoworld -” NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes that Clemson edge rusher Shaq Lawson will be drafted before teammate and fellow edge rusher Kevin Dodd. “Both are different in their approaches as pass rushers, so it might just be a matter of taste,” Zierlein wrote, “but Lawson’s clean combine medical recheck should boost his stock.” The medical issue in question was Lawson’s shoulder. During medical rechecks in Indianapolis earlier this month, the 6-foot-3, 270-pounder’s occasionally balky right shoulder (he wore a brace in 2015) was deemed clean and clear. He is a first-rounder through-and-through and could conceivably draw interest into the top-10, though that is not a given.”

 

 

Featured photo cred: Twitter

Video Clips via YouTube

Top Plays from 2015: 16-20

TopPlays16-20

Hunter Renfrow’s first TD catch against Alabama in the National Championship (Source Photo: Kevin French/Icon Sportswire)

 

Clemson just capped off one of the best season’s in school history en route to a 14-1 record with an ACC Championship, Orange Bowl win, & a berth in the national championship game. In this feature we’ll take a look back at the Top 20 plays from the memorable season starting with #20 through #16…

#20. Jordan Leggett screen touchdown versus Miami
This play was the start of the end for Al Golden’s last game on the Miami sidelines. Clemson’s first drive down the field was a cakewalk and Leggett capped it off with an escort by his offensive line into the endzone. The fact that Miami didn’t pick up on the gimmick by the OL staying put adds even more insult to injury. This was the first of six touchdowns for the Tigers in the opening half.

 

#19. Hunter Renfrow’s first touchdown against Alabama
In Clemson’s first trip back to the national championship game in over two decades a former walk-on wide receiver delivers their first touchdown. And in picturesque fashion. Deshaun Watson put the throw on the money, but Renfrow did his part by toasting a former 5-star recruit in Minkah Fitzpatrick for the score. Renfrow wasn’t done embarrassing Fitzpatrick either as he went for another score against him just 5 minutes later.

 

#18. Zac Brooks trucks through an Oklahoma defender
Brooks spent the better part of his career battling through an assortment of injuries. But on this evening, and in particular this play, you can see Brooks unleash a can of pent up frustration on poor #13 for Oklahoma. This physical play encompasses exactly what Tony Elliott wants out of his backs and it was great to see the senior cap of his career with a bang, literally.

 

#17. Shaq Lawson’s strip sack of Marquise Williams in the ACC Championship
This sack was pivotal in that it helped thwart a ferocious comeback by the Heels, who had began to seize all the momentum after Clemson had began to let a 19 point lead slip away. On this play, Lawson absolutely manhandles the left tackle in pursuit of Williams and the refs could have even thrown in a flag for holding if they wanted. Clemson would add a field goal on their next drive, which helped create a much needed cushion to ensure the ACC Title. Without Lawson’s gamechanging play things may have gotten even more dicey for the Tigers down the stretch.

 

#16. Cordrea Tankersley caps off first half blowout against Miami with a pick six
Earlier you saw the first score for the Tigers, and here is the score that likely sent Miami’s Al Golden packing. Tankersley does a good job using his hips to stay in front of the receiver then proceeds to beat him on a 50/50 ball. And once he made the interception it was clear sailing to the endzone to finish off a 42 point first half performance in Sun Life Stadium. It’s plays like this that should have Clemson fans fired up about his move to the #1 corner spot this coming Fall.

 

**As always check out our SUR Message Boards for the latest Clemson discussion and make sure to checkout our weekly Podcast for commentary from the SUR staff**

NFL Draft Profile: Mackensie Alexander

As the 2016 NFL Draft nears, we’ll take a look at several Clemson Tigers expected to be drafted. This includes observing the prospects’ strengths and weaknesses, clips from the season, and current analyst projections.

Going into the 2015 football season, Mackensie Alexander had firmly established himself as a star lockdown corner in college football. With just one year of starting under his belt, Alexander was considered one of the top corners in the nation, one of the few that could be confidently left on an island with the opposing teams’ best receiver. It’s unfortunate that Mackensie had a hamstring injury his first year on campus, forcing him to redshirt. Without the injury, he plays, likely starts, and Tiger fans get to enjoy his services for three years rather than just two. Regardless, Alexander entrenched himself in Clemson lore as he became one of the more likable and certainly unique players to don orange as well as arguably the best cornerback.

Alexander’s Positives:

  • Drive – Simply the best I’ve ever seen and I don’t say that lightly. You could stop reading this article after this bullet and just know that regardless of any other strengths, weaknesses, etc., Mackensie Alexander will be successful because of his drive. He will practice harder, study harder, and overall work harder than anyone else. And if you know his background, you understand where that drive originates. He’s from the impoverished Immokalee, Florida, the son of two Haitian immigrants, who have made their living from picking tomatoes under the pounding Florida heat. And finding a way to make a better life for his family creates his drive. Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier wrote a great article on this recently, you can read it HERE. Beyond that, Alexander was unique his first season on the field as he refused postgame interviews from reporters. His reasoning being that he would speak “when he felt like he had accomplished something on the field.” This past season Dabo Swinney joked that he didn’t believe Mackensie showered postgame, that he would instead go straight from the field to the film room. A joke? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is certain, you won’t find Alexander in any postgame dance video. Other stories include spotting Mackensie doing pushups and pullups on the outside railings of his apartment building in the middle of the night in pouring rain, as well as the obsession with keeping notes of everything he learned. This included coaches, teams, all receivers he played against, and even his own teammates. His belief was that at some point he would line up against a Clemson receiver on a Sunday and needed to be a step ahead. A different breed, a drive unlike any other, and that is why Mackensie Alexander will be successful in the National Football League.
  • Man Coverage – Alexander’s greatest selling point and his bread and butter as a cornerback. He has the ability to match up tight against any receiver, slot or outside, and stay in his hip pocket the entire game. He’s studied enough to know receiver’s route tendencies, and tends to flip his hips very well. Alexander truly embodies the characteristics of being an “island” cornerback, which are few and far between.

  • Physicality – Even though Mackensie is on the smaller end(5’10”, 190lbs), he isn’t afraid to get up in a receiver’s “grill” and plays much bigger than his actual size. He likes to play with fire on the side of physical and nearly too physical, as he often pushes his luck as far as drawing penalties. He’s confident, he’ll constantly jaw at anyone, and it’s his job to literally bully you on the field to take you out of your comfort zone. Just ask Oklahoma’s Sterling Shephard or Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, both of whom are considered high receiver picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, but neither of whom would enjoy another stay on “Mack Island.” Here’s a few clips to display the last two bullets, which tend to play hand in hand. First off is Alexander against Fuller, man to man. Alexander has Fuller’s route played to a tee and follows up the incompletion with a bit of showmanship. If you’re interested in a deeper look into this matchup, I wrote a two-part article not too long ago. Part I: HERE ; Part II: HERE.

 

Clip from NC State this year, Mackensie sticks with his man and runs the route nearly better than the receiver does. Probably the closest he came to having an interception during his college career.

Mackensie treading on the fine line of physical without drawing a penalty, gets his body between the ball and receiver. And of course reminds the Williams-Brice crowd of the result of the play.

Against Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard here on a deep post route. Cannot blanket a receiver any better. Stays very handsy.

The most impressive single man-to-man play by Mackensie Alexander in my opinion, maybe even best of his career. To truly appreciate this play, know that he’s covering FSU speedster and return specialist, Kermit Whitfield. Whitfield is arguably the fastest player in the nation, and a top track runner at Florida State. In the slot, flips his hips, and stays stride for stride with a legitimate 4.3/4.4 speedster.

Reasons for Hesitation:

  • Cushion – Alexander tends to provide a great deal of cushion when playing bail technique, which he often does. I imagine Alexander’s purpose is to take away any deep ball or big play threat, but being okay with surrendering short to intermediate completions in certain situations.

Here’s an example against NC State as he backs off the receiver and gives excess cushion. However, his reaction time and ability to adjust to near break up the pass is impressive.

 

Here’s another, this coming from the ACC Championship game against North Carolina. Would call this game one of his worst, and had some trouble with the tall Mack Hollins throughout. You’ll notice his loss of balance trying to come back for the ball as well. Footwork will also need improvement as he strives to become elite.

Another from the UNC game, doesn’t expect Hollins to break off his route to the inside of the field. Catches Alexander off guard and allows for cushion.

  • Playing the Man – Wouldn’t characterize this as a major flaw, but Alexander’s lack of interceptions throughout this college career(0) has become a serious talking point as we near the draft. Naturally as a lock-down corner, Alexander has the tendency to solely play the man without looking to do anything outside of creating an incompletion for the offense. Obviously anytime you’re looking interception first, PBU second, you’re more prone to allowing a completion. But NFL teams would like Alexander to take the turn in which he actually considers interceptions as an option rather than always looking to bat passes out of the air. It’s odd to use this clip as a “weakness” considering Alexander breaks up the pass, but it’s potentially a situation where an NFL team would like to see effort to catch the ball as well.
  • Wrapping-Up – Tackling isn’t exactly Alexander’s strong suit. He reacts well to a ball carrier, but his size seems to cause issues in tackling. Playing bigger, stronger, and faster receivers in the NFL, his tackling technique and assuredness will need to increase. You can look back to his play on UNC’s Hollins earlier in this article for one example. Here’s another as he allows the Oklahoma receiver to slip by:

 Projections:

Walter Cherepinsky(WalterFootball.com) – Second Round – 36. Baltimore Ravens

Dane Brugler(CBSSports) – Second Round – 36. Baltimore Ravens

My Projection – First Round – 25. Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers are in serious need of secondary help, and Alexander could provide that immediately. Here’s to believing Mackensie’s style of play would fit in well with the tough Black and Yellow brand in Pittsburgh. Add in the fact that Head Coach Mike Tomlin came to Clemson’s pro day to watch and personally speak with Mackensie, and I see this as an ideal fit for both parties.

The Latest:

April 23rd, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlien vis Rotoworld: ” NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein predicts that Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander will slide out of Rd. 1.”The general public has been in love with Alexander as a draft prospect for a while, but I’m not sure that NFL teams feel the same way about him,” he wrote. “Alexander’s size (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) is a concern for many teams I’ve spoken with as they see him as more of a slot corner than an outside player.” According to previous reports, some NFL teams believe Alexander is a difficult person to deal with off the field, which also could hurt his cause. “If he had a history of making a ton of plays on the ball, it would probably land him in the first round, but he didn’t make any interceptions at Clemson,” Zierlein wrote.”

April 21st, CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang via Rotoworld: “CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang believes that Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander would make a nice Josh Norman replacement for the Panthers.

Interestingly, Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm went in the exact opposite direction and does not see the Panthers spending pick No. 30 on Alexander. First, Rang’s take. Wrote the analyst, “He doesn’t have the preferred height but offers excellent man-to-man cover skills and is described by coaches and teammates as a film junkie.” Film junkie or no, questions have bubbled up of late as to the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder’s off-field demeanor, with TFY Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline hearing from multiple sources that his personality “has been spoken about at length in war rooms around the league.” Pauline believes that if we begin to see Alexander drop in the first round, it is likely due to those personality questions, rather than his on-field work.”

Featured photo cred: PFF on Twitter.

Video Clips via YouTube

State of the Program: Defensive End

StateofProgramDE

’16 signee Xavier Kelly (Photo by Rivals.com) and starting SDE Austin Bryant (Photo by SI.com)

Over the last decade Clemson has established themselves as one of the premier producers of defensive end talent to the NFL and in less than a week there will be two more Marion Hobby coached players to add to an already impressive list. Both starters from last year, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, stand a good chance of going in the first round on Thursday. If both players do hear their names called on Thursday evening it would mark the first time Clemson has ever had two defensive ends taken in round 1. Looking ahead to the 2016 season without those two certainly creates reason for concern. As you can see below, the Tigers only return 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks from last season. There also aren’t a lot of bodies available, which is part of the reason why defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been taking reps at end this Spring. Sophomore Austin Bryant appears to have the strongside spot locked down, but the weakside starting job is shaping up to be a battle worth watching between Richard Yeargin and Clelin Ferrell. The staff seems to feel pretty good about those first three guys, but behind them is anyone’s ballgame. Chris Register finally appears ready to contribute after switching positions from linebacker and Sterling Johnson greatly benefited from a physical standpoint during his redshirt season. There’s also an eagerness to see what signee Xavier Kelly looks like when he arrives to Clemson this Summer. Despite the question marks surrounding this group I’ve come to learn that Marion Hobby knows what he’s doing and to just sit back and enjoy the show.

Returners
RS SO-Chris Register: 1 game played & logged 4 snaps
RS SO-Richard Yeargin: 8 tackles 1.0 TFL 1 sack 2 QBH
SO-Austin Bryant: 23 tackles 2.0 TFL 1.5 sacks 1 FR
RS FR-Clelin Ferrell: Redshirted
RS FR-Sterling Johnson: Redshirted

Signees
Xavier Kelly
★★★★ 6-4 250lbs (Witchita, KS)
Pretty crazy that Clemson’s lone take for the 2016 class at DE came all the way from the great state of  Kansas. It’s not very common that you hear of big time athletic defensive ends like Kelly coming out of that part of the country, but this kid is going to step on campus this summer ready to contribute right away. Kelly chose Clemson over offers from nearly every perennial power across the country. He’s also a two-sport star with basketball being his second love. Coming out of the prep ranks Kelly already possesses the rare combination of speed and strength that is desired to play defensive end at this level. Oh, he also checks in at chiseled +250lbs, which is one less hurdle he’ll have to climb during his transition to the college game. I expect him to avoid a redshirt this Fall, and he’ll arrive to Clemson with a great opportunity to ease his way into a wide open depth chart. Kelly also has an infectious personality that will make him a fan favorite before too long.

LaSamuel Davis
★★★ 6-4 215lbs (Bamberg, SC)
Bamberg Ehrhardt has a pretty good track record of sending quality defensive ends to the Upstate (Ricky Sapp & DaQuan Bowers), and the Clemson coaching staff is hoping that trend continues with their most recent signee. Originally a 2015 commitment, Davis did not qualify so he took the Fall off to focus on school on his own instead of going the prep school route. His plan worked and he enrolled at Clemson in January to participate in Spring practice. The biggest concern for Davis is his lack of weight, but with a probable redshirt season ahead there figures to be plenty of time for him to add to his 6’4″ frame. Davis’ best asset is his speed and that was evident on his senior film where he spent time lining up on the offensive side of the ball at WR. The returns out of practices were more positive than expected, but he’s just got to develop more physically to be able to contribute on a consistent basis.

Commitments
None

Board Overview
Without any current commitments, Clemson is working around the clock to bring in a couple DEs in the 2017 class. Two names have emerged as top targets in Zach Carter (Tampa, FL) and Malik Herring (Forsyth, GA). Carter is thought to favor the in-state Gators, but he’s visited the Upstate numerous times and the Tigers appear to have some real staying power in his recruitment. Herring is also favoring an in-state school with Georgia, but he’s visited Clemson twice in the past month so maybe the lead is not as large as many predict. Some other names to keep tabs on if Clemson were to miss on one or both of the aforementioned targets are Jordan Williams (Virginia Beach, VA), Logan Rudolph (Rock Hill, SC), Brad Johnson (Pendleton, SC) and Markeviest Bryant (Cordele, GA). Rudolph is being recruited as an athlete and could fit in at linebacker depending on how the staff evaluates him. Johnson is the lone name listed above that does not currently hold an offer, but that could certainly change depending on how some of the other guys higher on the board fall. I don’t anticipate Clemson signing anymore than two edge rushers this cycle, and there’s a chance that they only take one if they feel good about their positioning with guys in the next cycle. Speaking of the 2018 class the Tigers are already in good shape with several elite prospects such as: Xavier Thomas (Florence, SC), Stephon Wynn Jr. (Anderson, SC), KJ Henry (Clemmons, NC), and Justin Mascoll (Snellville, GA). All four of those guys own consensus 4-star rankings with Thomas garnering 5-star stature from 247sports. Clemson is also in the top group for all four prospects and, as I said earlier, the staff may elect to only take one DE in the 2017 because of their positioning with this bunch.

Previous Articles:
Quarterback
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Tackle

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