January 20, 2017

The Making of a Champion: Episode 5

Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (42) works the crowd.  GWINN DAVIS PHOTOS

The players and playmakers that led Clemson to the National Championship.

With Clemson nursing a 13-10 lead into the 4th quarter and their regular season and home winning streaks on the line, the Tigers faced a 3rd and goal from the Troy 1, when Tony Elliott dialed up the Jumbo Package with a twist.  Instead of Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence blocking for Wayne Gallman, a play fake to Gallman led to an easy touchdown pass to Wilkins, who recorded his second reception as a Tiger.  Clemson pushes the lead to 20-10 with 13:50 to play.


Previous Episodes:

Episode 1 – Hunter Renfrow makes leaping catch to extend lead vs. Auburn

Episode 2 – Ben Boulware steps in front of Sean White Pass at the goal line

Episode 3 – Jadar Johnson knocks down Auburn’s last gasp

Episode 4 – Hunter Renfrow makes another spectacular touchdown catch

The Making of a Champion: Episode 4


The players and playmakers that led Clemson to the National Championship.

With the Troy game tied at 3 early in the second quarter the Tigers faced a 3rd and 11 from the Trojan 35. With pressure coming from the middle, Watson rolls right and throw a pass that no one could catch – no one but Hunter Renfrow.  The result was a touchdown that even the State Trooper loved and a 10-3 lead for the Tigers.

Previous Episodes:

Episode 1 – Hunter Renfrow makes leaping catch to extend lead vs. Auburn

Episode 2 – Ben Boulware steps in front of Sean White Pass at the goal line

Episode 3 – Jadar Johnson knocks down Auburn’s last gasp

The Making of a Champion: Episode 3


The players and playmakers that led Clemson to the National Championship.

Clemson nursed a 19-13 lead with 6 seconds to go as Auburn had worked it’s way to the Tiger 40.  With time for one play, Auburn quarterback Sean White rolled right and heaved the ball toward the end zone right as Christian Wilkins mashed him. Multiple Auburn receivers were in the area and Auburn fans were hoping for a miracle finish. Jadar Johnson, who at one point wondered if he was good enough to play at Clemson batted the pass down and Clemson was 1-0.

Previously in this series:

Episode 1 – Hunter Renfrow makes leaping catch to extend lead vs. Auburn

Episode 2 – Ben Boulware steps in front of Sean White Pass at the goal line

The Making of a Champion: Episode 2

The plays and playmakers that led Clemson to the National Championship.

An incredible catch by Hunter Renfrow staked Clemson to a 19-6 lead with 9:59 to go in the 4th quarter, but Auburn wasn’t done.  The Auburn Tigers drove to the Clemson 8 where they faced a 4th and goal.  Sean White fired and Ben Boulware stepped in front.


Episode 1 – Hunter Renfrow makes leaping catch to extend lead vs. Auburn

You’re Gonna Miss This

Hard to believe right now, but you’re gonna mss this….these are some good times…so take a good look around…

The Making of a Champion: Episode 1


The plays and playmakers that led Clemson to the National Championship.

Hunter Renfrow’s first touchdown of the season was a beauty.  Clemson opened the season at Auburn and faced a 3rd and goal from the Auburn 16 early in the 4th quarter of a one score game when Deshaun Watson lofted a pass that only Renfrow could catch. And catch it he did.  With 9:59 to go in the 4th quarter on the road this stretched Clemson’s lead to 19-6.

Deshaun Watson Under Pressure – National Championship & Season Totals

Deshaun Watson under pressure vs. Alabama.

“Called Passes” = Passes, plus sacks, plus scrambles.

Watson under pressure for 2016 season.

Upon Further Review: National Championship

What a game, what a win for Clemson University. An instant classic, and a needed complete four quarter effort from Clemson to win the national championship and become kings of college football. Alabama’s defense had been touted all season as arguably the best of all-time, and perhaps could be in terms of starting 11 skill level, but didn’t possess the depth of their previous team. Clemson’s staff put together a solid gameplan to slowly, but surely, wear down the defense through a great deal of the running game early. Many  questioned the consistent ramming of Watson and Gallman into the teeth of the Tide defense, but it truly assisted in the eventual fourth quarter fatigue of the defense. Beyond that, special teams played a major role in all facets. Muse’s deflection was a momentum changer and much needed break. Understanding Teasdall’s lack of leg strength, thus using rugby style punts to help him succeed was critical, and the confidence in Venables’ defense to go with shortened kickoffs played a role as well. A total team effort.


Watson recognizes the LB’s dropping into coverage, and sees the advantage to take off running. However, Hearn gets beat badly off the snap, and it turns into a sack.


Alabama’s defense does well to recognize the outside run coming, and it’s dead before it can even get started. Tip of the cap.


First Alabama touchdown. Ferrell pushes inside and gets sealed. O’Daniel tries to come up and set the edge, but Howard pulls and takes him out of the play. Once Scarborough gets momentum downhill he’s nearly impossible to stop. A very similar running style to Derrick Henry’s.


The most underrated player in the country. Carlos Watkins beating his man off the snap, creating a TFL and pushing Alabama into a 2nd and long situation. Great field position for the Tide, but the Clemson defense stood up when they needed to.



Third down situation, Wilkins does well to get his hands up and swat the ball, with an open slanting receiver coming behind him.


Tigers go back to the outside toss to Gallman, this time getting some productive yards. Interesting play to come back to after watching the finish of the drive, as Clemson tried to set up the Alabama secondary with this play.


One of the biggest momentum changing plays, as Clemson’s offense finally gets the spark they needed by way of Deon Cain. Great vision and cutbacks to create a long run after the catch. Deon Cain took his game to the next level in this one.


I love this idea following the big play, just wish it wasn’t to Deon Cain, who just ran 100 yards and was tired. Ole Miss beat the Alabama defense with the fake toss deep ball earlier this season, and Clemson tries it here.


Massive third down conversion to set up the first Clemson touchdown. Really nice job by Watson to slide to his left, opening up the needed window to hit Jordan Leggett.


Clemson gets Alabama in man coverage, and brings McCloud in motion to remove the defensive back from the left side of the field. Impressive effort from Wayne Gallman, ramming his body into the defender, providing just enough of a block to spring Watson.



First instance of Ben Boulware showing off his preparation and film study for this game. Dramatically signals that the play is coming his way after recognizing the formation, and it ends up being a big third down stop for the Clemson defense. Boulware’s name doesn’t go into the stat sheet for this one, but his recognition forced the stop.


Another third down play, another play recognized as run by the Clemson defense as the entire defensive line slants towards the run.  Great job by Watkins and Boulware to beat blocks, fly through, and stop Scarborough before he could get going.



Obviously one of the biggest plays of the game. Alabama’s vaunted defense was known for their ability to score defensive touchdowns, one of the things that Clemson simply could not allow. Ryan Anderson strips Gallman, and has the clear lane for six if not for the hustle of Hunter Renfrow. Huge play in this game considering Clemson was able to hold the Tide to 3 points after the fumble, and Clemson ultimately won by 4.


Cain continually coming on strong through the game, beating some of the best defensive backs in the country on back shoulder fades. Critical plays and great signs moving into the 2017 season.


Ultimately a stellar call by the Clemson staff after being placed into a very similar situation as the turnover on downs in the first quarter. Clutch punt by Watson, as well.


Watson recognizes the secondary’s alignment, and it looks like he may have hot routed Hunter Renfrow, knowing that the middle of the field would be open. Deshaun’s ability to recognize and adjust to the defense will be sorely missed, one of the best to do it.


A frustrating, but fantastic playcall out of Steve Sarkisian, continually going to quick screen passes throughout the game to set this up. All it takes is one wrong step from Van Smith, and that’s what the Crimson Tide get.


Really good job from Deon Cain to stay patient, maneuvering his way through for a first down, on a drive that ultimately ended in six.


And more of Deon Cain.


A long sustained drive from the Tigers, and here you can start to see the fatigue of the defense. Before, the defenders were flying to the ball, creating TFL’s. But here, sluggish to the ball, and struggling to get off blocks by Leggett and Renfrow.



Much closer to being called a pick than the final touchdown, but Leggett does well to sell himself as a receiving option. Creates the rub, then faces Watson and puts up his hands.


Great route, great throw, great grab to extend the drive. Renfrow is such an asset to have, it always seems odd that he’s utilized so much against Alabama, yet little in other games.



Although Clemson didn’t score on this drive, this play by Watson certainly helped field position. If sacked here, the Tigers are stuck in a third and VERY long back at their own 13/12 yard line, and likely end up providing good field position to Alabama.


The first of the NFL grabs from Mike Williams, high pointing the ball and holding on. Throughout the fourth quarter, Alabama’s secondary didn’t give Clemson anything easy, the Tigers were simply forced to go and earn every inch.


Stark difference between this highlight and the first clip of this article, in which Hearn gets whipped by Payne. Hearn has been conditioned for these situations, Payne has not, and thus gets shoved like a blocking sled into the endzone. Impressive to see the Clemson offense line exert their will late in the game.


Boulware reads this beautifully, forcing the Tide into a third and very long situation. Unfortunately, Alabama still finds a way to recover, but it’s another instance of Boulware’s preparation paying off.


Every yard was needed on Clemson’s final drive, and CJ Fuller hitting a hole on the kickoff and getting out to the 33 cannot be overlooked.


Perfect ball from Deshaun, giving his big receiver the opportunity to take what’s his.


Wayne Gallman gets hit three yards behind the line of scrimmage, yet refuses to go down. Great fight from Gallman to create a positive gain out of very little. This yardage would become major when looking ahead to Renfrow’s short third down conversion.


The previously mentioned Renfrow conversion, assisted by Gallman’s push for extra yardage.



Perfect throw, incredible snag. Impossible to defend. Also nice job by Guillermo to chip the blitzing LB, giving Watson just enough time to make the throw.


Phenomenal playcall, knowing that Alabama would be in Cover 0 on the goalline. The Alabama defender thinks it’s a Watson run and pulls Scott out of the play, which assists in opening up Renfrow, and takes away the chance of a pick play penalty.

We Will Rock You


A video look at some of the sacks and hits by the 2016 Clemson defense.

Deshaun Watson by Distance – 2016 Complete

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson by distance of pass for the 2016 season.