April 24, 2015

Ranking The ACC Skill Players

ACC Skills

Editor’s Note: Chris Cox writes about Clemson recruiting on his site Tiger Talk.  You can follow Chris on Twitter at @TigerTalk_CU

Chris Cox gives his view on the top 5 ACC players at the skill positions for 2015.

Quarterback

DW SuperGone is the circus act in Jameis Winston, one of the most underrated players in the country in Anthony Boone, and a quarterback who’s career ended just as it started in Tyler Murphy. While those three are gone, every other team in the ACC returns their quarterback, which should make for a interesting conference season.

This may come as a surprise to some, but  a player with only 4 collegiate tops my list of ACC quarterbacks. In his appearances Deshaun Watson was easily the most talented player on the field and he will be equipped with a plethora of weapons at Clemson. If Watson can avoid the injury bug in his sophomore campaign, you can expect the Heisman talk to stir.

Behind Watson sits former Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.  The Wolfpack senior showed flashes of greatness at points last year, but missed some action due to injury. When healthy Brissett can be a dynamic playmaker and features the size (6-4 230lbs) to impress scouts come draft time next year.

Justin Thomas, ranked #3 on my list, could easily be at the top based on how important he is to the Yellow Jacket offense.  Thomas is the most talented quarterback Paul Johnson has had in Atlanta, and he eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark five times last season along with totaling 26 touchdowns. He doesn’t look too shabby throwing the ball either, but will need to find a reliable option with his top two targets in DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller graduating.

Coming in at number 4 on the list is Al’s “Golden” ticket to staying at Miami for another season.  Brad Kayaa is the ACC’s returning leader in passing yards after compiling nearly 3,200 yards in 2014.  The rising sophomore settled in down the stretch as he posted a 13:3 touchdown to interception ratio over his last 7 games.  The offense will likely be centered around Kayaa this year as his All-American running back Duke Johnson bolted early for the NFL.

Rounding out my top 5 is rising senior Marquise Williams.  The numbers are impressive, but Williams needs help from his running backs to ease the pressure on his arm.  He reminds me a lot of former Clemson signal caller Tajh Boyd, but Williams lacks the quality of weapons that Boyd had at his disposal. Williams will get a shot to prove his worth right away in 2015 as the Tar Heels open up with the Gamecocks in Charlotte.

You may have noticed there is not a player listed for Bobby Petrino’s squad up in Louisville.  Whoever wins the spot between Bolin, Bonnafon, and Gardner will have the potential to vault themselves into the top tier based on the offense they play in. Greyson Lambert is also a player to keep an eye on in Charlottesville.  Lambert was a highly touted recruit and is built like an NFL quarterback at 6-5, 235lbs.

All in all these five playmakers listed are going to make watching ACC football a little more interesting this year.

  1. Deshaun Watson (SO)-Clemson

93-137 67.9% 1466 yards 14 TD 2 INT 188.6 RAT

200 rush yards, 5 TD

  1. Jacoby Brissett (SR)-NC State

221-370 59.7% 2606 yards 23 TD 5 INT 136.7 RAT

529 rush yards, 3 TD

  1. Justin Thomas (JR)-GT

96-187 51.3% 1719 yards 18 TD 6  INT 153.9 RAT

1086 rush yards, 8 TD

  1. Brad Kayaa (SO)-Miami

221-378 58.5% 3198 yards 26 TD 12 INT 145.9 RAT

  1. Marquise Williams (SR)-UNC

270-428 63.1% 3068 yards 21 TD 9 INT 135.3 RAT

788 rush yards 13 TD

Watch List: Michael Brewer (VT), Chad Voytik (Pitt), Sean McGuire (FSU), Greyson Lambert (UVA)

 

Running Back

In 2014 the ACC only featured three running backs who eclipsed the 1000 yard rushing mark, although two quarterbacks also reached the mark.  This year the group features two potential Heisman candidates in FSU’s Dalvin Cook and Pitt’s James Conner.Clemson Football - Wayne Gallman

Conner tops my list as he has been a freight train for the Panthers over the last two years.  Conner managed a whopping 26 touchdowns last year, which was 13 more than any other back in the conference. I worry about Conner’s durability due to the fact that he has carried the rock 444 times in his two seasons at Pittsburgh.  If he stays healthy he will squarely be in the mix for Heisman votes.

Behind Conner comes the one-time Clemson and Miami commitment in Dalvin Cook.  Cook emerged as FSU’s best option at running back as the season progressed, but struggled in the CFB semifinal game against Oregon.  With Winston gone, you can expect a lofty workload for the dynamic Cook this coming season.

Behind those two it’s a tossup between several players.  Shadrach Thorton, Jon Hilliman, and Brandon Radcliffe round out my top 5, but you can substitute any of those guys with players on the watch list.

Wayne Gallman of Clemson would easily make the list if he didn’t have to split carries with a loaded backfield and Deshaun Watson.  Miami’s Joseph Yearby will also get his chance to shine now that Duke Johnson is gone, and he could easily vault himself on to the national scene in a hurry.

No Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket on the list you say? Paul Johnson lost both Days and Laskey to graduation, but whoever steps into those shoes will likely put up big numbers based on Johnson’s system.  

  1. James Conner (JR)-Pitt

298 att, 1765 yards, 26 TD

5 rec, 70 yards

  1. Dalvin Cook (SO)-FSU

170 att, 1008 yards, 8 TD

22 rec, 203 yards

  1. Shadrach Thorton (SR)-NC State

164 att, 907 yards, 9 TD

15 rec, 133 yards, 1 TD

  1. Jon Hilliman (SO)-BC

210 att, 860 yards, 13 TD

1 rec, 5 yards

  1. Brandon Radcliffe (JR)-Louisville

144 att, 737 yards, 12 TD

6 rec, 84 yards

Watch List: Wayne Gallman (Clemson), Shaquille Powell (Duke), TJ Logan (UNC), Joseph Yearby (Miami)

 

Wide Receivers

Scott vs OUThe 2014 group of ACC wideouts was an impressive one. Future draft picks DeVante Parker, Rashad Greene, Phillip Dorsett, Jamison Crowder, and DeAndre Smelter are all gone.  While the returning group may not produce as much NFL talent, they will still be pretty stout.

Tyler Boyd has been lights out for the Pitt Panthers and has folks up there reminiscing of the Larry Fitzgerald days.  Boyd features a long frame and is virtually unstoppable when the ball is within his grasps. Over the last 6 games of the season, Boyd amassed five games with over 100 yards receiving including three games over 130 yards.

Following Boyd are a pair of uber talented Tigers.  Artavis Scott burst onto the scene as a true freshman last season, displaying sticky hands and an uncanny ability to navigate through secondaries.  Scott also proved to be a valuable weapon on the jet sweep and almost single handedly defeated in state rival South Carolina with that play.  You can bet that new offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott will find numerous ways to put the ball in their playmaker’s hands.

Opposite of Scott is the big-bodied Mike Williams.  Once a skinny beanstalk, Williams has added the necessary size to go along with his dynamic skill set.  Williams averaged over 18 yards per catch as a sophomore and provides Deshaun Watson with a legitimate deep threat.MW NCS

There’s a drop off after those three, but UNC’s Ryan Switzer is likely the best slot receiver in the conference. He is also a factor in the return game and his elusiveness was displayed by averaging over 20 yards on punt returns.  Fedora loves to toss the pigskin around and Switzer was the number one target last season with 61 receptions in 2014.

Number 5 on my list was tough, but I ultimately went with Isaiah Ford from Virginia Tech. Ford quietly put together an impressive freshmen campaign in Blacksburg and despite having only had one +100 yard receiving game proved to be Mr. Reliable in a stagnant Hokie offense.

As for the watch list, Travis Rudolph is one to keep an eye on down in Tallahassee and Quinshad Davis hopes to finally put together a complete year up in Chapel Hill.

  1. Tyler Boyd (JR)-Pitt

78 rec, 1261 yards, 8 TD

  1. Artavis Scott (SO)-Clemson

76 rec, 965 yards, 8 TD

  1. Mike Williams (JR)-Clemson

57 rec, 1030 yards, 6 TD

  1. Ryan Switzer (JR)-UNC

61 rec, 757 yards, 4 TD

  1. Isaiah Ford (SO)-VT

56 rec, 709 yards, 6 TD

Watch List: Quinshad Davis (UNC), Travis Rudolph (FSU), James Quick (Louisville), Canaan Severin (UVA)

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On Offensive Tempo

Clemson Football -  Deshaun Watson
Tony Elliot - Courtesy Anderson-Independent Mail

Tony Elliot – Courtesy Anderson-Independent Mail

Four years ago Chad Morris left Tulsa for the opportunity to reshape a Clemson offense that had stalled under Billy Napier. The Tigers had pieces, but could never quite put it all together, at least not for any extended period of time.

Morris’ arrival is a tale of  perfect timing. Tajh Boyd had been on campus for 2 years and had seen his first significant playing time in the Meineke Bowl a week or so earlier. There was some receiver named Sammy Watkins coming from Florida, Charone Peake from Dorman, Martavis Bryant made his way from Hargrave Military and Dwayne Allen was about to break out with Morris’ help. Other pieces, now in the NFL, dotted the offensive roster.

Morris promised a “Go until someone tells me whoa” offense and that’s what Tiger fans got. Racing to an 8-0 start, the offense dazzled and by season end operated 14.7% faster than Napier’s 2010 squad, a remarkable leap in year one, especially with an inexperienced quarterback running the show.

That year Clemson ran a play for every 22.4 seconds of possession and the college football world was talking about the fast paced Tiger offense.

There were incremental year over year improvements in the next 2 years (5.4% in 2012 and 3.0% in 2013) and by the end of 2013 the Tigers averaged running a play for every 20.5 seconds of possession.

Boyd’s eligibility expired with an Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State, but the 2014 offense would be led by 4th year senior Cole Stoudt and freshman phenom Deshaun Watson and most expected more of the same tempo-wise. Perhaps not 20.5 seconds, but certainly not a substantial slowdown.Offensive Temp

Yet, that’s exactly what happened. The Tigers slowed to a relative crawl in 2014, running a play every 24.7 seconds, the slowest of the Morris era, but still ahead of Napier’s final season.

While that 4.2 second slower pace may not seem like much, over the course of a game it could mean as many as 15 plays. A 20% decrease means for every 4 plays you ran in 2014, you ran 5 in 2013.

The natural tendency is to look at the season Stoudt had and assume this was somehow related. The fact is that Stoudt started or played the majority (Louisville) of 7 games where the offense operated below (that’s a good thing) their season average in tempo, including the 5 lowest. This wasn’t a Stoudt issue.

The Tigers played slower under Deshaun Watson than they did under Cole Stoudt. The questions are why, is this the new normal and is the up tempo offense that has been the Clemson hallmark during the last 4 seasons a thing of the past?

Some will argue a correlation between the your offensive tempo and your defensive success and on it’s face that seems to be a logical argument as the 2014 defense was the top ranked unit in the land.

The theory is that quick three and outs, which happen can happen a lot under the Hurry Up No Huddle (HUNH) offense, kill your defense by depriving them of rest.

Jeff Scott - Courtesy Anderson-Independent Mail

Jeff Scott – Courtesy Anderson-Independent Mail

That’s difficult to accept when you consider that 36.6% of Clemson’s 2014 offensive possessions were three plays or less (including TDs, turnovers, etc.) and a whopping 57.2% were 5 plays or less, yet the Tigers led the nation in total defense.

While the offensive slowdown may have had something to do with defensive success, it certainly wasn’t the root cause, as the numbers above attest. There were still a large number of 3 and outs and short drives. Going out on a limb, I would suggest the reason the defense was spectacular in 2014 was talent, depth and experience, not the slower pace of the offense.

What will the pace be under Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott? Scott suggested that tempo will be a part of the game plan moving forward, but while you can’t take a lot away from 1 game in a unique setting (with weeks to prepare) in a bowl game, the pace of play in the bowl game (with Stoudt at QB) was nearly identical (24.6 in bowl, 24.7 on season) to the 2014 season average.

Is the HUNH offense we grew to know and love under Morris a thing of the past? If so, will that make it easier on a rebuilding defense? Was the slow down by design or was there another cause? If by design, will the “decided schematic advantage” Clemson enjoyed over the last 4 years be a thing of the past?

We won’t find out the answer to those questions until September and beyond, but the slow down of 2014 is one thing you can’t blame on Cole Stoudt.

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Spring Thoughts: Schuessler Takes Lead In Race For #2

Tucker Israel, Nick Schuessler, Kelly Bryant

Editor’s Note: Nic Mills is a junior PRTM major and student assistant with Clemson Athletic Communication, (formerly known as the Clemson Sports Information Department) and has a long family history of Clemson grads. Nic will be contributing content on football, basketball and baseball for SUR. You can follow Nic on Twitter @mrnicmills.

Last Saturday the three “other” quarterbacks on the Clemson roster had an opportunity to put their name on the line below Deshaun Watson’s on the post-spring depth chart and these are the three that the majority of the estimated 37,000 fans in Death Valley came to see.  While I don’t expect Dabo Swinney to name the back up this week, I do think that after Saturday we know who is at the forefront and who has work to do.

That someone at the front of the pack is Nick Schuessler, who has a slight advantage over Tucker Israel and Israel has a slight advantage over Kelly Bryant.

KBSchuessler played for both the Orange and the White teams and definitely shined the brightest, going 11-17, for 201 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception, a pretty solid stat line. There was marked improvement in this spring game from what he looked like last fall and that’s understandable and even expected with Watson being sidelined  and providing Schuessler more first team reps.

As a passer quarterback Tucker Israel (8-16 for 110 yards) has a slight lead on Kelly Bryant (10-16 for 95 yards with 2 touchdowns as well as rushing 7 times for 29 yards), but  Bryant has a clear advantage athletically.

Israel looked more comfortable as a passer the entire day, while Bryant looked very uncomfortable until the end of the first half when he led a touchdown drive, before settling in during the second half.

Nick Schuessler has the edge heading into summer.

There were no surprises with the rest of the skill players on offense.  Mike Williams had a very good game with (5 catches, 105 yards and 2 TD’s) and Artavis Scott also had a solid day (4 catches, 75 yards).  The running back’s for Orange (Tyshon Dye- 2 catches for 24 yards and Zac Brooks- 2 catches for 18 yards) were utilized in the passing game and this is a good sign.  Maybe it is just me but I felt like the running backs were underutilized as part of the passing game this past season.TI

C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman both had standout days on the ground, combining to rush 13 times for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns.  While he didn’t have an outstanding statistical day (10 rushes for 18 yards) it was good to see Brooks back out on the field.  He was the number one guy last fall before getting hurt and I’ll be interested to see how he bounces back this fall with a log jam at the running back position.

Those that are more defensively inclined were watching the defensive front to determine the size of the drop off after losing so much talent and depth from the 2014 edition.

With the loss in personnel across the defensive front, the secondary will be the torch carrier early and showed some good and some bad.  The secondary combined only allowed an average of just over 8 yards per pass attempt, 50 total attempts and 414 combined yards.

After summer workouts and fall practice and two games against Wofford and Appalachian State I expect the defense to be more comfortable with their roles.

If you think of the season in phases, the Orange and White game equates to the end of phase three (spring practice), and is preceded by national signing day (phase one) and pre-spring workouts and conditioning (phase two).  Now comes phase four which is summer workouts – the longest dry spell for the fans before the season begins.

Football season is close enough to start counting down if you haven’t already begun.  When that happens I expect the offense to set school records and a defense that, while not as deep and talented as the 2014 group, to be solid and compliment the offense.

It’s almost back Tiger fans, it is almost back!

Spring Game Primer: What and Who To Look For

Courtesy Anderson Independent-Mail

OgundekoEditor’s Note: Chris Cox writes about Clemson recruiting on his site Tiger Talk.  You can follow Chris on Twitter at @TigerTalk_CU

This Saturday +30K orange clad Clemson faithful will make there way over to Death Valley just to catch a glimpse of an unfinished product. The Clemson program is in rarifired territory after finishing off their 4th consecutive +10 win season, ending the streak against South Carolina in convincing fashion, and a drubbing of Oklahoma in the bowl game. On top of the on-field success, Dabo and company just signed what is believed to be their most talented recruiting class ever. Over a dozen members of that scintillating class are on campus now, and will be on display for all to see this weekend. And while sophomore sensation Deshaun Watson won’t be suiting up, there is still plenty for Clemson fans to keep an eye on.

Here’s what to look for on Saturday:

5 Positions to Watch

Defensive End
Departures: Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford, Tavares Barnes
Returners: Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, Ebenezer Ogundeko, Richard Yeargin, Martin Aiken, Dane Rogers
Recruits: Albert Huggins*, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, LaSamuel Davis
Stats to Replace: 73 Tackles, 33.5 TFL, 17 Sacks, 3 FF
Snapshot: Opposing quarterbacks will breath a little easier now that Vic Beasley is playing on Sunday’s instead of suiting up for the Tigers. Just by looking at the numbers alone it’s easy to see that Marion Hobby has plenty of work to do between now and August. Shaq Lawson brings plenty of experience and Kevin Dodd appears to have turned the corner after patiently waiting his turn. There is no experience behind the two starters, which means Clemson fans will have to accept the fact that production will likely drop off. The only question will be how much.

Defensive Tackle
Departures: Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams, Josh Watson
Returners: DJ Reader, Carlos Watkins, Scott Pagano, Jabril Robinson
Recruits: Sterling Johnson*, Christian Wilkins, Gage Cervenka
Stats to Replace: 91 Tackles, 21.5 TFL, 6 Sacks, 2 FF
Snapshot: Gone is the heart and soul of the defensive line in Grady Jarrett. His motor and ability to slip around blocks will be tough to replace, but Brent Venables is hoping his trio of talented returners can fill that void. Dabo was quoted saying that DJ Reader has been virtually unblockable towards the end of the Spring, and that is great news for the Tigers. More help is on the way and many expect 5-star Christian Wilkins to provide an immediate impact once he arrives this Summer.

Offensive Tackle
Departures: Kalon Davis, Reid Webster (Backup RT)
Returners: Isaiah Battle, Joe Gore, Maverick Morris
Recruits: Mitch Hyatt*, Jake Fruhmorgen*
Stats to Replace: 1749 Snaps
Snapshot: Kalon Davis was thurst into the right tackle role after Joe Gore went down with a stomach issue in the middle of the season. Gore and Battle are both back, but neither has truly taken ownership of their positions on the ends of the line. Early enrollees Mitch Hyatt and Jake Fruhmorgen have arrived and both appear to be ready to contribute right away. The two veteran tackles better not get too complacent in their starting roles, because the two young guns are closing in fast.

Running Back
Departures: DJ Howard
Returners: Wayne Gallman, Tyshon Dye, Zac Brooks, Adam Choice, CJ Davidson, CJ Fuller
Recruits: Ray Ray McCloud (Likely at WR)
Stats to Replace: 50 Att, 195 Yards, 3 TD
Snapshot: Six backs, one football. That’s the blessing and the curse that Jeff Scott and Tony Elliot must figure out. Gallman seems to have a firm grasp on the No.1 spot, but behind him it’s anyone’s game. Dye, Brooks, Davidson, and Fuller all bring their own unique tools to the table. With Choice recovering from a torn ACL, his contributions this Fall may be few and far between although he was probably Clemson’s best back before his injury last season. CJ Fuller looks to be more than an afterthought and is thought to be a real factor for playing time this coming season. If the offensive line can open up some holes, this backfield has a chance to be special. Everyone will get their carries on Saturday, but come September 5th it’ll be a much different story.

Linebacker
Departures: Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward
Returners: Ben Boulware, BJ Goodson, Dorian O’Daniel, Kendall Joseph, TJ Burrell
Recruits: Chad Smith*, Jalen Williams*
Stats to Replace:133 Tackles, 20.5 TFL, 6 Sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
Snapshot: Clemson fans finally got to see the two 5-star linebackers roam the field together this past Fall, and it was quite the treat. Anthony embraced his role as the quarterback of the defense, and his vocal leadership will be extremely hard to replace. Insert BJ Goodson, who has been Anthony’s understudy for a couple years now, and you have to hope you’ll see him play with the same passion. Opposite of Goodson will be local product Ben Boulware and a talented sophomore in Dorian O’Daniel. Those two showed flashes of greatness last year, and I expect they will be pedal to the metal when they get their opportunity as starters. Also, make sure to keep an eye on RS Freshmen Korie Rogers and Kendall Joseph.

*Denotes early enrollee

———-

5 Players to Watch

Mitch Hyatt-OT
The 5-star freshman is on campus and is rumored to be making a push for immediate playing time. Both he and fellow early enrollee Jake Fruhmorgen (RT) will likely avoid redshirt seasons, which is uncommon for offensive linemen. Isaiah Battle hasn’t lived up to his billing and you can bet the staff will use Hyatt to light a fire under him. I’m anxious to see how he looks against the power rusher in Shaq Lawson and the speed rusher in Ebenezer Ogundeko. Hyatt will likely need to add 5-10 pounds this Summer, but the fundamentals are there for him to be a superstar in the trenches at Clemson.

Cordrea Tankersley-CB
The time is now for Tankersley, a Junior out of Beech Island, SC. At 6-1 200lbs, Tankersley gives you some nice size in the secondary. He only played sparingly last season (12 tackles), mainly in part due to the excellent play of Peters and Alexander. With Alexander back, for what is likely his final season in a Clemson uniform, you can bet that Tankersley will see a lot of footballs thrown his way. If he can hold his own Saturday against the likes of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott then you have got to feel really good about this secondary. There is virtually no experience behind Tankersley on the depth chart, so his play will be a key factor for this defense’s overall success.

Tyshon Dye-RB
Various injuries have sidelined the heralded running back out of Elberton, GA for his first two seasons in Clemson. Dye is finally back on track and has dropped weight to get down around 210-215lbs, which is his desired playing weight. We caught a glimpse of his abilities against Georgia State, a game in which he went over 100 yards. Personally, I’ve been excited about his kid since he stepped on campus and I firmly believe he is the most talented back on the roster right now. The backfield is crowded, but I expect Dye to vault himself into the starter conversation as the season progresses. This Saturday I’ll be looking to see how he cuts and hopefully we’ll get a glance at his speed in open field. Also, at his new weight Dye claims he can be in the 4.4-4.5 speed range, which is scary if true.

Nick Schuessler-QB
Many eyes will likely be on the two freshmen quaterbacks Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel. The coaches have had nothing, but positives to say about Schuessler so far this Spring, but we’ve heard this story before in the Spring so I will take it with a grain of salt. His teammates have been just as adamant about his performance this Spring as well, stating he has really taken advantage of his opportunity to prove he’s a worthy No.2. We haven’t seen much of Schuessler so Saturday will be our first chance to see if he’s capable of handling the tempo and distributing the rock to the plethora of playmakers around him. I know you can’t read too much into these games, but this team desparately needs to have a reliable option behind #4 given his inclination to injuries. This is Schuessler’s chance to show Tiger fans what he’s capable of and I hope to see him take full advantage of this opportunity.

Ebenezer Ogundeko-DE
One of the more intriguing players to watch is Ebo. I thought he would have played more snaps last season, but for whatever reason he stayed on the sidelines for the better part of the year. The RS Sophomore out of the Empire State is believed to be the No.3 defensive end as we exit the Spring. He brings the “Freak” factor to the edge with his combination of size and speed. Not saying he is going to be the next Vic Beasley, but he has the potential to play in a similar fashion as Vic did. The offensive line won’t present Ebo with any All-American counterparts to face so I would like to see him show out on Saturday. One of the keys to Clemson’s top ranked defense last year was their ability to bring in quality talent off the bench when the starters took a breather. I’m hoping that Ebo and whoever snags the No.4 spot can provide quality depth this Fall.
———-
Now that you’ve processed all that, just a reminder that Spring Games are nothing but a glorified scrimmage that is open to the public. The best thing that can come out of Saturday is that the Tigers remain healthy headed in to the summer.

In a couple months, another injection of elite talent will arrive on campus that will be sure to shake some things up in the depth chart. Players like Deon Cain, Ray Ray McCloud, Christian Wilkins, & Mark Fields are all candidates to crack the 2-deep once they arrive. All in all, I hope to see a large fan contingent in Death Valley and I have a feeling we’ll break the 33K attendance mark set last season. Football’s back! Well, kinda.

Have a player or position you want to talk about? Just head over to the message boards at SeldomUsedReserve.com to join in the discussion.

Recruiting Rewind

DS
2015 Clemson Recruits. Source:Twitter account of Van Smith

2015 Clemson Recruits. Source:Twitter account of Van Smith

Note: Photo credit on front page: @ClemsonFB Twitter

Editor’s Note: Chris Cox writes about Clemson recruiting on his site Tiger Talk.  You can follow Chris on Twitter at @TigerTalk_CU

Recruiting has become a focus for guys like me who just can’t seem to get enough out of the football-filled Fall Saturday’s. Recruiting has almost become a sport within itself and, as proven by Alabama, it is crucial to on field success.

Clemson fans, myself included, have been spoiled with recruiting success since Dabo Swinney was named head coach. Facility upgrades, Clemson Google, and the staff’s uncanny ability to get in on prospects early have paid dividends on the recruiting trail for the Tigers.

Former coach Tommy Bowden did a decent job of bringing in talent, but Swinney has stockpiled enough talent that Clemson has former 4-stars sitting the bench at nearly every position. Make no doubts about it, this program is on as stable ground as it’s ever been thanks to the abundance of talent on campus.

In lieu of Clemson signing what is arguably their most talented recruiting class ever, we will take a look at the numbers to see just how good Dabo and company have been in regards to bringing elite talent to the Upstate. I’m going to start with the 2010 recruiting class, since the “Dandy Dozen” in 2009 was a patchwork class after Bowden’s departure.

2010: 21 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 7
3-Star: 13
2-Star: 1
Average Rating: 3.35
In-State: 7
Out of State: 14
Gems: Vic Beasley (***), Sam Cooper (**), Bashaud Breeland (***),
Busts: Desmond Brown (****), Justin Paker (****)
Notables: Tavares Barnes (****), Nuk Hopkins (****), Demont Buice (Transfer), Joe Craig (Transfer),
*Added Crawford & Bryant to ’11 class (Prep School)

2011: 27 Commitments
5-Star: 4
4-Star: 6
3-Star: 13
2-Star: 4
Average Rating: 3.37
In-State: 12
Out of State: 15
Gems: Adam Humphries (**), Grady Jarrett (***), Robert Smith (***)
Busts: Mike Bellamy (*****), Cortez Davis (****), Lateek Townsend (****)
Notables: Stephone Anthony (*****), Martavis Bryant (****), Corey Crawford (****), Tony Steward (*****), Sammy Watkins (*****)
*Added Battle & Dodd to ’12 class (Prep School)

2012: 19 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 8
3-Star: 11
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.42
In-State: 9
Out of State: 15
Notables: Isaiah Battle (****), Travis Blanks (****), Bradley Pinion (***), DJ Reader (***), Chad Kelly (Transfer)
*Added Lawson to ’13 class (Prep School)

2013: 22 Commitments
5-Star: None
4-Star: 10
3-Star: 9
2-Star: 3
Average Rating: 3.32
In-State: 5
Out of State: 17
Notables: Mackensie Alexander (****), Ben Boulware (****), Wayne Gallman (***), Jayron Kearse (****), Mike Williams (****), Korrin Wiggins (***)
*Added Priester to ’14 class (Prep School)

2014: 20 Commitments
5-Star: 1
4-Star: 9
3-Star: 10
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.45
In-State: 7
Out of State: 13
Notables: Deshaun Watson (*****), Artavis Scott (****), Adam Choice (****), Kyrin Priester (Transfer), Jaelon Oglesby (DNQ), Demarre Kitt (Transfer)
*Did not add JD & Judah Davis

2015: 22 Commitments
5-Star: 3
4-Star: 9
3-Star: 10
2-Star: None
Average Rating: 3.68
In-State: 6
Out of State: 16
Notables: Deon Cain (*****), Mitch Hyatt (****), Ray Ray McCloud (*****), Christian Wilkins (*****), Mark Fields (****), Albert Huggins (****)
*Did not add Amir Trapp

Totals
Commitments: 131
Average Commits: 21.8
5-Stars: 8
4-Stars: 48
3-Stars: 67
2-Stars: 8
Average Star Rating: 3.42
In-State: 46
Out of State: 85

2015 Season Outlook – Games 9-12

Clemson vs Wake Forest in during the first quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Editor’s Note: Nic Mills is a junior PRTM major and student assistant with Clemson Athletic Communication, (formerly known as the Clemson Sports Information Department) and has a long family history of Clemson grads. Nic will be contributing content on football, basketball and baseball for SUR. You can follow Nic on Twitter @mrnicmills.

Insert Links to 1-4 and 5-8 here.

 

Florida State- November 7

For four consecutive seasons this game was played before the month of November and that’s a shame, but John Swofford and the powers that be in the ACC finally scheduled this game in November.

I believe that Sean Maguire will be the Seminoles starter coming out of spring and Maguire beat Clemson last year in Tallahassee.

The Tigers have recruited at or very close to the level of FSU recently and as long as Deshaun Watson is wearing number 4 with Tiger paws Clemson will run the ACC Atlantic and ACC in general. Georgia Tech was my “trap” game, this game is not a trap game,  just a straight war between likely two top 10, if not top 5, teams. Clemson wins the war, 28-24.

 

@ Syracuse- November 14

Will Watson be able to handle the heat and crowd noise? I mean the Carrier Dome is such a hostile place! Ok now back to reality, nothing really needs to be said for this one, as long as the players don’t get as cocky as the fans, the talent gap is way too wide for this one to even be close. Clemson wins 48-10.

 

Wake Forest- November 21

This game should be ugly by half-time, the key guys getting plenty of rest in the second half in preparation for the big game the next week. Clemson wins 56-14.

 

@ South Carolina- November 28

South Carolina was down this past season, Clemson took care of them and got that monkey off their back. It is now time to start a streak of our own.  However, I fully believe the Gamecocks will be back to at least 9/10 win status this season and if they do struggle I doubt Spurrier will be returning.

Watson and company will  be too strong, Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye will have a solid day and I expect that Artavis Scott will have to at least run a route on the plus side of the line of scrimmage this year.

Clemson will have Williams Brice emptying out by mid-4th quarter though. Clemson wins 37-24.

 

Conclusion

The Clemson Tigers go 12-0, average 39.8 points a game, and gives up 20.4 a game. With that resume plus an ACC title the Tigers should likely be headed to the playoff.

Keep in mind this coming from a very optimistic and current Clemson student.

’16 Recruiting: Focusing on the Fat Guys

sean-pollard2

Editor’s Note: Chris Cox writes about Clemson recruiting on his site Tiger Talk.  You can follow Chris on Twitter at @TigerTalk_CU

The 2015 class featured what many consider to be the best offensive line haul Clemson has ever assembled.  Mitch Hyatt, Jake Fruhmorgen, Noah Green, & Zach Giella are all on campus now and are vying for snaps in the Fall.  The Clemson staff would love to follow that group up with one just as competitive in 2016.  With Norton, Battle, Gore, & Mac Lain graduating the staff will likely bring in 3 to 4 offensive lineman in the current cycle.  The status of Jay Guillermo’s football career is up in the air as well, meaning the staff may lean towards taking 4 linemen in total.

In this segment we will take a look at several of Clemson’s offensive line targets, including the lone commitment Sean Pollard.  With over +10 months until Signing Day 2016, a lot can change but this is where things stand as of right now:

Sean Pollard (6-5 294lbs) Commitment
Rivals: **** #7 OG
247: *** #19 OG

Since his commitment back on December 19th Pollard has been All-In. Pollard became the 3rd commit for the 2016 class and will likely become a key recruiter for the Tigers with their other OL targets. Pollard features nice measurables and has surprisingly quick feet for a big man.  At Pinecrest High (NC) he has played both guard and tackle, but likely projects as a guard at the next level. In his highlight video shown above, he excels as a pulling guard to seal off the edge on running plays.  He also displays superb power with his upper body as he frequent plants his counterpart to the ground with a single shove.  Pollard is a quality lineman and will be part of back to back outstanding offensive line classes at Clemson.

—–

John Simpson (6-4 288lbs)
Clemson, SC, UGA
Rivals: **** #11 OG
247: **** #10 OG
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1513456/john-simpson

As a Palmetto State native, Simpson is a primary target for the Clemson staff.  There aren’t many big time OL produced inside of the South Carolina boundaries, so when one pops up the Tigers need to keep them here.  Simpson was thought to be a Gamecock lean during the Fall, but a recent visit to TigerTown has surged the Tigers to the top of his list.  This past weekend Simpson and Dakereon Joyner (’18 QB target) took a visit down to Athens.  The pair are both extremely high on the Tigers, and they seemed to enjoy their UGA visit.  I’m not sure how much of a factor UGA will be here, but Clemson will likely have to fend off South Carolina down the stretch in order to sign Simpson. FYI, Tony Elliot is Simpson’s primary recruiter and he has laid some good groundwork here.

—–

Parker Boudreaux (6-5 291lbs)
Clemson, UF, ND
Rivals: **** #22 OT
247: **** #4 OG
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2605605/parker-boudreaux

One of the nation’s most popular prospects, Boudreaux features over 60 offers.  I’ve heard of guys in the 30 to 40 offer range, but never +60.  The Orlando native has recently completed visits to Clemson, SC, UF, Tenn, and Penn State.  Plans to get up to Notre Dame are also in the works.  Boudreaux is a mauler and plays with the nasty edge you like to see in the trenches.  He made a stop by the Tigers bowl practices in Orlando back in December and seems to have a friendship with freshman QB Tucker Israel.  The Gators and Irish will give definitely give Parker a lot to think about, but Clemson is in excellent position here.  Not sure of a time frame for a commitment, but I get the impression his recruitment will likely carry over into 2016.

—–

EJ Price (6-6 310lbs)
UGA, Michigan, FSU, Clemson, Auburn
Rivals: **** #17 OT
247: **** #4 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/3186269/ej-price

One of the toughest prospects to read so far.  He has favored Auburn, Clemson, and just tweeted out this week that UGA/Michigan are his co-leaders with FSU not far behind.  Price is quite the physical specimen, standing at 6-6 and tipping the scales at over 300 pounds.  He has a college ready body, but like any high schooler he will need to improve his technique.  Judging from his recruitment thus far he simply favors whomever shows him the most love at a particular time.  He made it up for Junior Day recently and Clemson made a lasting impression.  This will be a recruitment that will go all the way down to signing day even if he happens to make a commitment beforehand.

—–

Jack DeFoor (6-5 268lbs)
Clemson, Ole Miss, UGA
Rivals: *** NR
247: *** #63 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2837162/jack-defoor>

This could be another example of this staff’s innate ability to get in on prospects before anyone else does. We’ve seen this story over and over again as Clemson was the first Power 5 school to offer DeFoor back on January 31st.  Since the Tigers extended their offer other powers such as Ole Miss, VT, Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska, & Miami have all joined the party.  There is not a ton of information out on the late bloomer, but the big time offers tell you all you need to know about his upside.  Clemson and Ole Miss are thought to sit atop his list, but keep an eye on the in-state Bulldogs.  If they extend an offer they will be squarely in the mix to ink DeFoor’s signature on Signing Day 2016.

—–

Clark Yarborough (6-6 268lbs)
UVA, Duke, Michigan, Clemson, Penn State
Rivals: **** #16 OT
247: **** #12 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2668965/clark-yarbrough

Yarborough made it into town in early March and got to spend some quality time with Pollard, Boudreaux, and Simpson.  As expected, this entire group had the “Orange Carpet” treatment.  Yarborough is receiving heavy interest from Big Ten powers Michigan & Penn State.  As of this moment he claims no favorites, but the hometown Virginia Cavaliers and Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils accompany the previously listed schools at the top of his list.  Yaborough has the Big 10, NFL-prospect feel to him.  Similar to what we’ve seen up at Boston College as of late.  This will be a prospect to definitely keep an eye on if you’re a Clemson fan.

—–

Luke Elder (6-5 285lbs)
Ole Miss, Tenn, Clemson, UGA, SC
Rivals: *** #49 OT
247: *** #39 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2246899/luke-elder

Well traveled and wide open seem to be the story for Elder.  In 2015 alone he has made unofficial visits to Clemson, SC, Tenn, UNC, GT, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama, & Miss State.  The Tigers did extend an offer at the beginning of February during Junior Day.  At 6-5 285lbs as a junior, he exhibits the frame to contribute right away at his destination of choice.  Way too many options and too early in the process to be able to judge which way Elder is leaning. Thanks to Robbie Caldwell Clemson is in pretty good position here.  Once he narrows his list, we should get a better feel on how engaged Clemson is here.

—–

Jay Jay McCargo (6-4 270lbs)
UNC, Duke, Clemson, Tenn
Rivals: *** #30 OT
247: *** #41 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2798163/jay-jay-mccargo

McCargo made it in for a visit to Clemson back in February and enjoyed his time in town.  The fact of the matter here is that McCargo likely sees a better opportunity for early playing time at schools like UNC and Duke, who currently lead for his services.  Clemson has some work to do here and they will turn up the intensity if they happen to miss on a target higher up on their board.

—–

Tyler Pritchett (6-2 288lbs)
Mizzou, SC, UNC, Indiana
Rivals: *** NR
247: *** #39 OG
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2295121/tyler-pritchett

The Alabama native had to cancel a visit to Clemson for Junior Day in early March.  Clemson is not on his radar as of this moment, and I’m not sure how high he is on Clemson’s radar either.  If the hometown Auburn Tigers offer, or even the Crimson Tide, then he will stay inside the Alabama boundaries. If Pritchett does indeed make it up to Clemson for a visit things could change, but as they stand now he is not going to be signing with Clemson.

—–

Will Fries (6-6 265lbs)
Penn St, Rutgers, Duke, Clemson, Northwestern
Rivals: **** #10 OG
247: *** #31 OT
Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2736626/will-fries

Clemson extended an offer in February to the New Jersey mauler.  He is expected to make a visit sometime in the coming months, and until that visit takes place he is a long shot for Clemson.  Fries could be a fallback option, not because of talent, but because of proximity and familiarity with several other targets on the board. We will learn more about his recruitment and where Clemson stands with him once he makes it on campus.

**Heights and weights are from Rivals.com**

2015 Season Outlook – Games 5-8

Clemson Football -  Deshaun Watson

Editor’s Note: Nic Mills is a junior PRTM major, student assistant with Clemson Athletic Communication (formerly known as the Clemson Sports Information Department) and has a long family history of Clemson grads. Nic will be contributing content on football, basketball and baseball for SUR. You can follow Nic on Twitter @mrnicmills.  This is the 2nd in a 3 part series on the 2015 season.

You can read part 1 – Games 1-4 here

Georgia Tech- October 10

Georgia Tech always gives Clemson fits, home or away the game is usually not a comfortable one for Tiger fans. This year’s game is in Clemson and that’s the good news. If the Tigers are going to trip up this season I see this being the game that it happens. The Tigers will be coming off of an emotional game with Notre Dame the previous week and will have only had one week to prepare for Paul Johnson’s version of the triple option.

Justin Thomas will be one of the best and most experienced option QB’s that Johnson has had.  At the end of the day, I’m very much an optimist and with the game being in Death Valley the Tigers will get it done – in overtime. Clemson wins 34-31.

 

Boston College- October 17

By this point Clemson’s defense should be settled down verses the regular offensive schemed teams and Deshaun and company will be rolling along quite nicely, having scored 30+ (according to my predictions) every game. Had Tyler Murphy had another year of eligibility I would be slightly concerned, but he doesn’ . Clemson wins 42-13.

 

@ Miami- October 24

Miami could be anywhere from 3-3 to 6-0 when this game rolls around. The Hurricanes have the talent to be 6-0 and for this to be a really fun game, but they have been big under-achievers in the Al Golden era. Because you never know what you’re going to get with Miami I am going to expect a close game.

Brad Kaya should be a really good test for what should be one of the top secondaries next year for Clemson, he will really only be the second QB that can test the Clemson back 4/5, with the other being whoever Notre Dame puts on the field. Clemson wins 34-24.

 

@ NC State- October 31

On the road in Raleigh, NC could be a scary place especially if this happens to be a night game, strange things happen when the big boy takes his shirt off and dances beside the pole.

In all seriousness, I do believe that Jacoby Brisett will pose a much bigger threat next year than he was in Death Valley this past season, but the question is will Brisett be improved enough to beat Watson and company? I doubt that and I see this one being close for about three quarters, with the Tigers pulling away late. Clemson wins 41-24.

 

On Halloween night the Tigers will move to 8-0.  Will the dream season continue or will the Tigers fall to FSU and/or South Carolina? Tune in Friday for part 3.

2015 Season Outlook Games 1-4

Dabo Swinney

Editor’s Note: Nic Mills is a junior PRTM major, student assistant with Clemson Athletic Communication (formerly known as the Clemson Sports Information Department) and has a long family history of Clemson grads. Nic will be contributing content on football, basketball and baseball for SUR. You can follow Nic on Twitter @mrnicmills.  This is the first in a 3 part series on the 2015 season.

Clemson’s season will come down to two things – Deshaun Watson’s health and the ability of  Brent Venables’ defense to hold opponents to 21 or fewer points per game.

There’s not a team on this years schedule that will hold Clemson to under 21 points if Watson is healthy.  The defense loses six of the top ten tacklers from the 2014 campaign but Venables has plenty of returning talent in the likes of Mackenzie Alexander (21 tackles, 2 TFL and 6 PBU), Jayron Kearse (60 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks and 7 passes defended) in the secondary.

Ben Boulware will be the ring leader in the linebacking corp returning (40 tackles,  5TFL and 1 sack) and local product Shaq Lawson will be looked upon to lead the defensive line (34 tackles, 11 TFL and 3.5 sacks).

On offense Watson will have all of his top skill players returning, however a number of the offensive line recruits in the 2015 class will have a chance at immediate playing time.

The season is a long ways away, but if the games were starting up right this weekend, here is what I see happening.

Wofford- September 5th

This will be a win for the Tigers and to be honest with you I hope that Watson does not start this game, he is not needed to win this one and with his injury plagued past there is no point in taking any chance of reaggrivating an ACL. Whoever wins the back-up job out of spring practice or whenever it is decided should start this one. The defense will struggle slightly against the triple option early on and it being a little uncomfortable at halftime but by the end of the game the Tigers will just be too strong for the FCS Terriers. Clemson wins 48-17.


Appalachian State- September 12

I believe Watson should start this game to get a little warm up before traveling to Louisville on Thursday night, however he shouldn’t play past the first half and if the Tigers have a comfortable lead before then he should come out earlier. App State finished this past season on a roll winning their last six games to finish the season a decent 7-5 for the first year FBS team. Clemson however will be to deep and to talented for them to compete more than a half at the most. The defense continues to gel and the offense will roll with Watson in for at least part of the game. Clemson wins 45-14.


@ Louisville- September 17

Clemson’s first test of the season, a road contest on a Thursday night at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals have won some big games on Thursday nights in this place over the years and gave Florida State a run for their money last season. They lose their top defensive player in DE Lorenzo Mauldin and their top WR DeVante Parker, but home field advantage at night could possibly make up for those losses.  I expect a close game but in the end the Watson led offense will prevail. Expect a bit higher scoring game this season compared to last seasons 23-17 Tiger win. Clemson wins 31-23.


Notre Dame- October 3

The big question in regards to Notre Dame in the spring is who will be their starting QB? Will it be South Carolina native Everett Golson who through the first six games last season looked like a Heisman winner or will it be the younger Malik Zaire who played outstanding football in the Notre Dame win over LSU? At the end of the day I don’t really think it will matter who plays QB for the Fighting Irish, Clemson will be coming off a bye week, the offense will be humming along nicely and the defense will be gelled. Clemson wins a close one, 34-27.

The Tigers will be 4-0 when Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech roll into Death Valley the second week of October.  What happens in games 5-8? Be sure to check back on Wednesday for part 2 in this series.

 

Recruiting: ’16 shaping up to be small, but strong class

Feaster

Editor’s Note: Chris Cox writes about Clemson recruiting on his site Tiger Talk.  You can follow Chris on Twitter at @TigerTalk_CU

Clemson started building their 2016 commit list on February 4 while the ink was drying on the LOIs for the 2015 class, reeling in three 2016 commitments on the 2015 National Signing Day.

Since that day over a month ago things have been relatively quiet, but that will quickly change and most of the 2016 class will likely be in place before Clemson runs down The Hill in early September to face the Wofford Terriers.

If that indeed comes to pass a trend will continue as 20 of Clemson’s 25 2015 commitments were in place before August 2014 rolled around.

2016’s haul will be a smaller, with commitment numbers ranging between 15-18, but that doesn’t mean these future Tigers are any less important than their predecessors.

Here’s an initial list of prospects by position that we’ll keep an eye on as we periodically monitor the building of the 2016 class:

QB (1) Departing: None
Zerrick Cooper-Commit

RB (1) Departing: Davidson
Tavien Feaster-Commit

WR (2-3) Departing: Peake, Williams(?)
Tavares Chase-Commit
Cornell Powell-Commit
Diondre Overton-Clemson Lean
Binjimen Victor
Bryan Edwards

TE (1) Departing: Seckinger, Byers
JC Chalk-Commit

OL (3-4) Departing: Norton, Battle, Mac Lain, Gore
Sean Pollard-Commit
John Simpson-Clemson Lean
Parker Boudreaux-Clemson Lean
EJ Price
Jack DeFoor
Jay Jay McCargo
Clark Yarborough
Will Fries
Luke Elder
Tyler Pritchett

DE (1-2) Departing: Lawson(?)
Jordan Smith
Malik Walker
Charles Wiley
Julian Okwara

DT (1-2) Departing: Reader
Niles Pickney-Clemson Lean
Julian Rochester
Antuwan Jackson
Rashaun Gary
Dexter Lawrence

LB (3) Departing: Goodson
Jamie Skalski-Commit
Tre Lamar-Clemson Lean
Rahshaun Smith-Clemson Lean
Tobias Little
Brandon Hill

DB (1-2) Departing: Alexander(?), Kearse(?)
Savion Smith-LSU Commit
Robbie Robinson
Trayvon Mullen
Simeon Gatling

ATH
Korey Charles-Clemson Lean
Jacob Morgenstern

For complete up to date information on Clemson recruiting check out Chris’ site.