March 25, 2017

#WE2DEEP17: An in-depth look at Clemson’s 2017 recruiting class

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, offensive coordinator Jeff Scott (Gwinn Davis / The Post and Courier)

 

Fresh off a national championship victory, Clemson just capped what stands to be their best recruiting class ever in regards to average prospect rating. The 2017 class is small in quantity at 14, but packs quite the punch with the talent level. Check out the infographic below to find out all you want to know on this year’s signees…

 

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Ohio State

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

 

 

**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

 

 

Then versus Now: How the 2016 Tigers stack up against the 2013 Tigers

 

With Clemson’s Fiesta Bowl matchup versus Ohio State just days away we’ll take an in-depth look at how this year’s team compares to the 11-2 team from 2013, who capped their season with an Orange Bowl victory over Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. This piece will provide a snapshot at both the similarities and differences between two of the best teams to ever play at Clemson.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

KEY PLAYERS

RECRUITING COMPARISON

 

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The Aftermath: Clemson-42 Virginia Tech-35

Clemson junior QB Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to their 2nd straight ACC Title with 5 touchdowns (Photo via Robert Cannon/UPI)

Clemson junior QB Deshaun Watson led the Tigers to their 2nd straight ACC Title with 5 touchdowns (Photo via Robert Cannon/UPI)

 

The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Matt Wilczewski, and Chris Cox weigh in following Clemson’s hard fought win to earn their second straight ACC Championship…

On the heels of Clemson’s second straight ACC Championship, talk a little about what this program has accomplished in the last 5-6 years. Is it reasonable to expect it to continue?

MW: I think the most difficult part of building a program is the climb to reach that “elite” status. Once you’re there, as Clemson currently is, you have recruiting points such as conference titles, NFL draft picks, and general recognition that provides a significant boost to your recruiting efforts. Not to mention, the revenue brought in that stems from continued success turns into innovative facilities. But as the other have mentioned, take a moment as a Clemson fan to appreciate this era of football. The last time Clemson played VT, I was a student and absolutely ecstatic to be able to witness my school secure an ACC Championship Title in 2011. Saturday night? I was happy, sure, but I was simply relieved more than anything. There was now the expectation to win an ACC Championship, rather than just hope. With a few significant losses after 2016, it’s understandable to see some sort of drop-off, but the foundation has been built for this program to be successful and have continued championship aspirations in the future.

MC: Sometimes I think the state of the program and what they’ve accomplished in the last 6 years is underappreciated by Clemson fans, including me.  I remember when Texas was on their run and good friends of mine who are Texas alums thought it would never end.  Enjoy these times ladies and gents. As Dabo said, these are the good old days of Clemson football. I can see 9 or 10 win seasons continuing, but back to back playoff appearances and 26-2 over two seasons?  That’s a tough ask, especially with the sheer volume of talent leaving on offense after this season – Watson, Williams, Leggett, Gallman, Scott (and Guillermo).

CC: When you’re in the midst of greatness I think it’s easy for perspective to get lost. Up until 2011, I had never seen Clemson win an ACC Title in my lifetime. Now I’ve seen 3 in 6 years. Add in the 3 straight wins over SC, 2 straight over FSU, back-to-back CFB Playoff appearances, and it’s truly amazing what this program has accomplished. Oh, I should mention the icing on the cake could be right around the corner. As far as being able to continue this success I think it’s reasonable to expect a 8 or 9 win “dropoff” at some point, but the foundation has been laid for this program to remain nationally relevant for the foreseeable future. Also, recruiting is actually getting better and the new football operations facility is only going to help moving forward.

Obviously the talk over the course of the next week will center around Deshaun Watson’s Heisman hopes. It would appear he’s done enough over the back half of the schedule to at least make things interesting against Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. What are your thoughts?

MW: I think Jackson’s ungodly stats will still win out over Watson’s final shot. As others have mentioned, several voters have already voted and I’m sure many others made up their mind prior to the ACC Championship game. Watson has had his fair share of turnovers, and honestly his success and high expectations from the end of last season didn’t help him either. Watson will get another trip to NY, though, and continue to help to put Clemson the map.

MC: 9% of voters had mailed in their ballot before the ACC Championship Game was even played. Jackson is going to win the trophy.  One thing though, next year don’t tell me it’s about the best player on the best team.  

CC: Probably too little to late as most voters, through the national media, seem to have made their minds up a month or so ago. Watson will still make the trek to New York, but I anticipate a similar result as last year. While Jackson certainly has the numbers, I think Watson’s resume could and should be a trump card. I also believe the interceptions will be #4’s undoing.

Speaking of Watson, he played at an extremely high level versus the Hokies outside of a tipped pass that was intercepted. We also finally saw a sense of urgency from him on the ground which is something we’ve talked about a lot lately in this segment. What does running the football do for Watson and this Clemson offense in general?

MW: Opens everything up. You’re forced to honor Watson, Gallman, and the passing game. I mean, once Watson starts having success, how does when even defend the RPO? It’s certainly a pivotal part to this Clemson offense, and one that they’ll have to rely on moving into the playoffs.

MC: Watson seems to “own” the game a little more when he’s a part of the running game. Sounds ridiculous, I know – he’s the QB how can he not “own” the game.  There’s a glint in his eye, a pep in his step.  I think he likes the physical aspect of it.  We saw the effect on the zone read after a few runs from Gallman. Watson pulled it and gained big yards as the defense moved towards Gallman.  Simply put, it’s the difference between winning and losing (against the better teams).

CC: At times earlier in the year I thought Watson looked extremely passive in the run game. He was giving himself up early and didn’t seem to be too interested. That’s certainly changed over the last few games, and it could very well be by design. When he shows the ability to hurt you on the ground he makes this offense virtually unstoppable. Heck, VT all but eliminated Gallman outside of 3 or 4 carries. It didn’t matter though because Watson was there to pick up the slack. Another thing I noticed last night was how strong Watson has become as evidenced by a couple stiff arms to shed would be tacklers. Kid is something special.

Wayne Gallman may not have had the game he wanted, but the Tigers still found a way to pound on a respectable 182 yards on the ground. We talked about Watson above, but what about reserve RB CJ Fuller who seems to be really gaining some confidence. What have you seen change in his game and Is he the guy next Fall?

MW: He hits the hole quickly, and runs with solid power. I think his vision and patience, ability to create when the hole he’s looking for isn’t there. I anticipate him getting the nod as the starter going into next fall, but I’d imagine it’s very much a RB by committee effort as Feaster emerges as well.

MC: I’ve been impressed with C.J. Fuller ever since he became the clear second option. He appears confident and the moments don’t seem too big for him.  He’s limited in the big play capability, but he’s a solid number two.

CC: He’s just a guy that seems to run through the line with reckless abandon. If the OL gives him some space he’s going to hit it and hit it hard. At 220lbs he can get moving pretty well. Granted, he’s not one that seems able to create a hole when there’s not one, which is what makes Gallman so special. Looking ahead to next year I’m not sure how he’d respond in a starting role, but I think he’s proven himself to be a viable option in this offense moving forward.

With 7 receptions against the Hokies Artavis Scott moved into a tie for Clemson’s all-time career receptions record (240). The offense really seemed to be clicking when Scott was involved on the first 3 drives, but they seemed to go in a different direction in the 2nd quarter where things began to stall. Share your thoughts on what #3 means to this team.

MW: It’s another way of opening up the offense. The jet sweeps, quick screens, are all just branches of the run game. Not only that, but Scott tends to make something happen more often than not. He’s smart, has vision, strength, and is elusive. Rarely does a play to Artavis end up behind the line of scrimmage. Positive yards open up the playbook, and when you’re able to pick up 4-5 yards on a quick play to Scott, 2nd and 3rd down quickly become more manageable. Feed him and points will end up on the scoreboard.

MC: Ahh, my sore spot.  Bold statement: This offense runs through Artavis Scott.  As Matt pointed out last night, they don’t even have to be big plays. 3 yard gains suffice sometimes to spread out the defense and open up the run game.  3 receptions on the first drive, 2 on the second and both ended in touchdowns.  Sometimes I think the play callers decide to “distribute” the ball rather than keep doing what’s working until it’s stopped.  If Artavis is getting the ball, Clemson is in good shape.

CC: I’ve know this is one of Marty’s favorite talking points in regards to the 2016 Tigers and I’m starting to see where he’s coming from. We’ve come to learn that when Scott touches the ball good things happen. And truth be told it really doesn’t matter how you get it to him. Screens, jet sweep, slants, quick outs, returns, you name it. This is an example of a kid who won’t truly be appreciated until he’s gone. I look at him as the “glue guy” that’s held together some of Clemson’s most prolific offenses.

It was an up and down night for the defense. Talk about what you saw out this bunch in the 1st and 3rd quarters when they seemed to have Justin Fuente’s offense by the throat?

MW: Like Chris said, everything runs through the front 4. When they can disrupt and create a pass rush by themselves, it allows Venables to be creative. He can place extra defenders in coverage, knowing he can still get pressure on the QB, or he can create even more chaos by way of blitz.

MC: The defense came out playing with emotion and sacked Evans on the first play of the game.  That set the tone early, until Dorian O’Daniel’s ejection. I think the ejection changed the game and shifted momentum.  It seems like a defense that defends well when things go their way, but when they don’t it goes downhill quickly.  On the other hand, I prefer this brand of defense over the previous regimes and I’ll tell you why.  Sacks are drive killers and Clemson is 3rd in the nation in sacks per game.  Yes, you’re going to get burnt from time to time, but be aggressive when the situation dictates.  Matt and I chuckled preseason about this group reaching the 2015 sack total, but guess what? Could happen on New Year’s Eve.

CC: When things were going well Clemson’s front 4 were setting up camp in the Hokies backfield. Watkins, Lawrence, Wilkins, and Ferrell had their way in the trenches causing plays to be disrupted before they even got started. That’s where it all starts for the Tigers as it takes pressure off the secondary and gives guys like Boulware and Joseph open lanes to blitz.  

On the contrary, where did things go wrong for the Brent Venables’ defense? Did the absences of O’Daniel, Pagano, and Yeargin have a big impact?

MW: Pagano and Yargin from a depth perspective, certainly. The front 4 could’ve used a breather after a few of VT’s more sustained drives. O’Daniel was without a doubt the biggest, mainly due to his athleticism and ability to play in coverage. It was obvious that Fuente noted his absence and picked on Jalen Williams in pass coverage the remainder of the night.

MC: Absolutely on O’Daniel, most probably on Pagano and not sure on Yeargin. The game changed when O’Daniel went out.  He’s such an athletic, talented, unique defender that it’s impossible to replace him.  Pagano, far from the headlines, busts some heads in the middle time after time. There were several penalties and momentum changers, but defenses have to fight through that. Disappointed that they let it get closer, but absolutely confident they would get a stop when needed. Conflicted for sure.

CC: While O’Daniel’s ejection was quite costly in terms of momentum, I keep going back to the “Cover 11” on a long 3rd down that led to a quick touchdown. On that play, Boulware said the defense was anticipating a screen based on VT’s formation and didn’t really know what to do when it never came. From that point on Jerod Evans seemed to play like a man on a mission, and his offensive line seemed to come alive as well. I certainly think the absence of the aforementioned players was huge. O’Daniel is Clemson’s most athletic linebacker and both reserve defensive linemen would have helped spell a Tiger DL that seemed to tire in the game’s final quarter.

At this point would you like to see Clemson allocate a scholarship to bringing in a punter? A simple yes or no answer will be suffice.

MW: Yes.

MC: Yes.

CC: Yes.

Tigers and Buckeyes. What’s your early thoughts on this colossal matchup?

MW: It’s gonna be a good one. Both teams are extremely talented, I’ll go ahead and say that Ohio State will likely get the edge in SUR’s “Depth Stars” segment. They’ve recruited extremely well. As far as early predictions, none here, as I’ll need to watch a few Ohio State games to get a better feel for this team. However, Ohio State ranked 63rd in the nation in sacks allowed is a nice early stat to see.

MC: I like Clemson’s chances.  My numbers give a slight edge to Clemson, they’re playing in a familiar location with playoff experienced key players. I haven’t seen enough Ohio State to think through matchups at this point.

CC: At first glance I’m thinking points, points, and some more points. Both teams have elite skill position players and quarterbacks that can negate good defenses. I can’t speak much on the Buckeyes mindset, but I do know this is what the entire Clemson program has been waiting on for almost a year. I expect they’ll bring their A-game.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson & Cordrea Tankersley

MC: Deshaun Watson & Dexter Lawrence

CC: Deshaun Watson & Carlos Watkins

Play of the Game:

MW: Renfrow’s third down catch.

MC: Renfrow’s fingertip catch on 2nd and 19 from the Clemson 16 up 35-28. Without that it’s 3rd and 19 from your own 16.

CC: Run-pass-option touchdown pass from Watson to Renfrow to put the Tigers up 14 with 7:33 to play.

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

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**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech Preview & Prediction

VT Preview

 

For the second consecutive year Clemson finds themselves playing in primetime for an ACC Title. The last time these two teams met with the ACC Championship trophy on the line Clemson prevailed in blowout fashion. Justin Fuente and his Hokies would love nothing more than to exact revenge and spoil the Tigers playoff hopes. Catch up on everything you need to know before Saturday’s 8pm kick in this week’s preview below…

 

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. South Carolina

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-33-59-am

 

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**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Wake Forest

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

 

 

**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Pittsburgh

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

 

 

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-10-55-19-pm

 

**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Syracuse

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

 

In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-10-46-30-am

 

 

**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**