March 22, 2018


Carlos Watkins and the defense stuff DeShone Kizer on the 2 point conversion after Notre Dame scored with 7 seconds to go in 2015.

Before the Trophy: Episode 7

Before the trophy…Clelin Ferrell makes an early play that changed the course of the game, Mike Williams got wide open, C.J. Fuller runs the “lethal wheel route”, Carlos Watkins introduces himself to J.T. Barrett and Van Smith runs a long, long way.

8 Plays: Defensive Line

Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman (4) fires a pass as Clemson defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (90) defends.  Gwinn Davis / The Post and Courier

8 plays from the Clemson defensive line.


Previous Editions:

8 plays from Jordan Leggett

8 plays from Wayne Gallman

8 plays from the defensive backfield

8 plays from Mike Williams

8 plays from linebackers

The Making of a Champion: Episode 14

Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware (10) celebrates GWINN DAVIS

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

I could have picked about 17 different sacks or hits on Deondre Francois for this game.  I thought the last and final nail in the coffin would fit, because Francois had no chance.  Clemson remained undefeated and moved to 7-0 with the 37-34 victory.

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

Episode 5 – Christian Wilkins catches a touchdown pass for a 10 point lead

Episode 6 – Deon Cain 1 on 1 vs. Troy DB = Touchdown

Episode 7 – Deon Cain backs into end zone to tie Louisville

Episode 8 – The Wayne Train picks up steam

Episode 9 – Jordan Leggett rumbles for go ahead touchdown vs. Louisville

Episode 10 – Marcus Edmond stops Louisville 36 inches short

Episode 11 – Marcus Edmond strikes again & N.C. State goes down

Episode 12 – Greg Huegel drills a clutch 46 yard FG in Tallahassee

Episode 13 – Jordan Leggett does it again, scoring with 2:06 left in Tallahassee

Clemson-Alabama Preview & Prediction


The Clemson program has been waiting for this rematch for a full year and here it is. Despite their victory a year ago, several of the Alabama contingent were disappointed in their defensive performance and are looking to send a message this go round. Can Clemson end their 35-year title drought or will Alabama make it back-to-back championships? Read below to get caught up to speed on everything you need to know before Monday’s kickoff…


Clemson-Ohio State Preview & Prediction


Will 2017 start off with a bang for the Tigers? Clemson’s quest to redeem their national title loss from a year ago has nearly come full circle. Now the only hurdle between the Tigers and a shot at redemption is perennial powerhouse Ohio State. This colossal matchup between the Buckeyes and Tigers features two premier head coaches as well as two of the best QB’s in the country. Read below to get caught up on everything you need to know before Saturday’s 7pm kickoff…


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.






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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.

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…


The Aftermath: Clemson 56 South Carolina 7

Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) beats Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White (28) and makes the catch for a touchdown and celebrates with center Ryan Norton (58) after hauling in a pass for a touchdown. The Clemson Tigers beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 55-31 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson Thursday night, November 14. GWINN DAVIS PHOTOS (website) (864) 915-0411 (cell) (e-mail) Gwinn Davis (FaceBook) National Press Photographers Association


The SUR Crew of Matt Wilczewski, Marty Coleman, and Chris Cox recap Clemson’s crushing of South Carolina. Also, a brief lookahead to the upcoming ACC Championship Game.

General thoughts about what you witnessed in Death Valley on Saturday night?

MW: Utter domination, that honestly could have and should have been even worse than the 56-7 score indicated. This Clemson team obviously wanted to put together a statement game, and they did so with little resistance from the South Carolina side. Most of the Gamecock faithful were optimistic with 6 wins this year and 4 of the last 5, but Saturday night showed that there is still a massive gap between these two programs.

CC: To be honest I was pretty surprised at what took place and, as Matt alluded to, it could have been a lot worse. That was just a good old fashioned butt whoopin. There was little doubt as to the mark Deshaun Watson and Co. wanted to leave on this rivalry. Outside of the blocked field goal the Tigers dominated in all 3 phases. Although I’d say  “dominated” isn’t suffice for the way Clemson manhandled South Carolina in the trenches Saturday night. I think it’s safe to say I underestimated just how wide the gap between the two programs was. Saturday night proved the Gamecocks have a long road ahead if they want to catch their big brother.

MC: Wow. For a numbers driven guy like me, it was a total smashing. On offense: 40 first downs on 89 plays run. 18 explosive plays. Inside Carolina 40 on all 12 drives. On defense: Carolina had 7 yards at the end of the first quarter and less than 200 at the end of the third.  When straight laced, play it down the middle announcers like Dave Pasch uses terms like “Men against boys” you know it was a beat down of epic proportions.

There may be some overlap with the question above, but was this the most complete game you’ve seen Clemson play in the Dabo Swinney era?

MW: I think it’s up there, for sure, and I would have to think for a bit to consider other options. Maybe 40-6 over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl would be competition, especially considering that was over a much better squad. It was the most complete game they’ve played in 2016, though, and that’s exactly what you want to end the regular season.

CC: Given the fact it’s a rivalry game I think you could argue that this is the game Clemson fans will talk about the most in the Dabo Swinney era. Obviously the rout of Oklahoma in Orlando a couple years ago is up there, but that game pales in comparison from an emotional standpoint. Miami from last year comes to mind too, but that game didn’t have near the statistical discrepancy. Here in the Palmetto State 56-7 will resonate for the next 363 days.

MC: I fully admit to recency bias, not to mention it was against a hated rival, but none immediately comes to mind. There’s been worse beatings score-wise, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a more demoralized team than Will Muschamp’s bunch last night, unless it was Miami circa 2015.

Recognizing that there were two true freshmen quarterbacks on the field for the Gamecocks, the defense held South Carolina to 218 total yards.  Yet, I keep hearing talking heads (latest example is Danny Kanell) say they are worried about the Clemson defense.  Should we be worried about the defense moving forward?

MW: In areas, perhaps, namely linebackers in coverage. And as Marty said, it’s hard to take much from dominating a subpar South Carolina offense. But the defense as a whole isn’t something that Clemson needs to worry about, as they’ve consistently exceeded expectations throughout the year. And even at their worst(Pitt game), they weren’t the ones to take blame for the loss.

CC: Yes and no. A team that can slow Clemson’s front four certainly poses a big threat given the inconsistency in coverage on the back end. On Saturday night Clemson’s defensive line made the South Carolina offensive line look like human turnstiles. When you can disrupt things up front on a consistent basis the whole game changes. So against teams like Pitt, FSU, and potentially Alabama yes there is reason for concern. Other than that, nope.

MC: The South Carolina offense is not very talented (same for Wake Forest). There are holes in the defense that we’ve discussed ad nauseum (linebackers in coverage, for example). Pittsburgh exploited them to the max and other teams have had some success.  That said, when the defense plays with an energy and passion like Saturday they’re tough to beat.  Unfortunately, Saturday was the last time they’ll play in Death Valley this season.  Yet, you look up and they’re the 8th best statistical defense in the nation.  An enigma for sure, but I don’t hear Danny Kanell questioning Washington’s defense.

The Clemson offensive line was supposedly called out for being “finesse” by a South Carolina player, do you think that made a difference in what transpired on the field or was it simply a matter of talent?

MW: Talent first and foremost. Clemson’s run game was going to “get theirs” on Saturday night regardless if that comment comes out or not. The Gamecocks’ run defense has been poor all year, so that was simply inevitable. But, sure, it could have helped stoke some fire in the offensive linemen’s bellies that gave them an extra edge throughout the contest.

CC: On the ride home listening to some of the postgame comments from players and coaches a common theme kept popping up. It was something along the lines of ignoring the emotion of the rivalry and focusing on the preparation. Just about every interview referenced to that thought process, and perhaps they actually bought into it during the game. I also thought Tony Elliott/Jeff Scott did a great job of mixing passing and running plays, which certainly helps keep opposing defenses on their heels. And just like the rest of the team, the offensive line was dialed in for 60 minutes.

MC:  There is a lot of finesse to Clemson’s offense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.  SEC guys take a lot of pride in 17-10 games and that’s great, but at some point you wonder if it’s good defenses or bad offenses.  Maybe it made a difference to some degree, but I’m one of those guys that believe once the game and hitting starts, talent usually wins out. You talk before the game, you talk after the game.  In between you’re playing what you’ve been taught.  Did it make a difference on some plays? Probably.  Did it make a difference in the big picture? I have my doubts.

Wayne Gallman was a factor early and often and it’s no surprise that the offense is much better when Gallman is effective. Will the Tigers be able to sustain the run game against a Virginia Tech rush defense giving up 3.9 yards per rush?

MW: Yes, with the assumption that Clemson can exploit other areas to open up the run game, as well as utilize Watson’s legs. I don’t necessarily expect numbers like the past two weeks, but some sort of success on the ground is imperative in Orlando to get a win.

CC: First and foremost, this is a pass first team. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that, but you’re right about the offense hitting that 5th gear when Gallman is effective. While the running game has been a point of criticism throughout the year they seem to have built some confidence over the last couple of contests. Confidence is contagious. I’m also a big believer in hitting your stride at the right time, which is what we’re seeing in the Clemson rush attack.

MC: Clemson needs to run the ball to be successful, preferably with a combo of Gallman and Watson.  Yes, it’s coach speak, but the Clemson “running” game also consists of passes behind the line of scrimmage, generally to Artavis Scott and Ray Ray McCloud.  Don’t believe me? Watson threw 11 (all completed) against South Carolina for 109 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers can survive this week without a traditional running game, but moving forward it becomes more imperative.

Early thoughts about Virginia Tech?

MW: Dangerous opponent. Have several playmakers offensively, including a QB that can use his legs and two big receivers that will provide a difficult test, along with your typical stingy Bud Foster defense. Dabo has his work cut out this week to take his team down a notch following the big win on Saturday and re-focus them to prepare for a much, much better opponent.

CC: Haven’t watched them much this year outside of the Tennessee game at Bristol where they laid the ball on the ground an astounding 5 times. I know they’ve got a talented QB who has a couple really talented targets in the passing game. Bud Foster always has a gritty defense. Their season has been a rollercoaster ride, but they’re playing in Orlando so they should be taken very seriously.

MC: I’m not quite sure what to expect as I haven’t watched a lot of the Hokies (as in close to 0) this year. They lost to Syracuse and Georgia Tech, two teams Clemson handled with ease. On the other hand they beat Pittsburgh on the road.  A top 40 offense and a top 20 defense, at least statistically speaking.  I’ll await Matt’s film review to get a better feel.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson & Ben Boulware

MC: Mike Williams & Carlos Watkins

CC: Mike Williams & Ben Boulware

Play of the Game:

MW: Mike Williams’ first touchdown. Set the tone early and like his others, was a grown man play against arguably South Carolina’s best defensive player.

CC: Mike Williams carrying Jamarcus King into the endzone free of charge. He had already set the table with his first TD grab over King, but the effort on this play seemed to capture the emotion of the night.

MC: Mike Williams piggy back ride on second touchdown of the game.  I believe the announcer said, “That is a GROWN man, right there.” Yep, and it just epitomized the total physical domination that occurred throughout the game.