December 18, 2018

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.

The Aftermath: Clemson-54 Syracuse-0

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson helped Clemson get out to a fast start against Syrcause. Photo: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

 

The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Matt Wilczewski, and Chris Cox recap Clemson’s 54-0 win over Syracuse….

There were some indications coming into Saturday’s contest that Deshaun Watson could be in store for a big day. Talk about what you saw out of #4 versus Syracuse and what it could mean going forward for this team.

MC- First and foremost Deshaun was on target on the deep balls.  He came into the game at 32.6% on passes over 20 yards and was 2 of 3 for 88 yards and a touchdown at that distance and the one incompletion was a drop by Mike Williams.  Some of that may have to do with the competition, but either way he was on target.  He looked focused and decisive both when throwing and running.  He appears to be ready for an electric stretch run similar to 2015.

MW- He was dialed in and had the best touch on his throws that we’ve seen all season. Clemson’s offense goes as Deshaun Watson goes, and his ability to execute at that kind of level is terrifying to the opposition. One should be optimistic that he’s hitting his stride and putting it together at the right time in the season.

CC-I talked about him having a clean pocket to work with this weekend and it came to fruition. The result? One of Watson’s best performances of the year. Of his 3 incompletions one was a drop by Mike Williams and another came after injuring his shoulder.  He was also able to connect on a couple deep balls and avoid turning the ball over, which seems to be the missing pieces to the puzzle. Should be a fun ride for #4 down the stretch.

 

Let’s stay focused on the offense and discuss what you saw out of Deon Cain this weekend. Is he finally emerging into the dominant playmaker we’ve thought he could be?

MC- It’s been interesting seeing Mike Williams targeted on more short passes while Cain has become the gamebreaker.  The 10 yard loss was ugly, but the guy was trying to make a play.  He’ll learn from that.  Looking back you wonder if Cain’s absence cost the Tigers a national championship last year as it appears that he can’t be covered deep.  If Watson has found his touch on the deep ball and Cain comes to play, look out Clemson opponents.

MW- Well, he’s at least emerged as the best deep threat on the team. If anything he can run a fly, and the Watson/Cain deep threat is something that teams will have difficulty with and have to consistently honor. He still has some improving to do in the short and intermediate game, but that will come with time.

CC-Just real happy to see Cain going up and getting the ball. He seemed to have a bad case of the drops earlier in the season, but those days seem to be forgotten with his recent performances. The staff has pinpointed Deon as the Tigers primary deep threat, and he seemingly gets behind man coverage nearly every time he’s left one on one. 8 touchdowns on just 22 receptions is one hell of a ratio. Looks like he’s setting himself up to be the go-to guy a year from now.

 

I know Clemson decided to take what was given to them through the air, but what were your takeaways from the rushing attack? Thoughts on the offensive line and the pecking order behind Gallman?

MC- The running game is not the same as last year and at some point we need to realize that. Coming into the game Watson had 82 more pass attempts than through 8 games in 2015, more than 10 a game.  He’s thrown over 50 passes once and has multiple in the 40s.  The Tigers miss Eric Mac Clain.  I liked what I saw from C.J. Fuller Saturday, but didn’t see what the coaches saw earlier in the season.  Depending on the situation I would go Fuller, Feaster, Dye, Choice.  I believe Feaster is in line for more carries in the next few games.

MW – As Marty said, they aren’t on par with last season’s rushing attack, but have at least been serviceable, especially in big games. Thought Fuller and Feaster looked good. You can tell that the game is starting to slow down a bit for Fuller, who ran with better patience and vision than we’ve previously seen. I really thought Feaster was going to break a big one whenever he got a carry, and nearly did a couple of times. Tavien really has a quick burst once the ball touches his hands, seemingly gaining 2-3 yards before the defense really reacts. The remaining slate up until the ACC Championship game should provide opportunities for the backup RB’s to gain critical experience.

CC-Yeah color me surprised that Clemson isn’t just as successful, if not more, on the ground this year. Coming into the season I figured the stable of backs would allow the Tigers the luxury of implementing a physical rushing attack, but that just doesn’t seem to have come to fruition. Granted, Clemson did rattle off +200 yards on the ground against Syracuse but I think I speak for the majority of viewers that believes something is missing. Fuller runs hard, and I think he serves as a great short yardage back. You can see the light coming on for Feaster he just needs more reps to get comfortable. Looks like the ship is sailing on Choice, and Dye just seems to be the odd man out in the rotation.

 

After Schuessler’s surgeon-like execution, the separation between he and Kelly Bryant appears to be as big as it’s ever been. Talk about your confidence level in Dr. Schuess and share your thoughts on Bryant’s future moving forward.

MC-  It’s different when the score is 23 or 30 to 0 and starting the game or when playing an opponent that is not outmanned.  Schuessler’s a good backup quarterback and depending on the opponent, could get the Tigers a win or two.  However, without a consistent running game I think it’d be difficult to win a contest where the talent is more even. As far as Bryant goes, I think he’s always going to limited until, and unless, he becomes more consistent as a passer.

MW- Schuessler looked a like a solid, serviceable backup. He had some confidence in his game, and clearly knows the playbook well. Obviously a significant drop-off talentwise between he and Watson, as to be expected, but he had a fairly impressive showing on Saturday. The coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust Kelly Bryant to throw the ball, and that’s something that’ll need to quickly change if he wants to be the starting QB in 2017. Personally, I have a difficult time seeing him progress to QB 1 status between now and 2017 and foresee someone with more natural passing ability to get the nod.

CC-A couple things I really liked out of Schuessler’s performance were the zip on the screen passes and understanding of the playbook. Every time he dropped back it appeared he was comfortable with his first or second options. And when the coaches drew up a screen the ball was there on a line and in front of the receiver to lead him. While no one’s saying he’s DW4, I think there’s several folks wishing he had one more year of eligibility. Concerning Bryant I think the play calling when he’s in the game tells you all you need to know. A lot has to change between now and August 2017 for Bryant to be named starter.

 

Moving over to the defensive side of things, let’s talk about what you saw out of Venables game plan to thwart Dino Baber’s fast paced attack.

MC- Sometimes words don’t adequately describe how good of a coordinator Venables is and when you give him the arsenal he has at his disposal, well, you tend to get yesterday’s results.  Not sure what to say besides “A thing of beauty”.

MW- Venables just always has a plan and always has his boys ready. Interesting to see him line up his DE’s further outside essentially as LB’s to assist on the horizontal threats of Syracuse’s offense. It was a dominant performance all the way around against an above average uptempo offense.

CC-Matt alluded to it above, but I loved the 3-4 look with guys like Bryant and Yeargin dropping back into coverage. Both of those guys played linebacker in high school and I thought it was a wise move to utilize their versatility against Syracuse’s short, quick passing attack. The linebackers didn’t seem to get lost in coverage too, which was a concern of mine with a WR like Ervin Phillips on the other team. Dorian O’Daniel looks like a DB out there in coverage and he’s a guy that doesn’t get near enough praise for the things he’s able to do at the SLB position.

 

Yesterday was probably the best game of the year for the Clemson secondary, who posted 3 interceptions against the nation’s #5 passing attack. With the back end perhaps being the weakest link in the Tiger defense, could this week’s performance help build confidence moving forward? Also, Mark Fields found himself matched up against Amba Etta-Tawo for most of the game. What does that tell you about the staff’s increasing confidence in his play?

MC- Coming into the season the secondary was considered the weak link, but 9 games in I would argue the weakest link is the linebackers in coverage.  Considering the game flow and score, it’s difficult to make any grand conclusions on Fields play.  Etta-Tawo separated from Fields for a nice first down on a slant in the 1st and early in the 2nd he was open, but overthrown. Etta-Tawo got his receptions but his impact was limited, which is the ultimate goal.  There are playmakers back there if you think about it – Carter, Edmond, Tankersley and Fields.  In today’s football teams are going to get open, get yards and score (generally).  Limiting the big plays is the key and for the most part this group has done that.

MW- The secondary is coming along, and perhaps most importantly has continued to play smart, disciplined football, not allowing the busts and big plays that Clemson fans were accustomed to seeing last season. The staff clearly sees Fields as an elite cover corner talent, it’s just taken awhile for him to figure it out between the ears. The light is starting to come on, and thus his snaps have increased in recent games. It’s a very good sign moving forward, and you can see his confidence growing each week.

CC-While far from perfect I think something has to be said about the lack of big plays allowed this year. Jadar Johnson’s play this year has been nothing short of amazing and I’d opine that he’s the best safety the Tigers have had under Venables. A shame we really only get to see him for one year as the full time starter. It also appears the staff finally trusts Fields enough to give him extended reps. I think he possesses lock down corner ability and the only thing holding him back is the mental side of things. He didn’t lock Etta-Tawo down by any means, but the reps against a player of that talent level will pay dividends down the road for Fields.

 

Up next, Ben Boulware’s suplex and ensuing flag. Right call? Wrong call? Does he have a future in professional wrestling if the football thing doesn’t work out?

MC- Boulware plays with an edge and is the player you love on your team, but would be screaming at if he was on the other team. The game has changed though and anything seen as excessive or even looks like it might be excessive is going to be flagged (except for N.C. State hit on Gallman).  Arguing about whether the whistle blew or not is pointless.  The officials are more worried about how it looks than the actual legality of the play.

MW- It didn’t surprise me too much, looked like the refs simply felt like that had to call something because of how it looked. Boulware did appear to have exceptional technique, and may receive a call from Vince McMahon sooner than later.

CC-I don’t necessarily agree with the call, but I understand why they threw it. Boulware has built a reputation and you’re foolish if you don’t think the officials have a close eye on #10. The best comparison I can make is when DJ Swearinger played at South Carolina. Tiger fans certainly feel a certain way about him, but to fans in Columbia he represented their defense’s passion and tenacity. Boulware fills a similar role for the Tigers and I, personally, enjoy watching his brand of football.

 

In closing, feel free to share any other takeaways and/or observations from Clemson’s blowout win.

MC- This was the Clemson the nation has been clamoring for over the first 8 games.  Can they sustain it moving forward?  That’s what I’m interested in.  That and Watson’s health.  It’s notable he was injured running the ball and not being sacked.  I would guess his rushing attempts will be limited the next two games, at least. Also, a tad worried about Greg Huegel.  From the first kickoff he seemed to be off and he followed that a missed extra point and missed field goal.  A one game issue or something to worry about?

MW- Finally a complete game. The focus and execution were there, allowing Clemson to do what they’re supposed to do to weaker opponents. It’s a good sign moving forward, as you want to play your best ball at the end of the season. With the remaining slate of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and South Carolina, this should not be a one time type of performance for this team.

CC-The three games Deshaun hasn’t turned the ball over? SC State, Boston College, and Syracuse. The combined score in those games? 169-10. Pretty telling if you ask me. The remaining slate offers up opportunities to put together similar performances and I’m curious to see if this team can peak at the right time. A couple other random musings: Tanner Muse is going to be a great player for Clemson. Despite an “off” day Huegel still drilled a 46-yarder. Maybe Michael Batson needs some more looks at punter after rattling off a 46-yard punt. No one does Military Appreciation Day better than Clemson.

 

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MC- Deshaun Watson, Defense (would have given it to Venables for game plan if allowed)

MW- Deshaun Watson, Defense (Can’t pick just one)

CC-Deshaun Watson, The entire defense

 

Play of the Game

MC- Tanner Muse’s 64 yard pick six that was tipped 4 times, off a Syracuse players leg and then Muse’s speed.  

MW- 65 yard perfectly thrown deep-ball TD from Watson to Cain.

CC- 65 yard TD from Watson to Cain to cap a 2 play 95 yard drive

 

Austin Bryant Injured

Multiple media outlets are indicating that Austin Bryant suffered a foot injury and will be out “a few weeks”, with a possible return for the Georgia Tech game. Bryant had a screw inserted in his foot per orangeandwhite.com.

Speculation on possible replacements include Clelin Ferrell moving to strong side defensive end, Richard Yeargin to weak side defensive end and the much talked about move of Christian Wilkins seeing time at defensive end.

Other options include red shirt sophomores Chris Register and Jabril Robinson.

State of the Program: Defensive End

StateofProgramDE

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

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

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

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

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

Commitments
None

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

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

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Spring Game Roundtable

image1Your SUR team of Chris Cox, Matt Wilczewski and Marty Coleman go round the table and discusses the Clemson spring game.

With several positions up for grabs, especially on the defensive side of the ball, what positional battle do you find the most intriguing?

Marty: Mine is actually on the offensive side. The backup quarterback position and what that means not only for 2016, but also 2017 intrigues me more than any other position.

Matt: Cornerback opposite of Tank. With injuries and the departure of Alexander, depth has taken a huge hit. And who steps up? Right now Mark Fields is slated as the starter as he begins his second season as a Tiger, but I’m not necessarily convinced he has the mental aspect of the position held down. Adrian Baker was second in line, but now likely out until mid-season. The quiet emergence of Marcus Edmond may be one to keep an eye on. He hasn’t gotten much playing time during his tenure, but Swinney has praised his knowledge at times throughout the spring. Is he a legitimate contender to become the starter or is it simply coach speak to push Fields? Ryan Carter is your “utility” man at corner, safety and nickel if needed. And I believe at least one of the incoming freshman of Trayvon Mullen and K’Von Wallace will avoid redshirt, but also potentially vie for serious playing time if no one else steps up. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see. Biggest positional question mark in my opinion.

Chris: I’m going to go with the weakside defensive end battle between Richard Yeargin and Clelin Ferrell. Yeargin certainly has the inside track with experience, but Ferrell has a big athletic frame that, when paired with Austin Bryant, would give Clemson a similar look to last year’s dynamic duo of Lawson and Dodd. You could also make the argument that Yeargin’s skill set closely mimics that of Vic Beasley. Either way, that’s a position I actually feel pretty good about at this point in time.

If you had to pick one player to watch during the Spring Game who would it be?

Chris: Kelly Bryant. We got a nice little glimpse of Bryant’s running abilities last season when he torched Miami for two long touchdown runs. We all knew he was capable of that, so no surprises there. What I would like to see out of Bryant is progression in his passing game. He only attempted 9 pass attempts as a true freshman and that’s likely telling of the coaches trust in his throwing/decision making. It’s no secret that this could very well be Watson’s last season in a Clemson uniform, so it’d be nice to start seeing his possible heir apparent make some headway.

Marty: Adam Choice. Sounds ridiculous at first when you consider Wayne Gallman is returning after breaking the single season rushing mark, but one tweaked ankle or knee and the Tigers will need an every down back. Zac Brooks had a few moments in 2015, but was too inconsistent running the ball, so Clemson skirted through the season with 1 back for the most part. Brooks is gone and Tyshon Dye hasn’t been the same since his injuries.

Matt: Big Dex. Sure, there’s plenty of other storylines and battles, but I’m just way too hyped to finally see the monster himself in orange. Reports from spring ball rave of his ability to move with his unearthly size in the trenches. I’d like to see how he fares against the big nasties of the offensive line. Crowder, Guillermo, Hearn. And with the “watch” on for Lawrence, could his emergence bump Wilkins into a semi-regular role at defensive end? But most importantly, it’s my first peek at the former 5-star and #2 player in the nation. Can’t wait.

What, if any, changes would you make to the format of the Spring Game to make it more compelling for the masses?

Matt: This is an easy answer for me: Move it away from Masters Weekend. It’s amazing the number of people I know who have hesitation and decision-making each year because of the Masters Weekend. I even ran a Twitter poll last week asking Clemson fans whether or not the Masters has an effect on their spring game attendance. 225 votes were made and 27% said yes, it does effect my spring game attendance. Balloon that out to 2015’s spring game attendance, 37,000, and that is nearly 10,000 people who are having to decide between Clemson Spring Game or Masters. Even if it was 15%, that is still 5,000 stuck in limbo. Swinney recently asked for a big turnout, that he wanted to see 50,000 in Death Valley on Saturday. Well…moving that date could just create the big swing he’s looking for.

Chris: I’ve seen a couple different tactics already used this Spring with Rich Rodriguez getting the fans involved at Arizona and Jim Harbaugh hosting the game under the lights on a Friday. Both of those are nice little tweaks, but mine is going to be a little more simple…move it from Master’s weekend. I’m not even a golf guy per say, but I do know plenty of Clemson folks that are and that keeps them from making the trip to Death Valley. Even though this game is virtually meaningless, it would still be nice to have it on a weekend that’s not occupied by one of the biggest sporting events in the country.

Marty:  I’m not sure what you can do without risking injury.  You want Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams to put on a show on Saturdays in the fall, not on a Saturday in April in a largely meaningless game.  Let the young guys get reps and make it as fan friendly as possible (which I believe it is).  A chance to be on campus and see this team should be enough.  A move away from Masters Weekend would make a lot of sense.

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Picks to break out on defense in ’16

Breakout D

The SUR team (Chris Cox, Matt Wilczewski and Marty Coleman) forecast breakout players for Clemson in 2016.  Today we look at the defensive side.

MW: I’ll go with Jadar Johnson on this one. He may not “breakout” in terms of flashiness and highlights, but I believe he’s prepared to be a true leader in the secondary. Looking there you have he and Smith at safety, then likely Fields and Tankersley at the corners. So there’s youth with the exception of Johnson and Tank, and then more youth in the depth chart with Muse, Wallace, Mullen, etc. The “No Fly Zone” needs a leader to step up and Johnson fits the bill. He’s paid his dues the past few seasons, receiving limited playing time with 231 snaps last year and 242 in 2014. He’s had the opportunity to learn the free safety position from TJ Green for a couple years, allowing him to gain an understanding of the defense. Early observations from spring practices are positive, noting his knowledge of the position and nose for the ball. Green left a big hole in the secondary with his early departure, but here’s to believing Jadar is ready to fill in capably.

Others/Honorable Mentions:

Marcus Edmond: Another vet with the opportunity to step into a major defensive void. Fields has the tools to handle the field(wide side of the field) cornerback position opposite of Tankersley, but I’m not sure he has it down mentally. Swinney has mentioned Edmond’s name several time in spring practice, and in his fourth year should have the knowledge of the position.

Dexter Lawrence: This could’ve been my top choice, but it would almost be cheating. He’s a 5-star load in the middle of the defensive line that cannot be kept off the field. Does he still have work to do mentally? Sure. But with his athletic ability you must play him. A lot. Can’t wait to see big Dex in action.

MC:When Brent Venables says that “Kendall Joseph was our best Mike” and “It wasn’t even close” when talking about the spring of 2015, I listen.  Venables is not one to throw out compliments of that nature especially considering he had a pretty good Mike in B.J. Goodson, who led the Tigers in tackles.  Joseph got injured and rarely saw the field, totaling 63 snaps and only 5 after the Miami game.  Meanwhile, Goodson started all 15 games and played 877 snaps, while racking up 160 total tackles, including 14 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 PBUs and 17 QB pressures.  Now is Joseph’s time to shine and he’s playing a position that will be in the middle (intended) of the action and his numbers will reflect that.

The last we saw of Richard Yeargin he was flattening Joe Mixon in the Orange Bowl.  While the contemplated occasional move of Christian Wilkins muddies the picture at defensive end a bit, I still think Yeargin sees significantly more than the 147 snaps of 2015 and becomes more of an impact player.  Without the two potential first round draft picks in Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd we’re more likely to see a rotation at end and I believe Yeargin will play a big part in that.

CC:  There’s no shortage of options to choose from on the defensive side of the ball, and there will likely be several breakout players if Clemson is to have any kind of success in 2016. But I’m going to roll with redshirt freshman defensive end Clelin Ferrell as my pick for a breakout season.  He’ll be battling with Richard Yeargin for the starting weakside defensive end spot, and all indications thus far point to both players having great Spring practices.  I have to admit that some of my bias comes from comments made by Swinney regarding Ferrell’s playing status as a true freshman from a season ago.  He stated the Ferrell was in line to play over Bryant until he broke his hand just a couple weeks before the start of the season.  I think we were all impressed with what Bryant last year, and the fact that Ferrell was ahead of him tells me that the kid can play. I obviously don’t have much evidence to base my opinion off of other than coach speak and old high school film, but I’ve maintained the thought that Ferrell is the best pure end Clemson has signed since Lawson. We’ll get a chance to see if that’s true this Fall.

Some other guys that are sure fire candidates for potential breakout status include DT Albert Huggins, LB Kendall Joseph, CB Mark Fields, FS Van Smith, and any of 5-star early enrollees. I thought the staff may have wasted a year by playing Huggins as a true freshman, but in their defense he didn’t seem to hold up his end of the bargain. You never know how a guy will respond until you run him out there and he just wasn’t ready from a physical or mental standpoint. Huggins has supposedly transformed his physique so I’d expect to see a different player this time around. Joseph is a guy that reminds me a lot of former Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey. Just a guy that has a nose for the ball and isn’t scared to stick his nose in the pile. Venables has also gone on the record saying that Joseph was clearly ahead of Goodson at this time a year ago. Injuries kept him off the field early and Goodson’s stellar play kept him off the field late. If he’s not up to the task there’s a certain 5-star freshman by the name of Tre Lamar that certainly looks ready to play. Sophomore defensive backs Mark Fields and Van Smith will also step into starting roles this year, and both have the ability to turn some heads in ’16.  These are two guys that can also help fill the swagger void left by Mackensie Alexander’s departure.

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2016 Spring Questions – Defensive End

Editor’s Note: 3rd in a 6 part series examining the biggest question marks for Clemson spring practice.

Chris Cox (CC) and Marty Coleman (MC) answer six questions surrounding Tiger football.

Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd will be plying their trade in the NFL next fall, leaving not one, but two gaping holes in the Tigers defensive line.  Rising sophomore Austin Bryant gained some extensive experience against Oklahoma and seems to be a lock at one spot.  Who starts at the other end?

CC:  I agree that Bryant seems to have a firm grasp on the SDE spot vacated by Lawson. Heck, there were times last year when he looked like a “Baby Shaq” out there. He’s going to be a good one. At WDE, you’re going to see Richard Yeargin (RS SO) and Clelin Ferrell (RS FR) battle for the starting spot. Yeargin is built in the mold of a Vic Beasley, in that he possesses dynamic speed off the edge. Ferrell on the other hand, is almost a carbon copy of Dodd at 6’5” +270. Your guess is as good as mine at who earns the starting spot between the two, but I can tell you that the staff was inclined to play Ferrell over Bryant last season before he broke his hand prior to the start of the season. Former linebacker Chris Register (RS SO) also figures to finally earn some playing time after being one of Clemson’s prize recruits in their 2014 class.XavierKellyNSD

Another name to keep an eye on is incoming freshman Xavier Kelly, who will step on campus ready to compete immediately. Kelly is also a star basketball player, which gives you a little glimpse into the kind of athlete he is. While it may not be reasonable to expect production on the level Clemson fans have grown accustomed to over the past two seasons, I still believe this group will be among the tops in the ACC. I’d also like to point out that they’ll have plenty of help on the interior line that will should ensure more 1-on-1 matchups.

Speaking of the interior line, word broke earlier this week that sophomore tackle Christian Wilkins will be taking reps outside during Spring practice. That is certainly an intriguing development, but at this point I tend to believe he’d only be put at end if injuries occur or there is a flat out need for help.  Nonetheless, the mere thought of Bryant/Watkins/Lawrence/Wilkins all on the field at once is scary.

MC: So, Christian Wilkins is going to take reps at defensive end, huh?  That’s interesting, but the Tigers make their bones on depth in the interior and I think that’s where Wilkins will be barring something unforeseen outside.

Austin Bryant has to be the leader headed into the clubhouse after his performance vs. Oklahoma and I would be shocked if he’s not the guy to replace Lawson.  As Chris noted above, the thinking last season was Ferrell was going to play over Bryant until the injury, so the coaches are aware of his skills. I haven’t seen a lot of Yeargin, so the spring could be huge for him to get a shot at place in the rotation.

There doesn’t seem to be a lack of talent, but a lack of experience.  Lawson and Dodd only started one year each, but both had been around the program longer than the current crop. Dabo had good things to say (or course) about mid-year enrollee LaSamuel Davis of Bamberg and given that he’ll participate in the spring he may have an advantage over Xavier Kelly.

My big takeaway from this position is that there is a ton of production to fill and it’ll take a rotation more than 2 guys.

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Tigers Tampa hopes begin and end with Deshaun Watson

Every team that plays for a championship and comes up short of the title believes they’ll be back.  They are almost always wrong.  A championship season takes an incredible confluence of coaching, talent, luck and karma to win the title.  Like almost every team before them the Clemson Tigers believe they’ll be back, though there is some skepticism, even among the Tiger faithful.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if the Tigers will, in fact, be in Tampa next January.  There’s more than 200 days between now and opening day of 2016 and, as last off-season showed, a lot can happen between now and then.

But there’s reason to believe that Clemson has a fair shot at returning in 2016 and here are a few:

Deshaun Watson
The day after the championship game was an eye opener for me and proved that a lot of the talking heads around the country don’t watch the games, not even the ones played by the team that hold the top ranking.  “Wow, Deshaun Watson is good!” was the consensus.  Clemson fans and those that actually watched the games knew Watson was special and it didn’t start in 2015. The second pass of his college career zipped by the ear hole of a Georgia LB for a touchdown.

My deep analysis for the championship game was, “Clemson has Deshaun Watson”.  That goes for 2016, too.





Dabo Swinney
Swinney is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one thing Swinney is not is complacent, even with his team placing ahead of 126 others.  He will not rest on his laurels.  He will not let his team rest on their laurels.  If it’s true that a team takes on the personality of the head coach, the Tigers will want it more in 2016 than they did in 2015.

Turnover Turnaround 
Each season Phil Steele opines on turnovers and how a major component of turnovers are luck and how generally, if you are bad at turnovers one season you’ll be better at them the next year.  It’s obviously not a scientific certainty, but the theory is that some of the bad luck of the previous season tends to shift to good luck the next season. That’s bad news for the rest of college football because the Tigers were bad at turnovers during their run to the title game coming in at -2 in 6 games.  In full disclosure Clemson wasn’t bad at turnovers in “big” games, but in games that were closer than expected the Tigers stunk at turnovers.

Expect fewer turnovers for Clemson and more blowouts in 2016.

Mike Williams
All year we heard about teams playing without their best wide receiver or other injured star, yet little was made by the national media of Mike Williams’ injury that cost him all but 12 plays of the 2015 season.  Deshaun Watson threw for 4,100 yards and 35 touchdowns without his best wide receiver and deep threat. Let that rattle around in your noggin for a while.

Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster
Wayne Gallman had a breakout season, breaking the Clemson single season rushing record and runs with a passion and violent streak rarely seen in college football.  Gallman and Watson shouldered almost all of the load on the ground.  2016 will see the return of Adam Choice and the debut of 5-Star back Tavien Feaster.  Maybe Watson will carry the ball less and Ed Cunningham will be at a loss for words.  I doubt it.  Either way the addition of these two will make the Clemson running game even more dangerous, which in turn makes Watson….even more dangerous.

Front 7 on D
Is it possible that the front 7 can be a strength when Clemson loses Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd D.J. Reader and B.J. Goodson? Christian Wilkins, Scott Pagano, Austin Bryant, Richard Yeargin, Albert Huggins and 2015 redshirt Clelin Ferrell, among others, say yes. Already on campus are three 5 star talents:  Rivals #2 overall recruit Dexter Lawrence (DT) and #6 recruit Rahshaun Smith (LB) and Tre Lamar Rivals #16 recruit (LB).  The Tigers will be younger, but an argument could be made that the overall talent level will be similar, if not better.

Losing the bookend defensive ends is a hit, but the interior will be solid and the talent and depth at linebacker will be solid.

Addition by Subtraction
There is no doubt the Tigers will miss the cover skills of Mackensie Alexander and also lose safeties T.J. Green and Jayron Kearse from the defensive backfield.  That’s 3/4ths of a group compiled a very stingy pass completion ratio.  The problem was when a pass was completed it often went for big yards. This group took chances, which worked out spectacularly for Clemson at times and horribly at other times.  This likely means that in 2016 the completion percentage may increase, but I expect fewer big plays against the defense.

None of this, of course, guarantees a return to the title game for Clemson.  Road trips to Auburn, Tallahassee and Atlanta await, as do home games with Louisville, Pittsburgh and N.C. State.

Plenty could change between now and and next January and even if it doesn’t, chemistry is a huge variable in the evolution of a team and college football is the greatest reality show on TV.  Just ask Ohio State.

The cupboard isn’t bare, not by a long shot.  This is closer to a reload, not a rebuild, but only 2 teams will make it to Tampa.

And the Tigers have Deshaun Watson.

Depth Depleted Along D-Line, but Talent to Reload Exists

VenablesOne of the biggest storylines around this year’s Clemson football team just got bigger — or thinner, depending on how you look at it.

Even before head coach Dabo Swinney’s announcement yesterday morning that Ebenezer Ogundeko had been dismissed from the football team “for a violation of team rules and behavior detrimental” to the team, it was widely known the Tigers’ defensive line depth has diminished from last season’s top-ranked defense.

Six of the eight players who received at least one start along Clemson’s defensive front a year ago have departed campus and landed on an NFL team.

The Falcons used their first- and fifth-round picks on Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett before Tavaris Barnes, Corey Crawford, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams signed free-agent deals with the Saints, Redskins, Broncos and Bengals, respectively.

This was Ogundeko’s opening for increased playing time heading into his sophomore season, but his future at Clemson would soon evaporate after he was arrested and charged with one count of financial transaction card fraud due to his work with another person to alter the number on the magnetic strip on the back of his credit card, which multiple sources reported.

Ogundeko — a former four-star recruit from Brooklyn, N.Y., who redshirted during the 2013 season prior to playing in seven games and logging a handful of tackles last year — was carving out a more sizable role and primed to be one of the first names called as a substitution at defensive end.

“I’ve seen Ebo grow and improve,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said following Clemson’s second scrimmage of the spring on April 1. “He’s gotten better.”

“Ebo showed that he can play winning football,” Venables added after the spring game later in the month.D.J. Reader closes in on an S.C. State runner

Now without his services, and without other front-four cogs that combined for 23 of the 29 sacks the Tigers’ defensive line accounted for in 2014, Clemson doesn’t have the wealth of seasoned options at defensive end and defensive tackle that were there a season ago.

But though the team retained just three players with starting experience up front, the makeup and outlook of the expected starting unit is solid.

And behind them, there are players who have the potential to replenish the line’s depth and eventually, as they get more reps and game action, reduce the drop-off that is bound to occur when so many contributors pack up and move on.

“I think we’ll be strong up front,” Venables said following the spring game. “We’ve got to continue to develop and continue to get better in our pass rush.”

Shaq Lawson (one career start), who entered college as the No. 1 prep school prospect in the nation, has shown signs of stardom while waiting to start and is ready to break out in that role during his junior campaign. Similarly, Kevin Dodd has waited three years for his shot and will get it opposite Lawson at the other end spot.Shaq Lawson

In between them, senior D.J. Reader (four career starts) and junior Carlos Watkins (one career start) will step in as first-team tackles.

The composition of the second team and how it will be deployed is unclear, but talent is present.

One player in particular who caught the eye of Venables during the spring is defensive end Richard Yeargin III, who redshirted in 2014 after signing with Clemson as a three-star recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“Richard Yeargin has really shown something,” Venables said after the Tigers’ second spring scrimmage. “He’s starting to play faster, stronger, just playing more sure of himself, getting more comfortable. He’s still got to take another step, but I’ve been pleased with some things from him, as well.”

Scott Pagano, a Hawaii native and four-star signee in the 2013 recruiting class, Jabril Robinson, a three-star member of the 2014 class, and highly touted early enrollees Albert Huggins and Sterling Johnson will battle for alignment at defensive tackle behind Reader and Watkins, who said he isn’t overwhelmed by his new task of being a leader and mentor of the young assets.

Clemson football - Scott Pagano

Clemson football – Scott Pagano

“I kind of feel (the pressure),” Watkins said during the spring, “but you know what your goal is when you’re coming in, and you know you really can’t fold under pressure because you have younger guys behind you looking up to you, you and you have to be there for them in certain ways and certain areas.”

Summer workouts and fall camp will determine the course of several freshman defensive linemen, including five-star tackle Christian Wilkins and four-star ends Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell, and whether they will redshirt or become complimentary pieces.

Venables said in the spring that it is imperative for these players to begin their quest of restocking the defensive line by “just having a great summer in the next six months.”

“Really locking in and improving, attacking weaknesses and things of that nature,” Venables said. “I think we have a chance to be strong.”

2014 Recruiting Footprint

There are 20 points on the map because there are two each from Clemson and Columbia. The Atlanta area was very very good to Clemson.

2014 Recruiting Numbers by State
2014 Recruiting Footprint