January 21, 2019

When the game changed – Florida State

Highlights almost always involve touchdowns, taking a kickoff or punt to the house, a strip sack, pick 6 or some other type of scoring play. In this series we wanted to highlight the less glamorous and often overlooked plays that turned some of Clemson’s biggest victories of the 2015 season. None involve a direct score, but they all impacted the game immensely.

Key Players: Shaq Lawson and Ben Boulware

Situation: With Clemson clinging to a 16-13 lead and 6:22 remaining in the game, FSU faced a 4th and 1 at the Clemson 40 with one of the most reliable kickers in college football history on the sidelines. A pitch to one the nations better running backs, Dalvin Cook, looked to be the perfect call – until Shaq Lawson managed to get a hand around Cook’s waist and Ben Boulware finished.

Result: Clemson drove 60 yards on 7 plays with Wayne Gallman taking it to the house from 25 on the ensuing drive for a 23-13 lead and end any FSU hope.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com

Do stars really matter? 5-Year NFL Draft Analysis

Do recruiting rankings really translate to football on Sundays? Find out below…

Top Plays from 2015: #1-5


Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins hauls in a beatuiful pass from punter Andy Teasdall (Photo: Nina Mandell/USA Today)

Clemson just capped off one of the best season’s in school history en route to a 14-1 record with an ACC Championship, Orange Bowl win, & a berth in the national championship game. In this feature we’ll take a look back at the Top 20 plays from the memorable season starting with #5 through #1…


#5. Ben Boulware’s one handed interception caps off Orange Bowl win versus Oklahoma
Clemson had already taken control of this game with a 20 point lead, but a touchdown on this drive for the Sooners would have put Tiger fans back on alert. No need to worry as the Sooner killer himself Ben Boulware was there to put the nails in the coffin. After recording a pick six a year ago against OU, Boulware had to match that feat with an impressive one handed grab followed by what appears to be a flying ninja knee to finish it off.


#4. Wayne Gallman’s late touchdown against FSU helps Tiger wrap up the ACC Atlantic crown
Couple things to see here: 1) The right side of the line does a great job of sealing the edge. 2) LB Reggie Northrup takes himself out of the play to cover for the blitzing corner. 3) Gallman is able to run through Terrance Smith’s arm tackle in stride. 4) He then freezes LaMarcus Brutus which allows him to get into the endzone. Clemson had struggled to put points on the board all game, but the Wayne Train continued to get better as the game wore on. He then capped off his 103 yard rushing performance with this 25-yard game winner.


#3. Shaq Lawson and Ben Boulware team up to prevent FSU 4th down conversion in Clemson territory
This play gets the nod over the previous one from the same game due in part to the fact it set up the drive that eventually led to Gallman’s touchdown run. Seminoles star RB Dalvin Cook had gashed the Tiger defense early, but Brent Venables’ unit tightened up in the second half only allowing him to gain 37 yards. What’s most impressive about this play is that Shaq Lawson appears to know exactly what’s coming as he immediately shoots out to the right directly towards the toss sweep. Once outside, the TE couldn’t slow him down and he gets an arm on Cook in the backfield causing him to change directions just before Boulware comes flying in to flatten him short of the first down marker. This play was crucial in that it kept FSU off the board in a 3-point game, and it also put the ball back in the hands of Watson & Gallman. You know the rest.


#2. Andy Teasdall to Christian Wilkins sparks Clemson versus the Sooners
In a game that many expected to be a shootout, both teams didn’t exactly light it up in the first 15 minutes. Fresh off a 46-yard run early in the 2nd Quarter by Deshaun Watson, the Clemson staff felt that they couldn’t let that momentum go to waste so they decided to cook up a little trickery on 4th and 4 from the Sooners 44-yard line. Oklahoma wasn’t ready for it and the 315 pound Christian Wilkins slipped down the sidelines to catch a beautiful toss from punter Andy Teasdall. What makes this play even sweeter is that Teasdall had been in Dabo’s doghouse for his failed fake punt in the ACC Championship a few weeks before this game. This ballsy play call may not have won the game for Clemson, but it certainly helped pump some life into a team that was looking for answers in the early goings.


#1. Clemson defense steps up to thwart #6 Notre Dame’s furious 4th quarter comeback in the downpour
Top 15 matchup. College GameDay. Sold out crowd. Torrential downpour. This contest had all the makings of an instant classic, and it surely delivered. Clemson built an early two touchdown lead on their first two drives and stretched their lead to 18 early in the 2nd half before the Irish began their ferocious 4th Quarter comeback. With 7 seconds left in regulation Notre Dame capped off a 19-point final quarter with a beautiful back corner touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer. That score set up the impending two point conversion attempt to force overtime. On the play you’ll see Kevin Dodd shoot out to the left, preventing Kizer from getting to the perimeter. In the middle Carlos Watkins slides to the left against a double team, but maintains his position on the line of scrimmage. Eventually those two Clemson linemen meet back up, along with a slew of other bodies, to stop Kizer short of the goal line. This win catapulted Clemson from #12 to #6 in the polls, and gave the Tigers a marquee top 10 win that would prove vital in the upcoming CFB Playoff rankings.


See the previous top plays here:

**As always check out our SUR Message Boards for the latest Clemson discussion and make sure to checkout our weekly Podcast for commentary from the SUR staff**

Podcast: NFL Draft Review, Recruiting Notes, Tweets of the Week

The SUR team recaps the NFL draft Clemson style and finds some interesting tweets, including one from our feathered friends in Columbia.

Time Marks:
01:20 – Shaq Lawson
03:40 – Kevin Dodd
06:26 – Mackensie Alexander/Jayron Kease
11:17 – T.J. Green
15:04 – B.J. Goodson
17:11 – D.J. Reader
19:32 – Charone Peake
21:53 – Zac Brooks
24:54 – Random NFL Draft thoughts (Tunsil, etc)
33:13 – Recruiting News and Notes
43:31 – Tweets of the week
54:17 – Coming Up on SUR

You can also download and subscribe to the podcast here via iTunes.

NFL Draft Preview: Where Will the Tigers Land?

Here are the various sources used for each breakdown of the Clemson prospects. Continue scrolling to see each prospect’s corresponding big board ranking and mock draft results.

Big Boards


Top 5 Most Accurate Mock Draft Analysts Last 5 Years(TheHuddleReport.com):

Popular/Reputable Mock Drafts:

*If you don’t see a Mock Draft under a prospect’s name, it means he was not selected in said Mock Draft. *

Shaq Lawson

  • Miller’s Big Board – #2 EDGE, #15 Overall, “Best vs Run,” “Best 4-3 End”, “Lowest Risk”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #13 overall
  • Boris – 11. Chicago Bears
  • Long – 11. Chicago Bears
  • Standig – 20. New York Jets
  • Clark – 19. Buffalo Bills
  • Mayock – 13. Miami Dolphins
  • Miller – 19. Buffalo Bills
  • WalterFootball – 12. New Orleans Saints
  • Zierlein – 20. New York Jets
  • Reuter – 8. Cleveland Browns

Kevin Dodd

  • Miller’s Big Board – #8 DE, #29 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #30 Overall
  • Boris – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Long – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Standig – 42. Miami Dolphins
  • Mayock – 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Miller – 26. Seattle Seahawks
  • WalterFootball – 32. Cleveland Browns
  • Zierlein- 30. Carolina Panthers
  • Reuter – 12. New Orleans Saints

Mackensie Alexander

  • Miller’s Big Board – #5 CB, #43 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #48 Overall
  • Long – 28. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Standig – 34. Dallas Cowboys
  • Miller – Rd. 2 Pick 31- Carolina Panthers
  • WalterFootball – 37. SF 49ers
  • Zierlein – 25. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Reuter – 48. Indianapolis Colts

TJ Green

  • Miller’s Big Board – #2 Free Safety, #44 overall, “Best Potential”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – #73 Overall
  • Standig – 59. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Miller – 29. Arizona Cardinals
  • WalterFootball – 84. Washington Redskins
  • Reuter – 29. Arizona Cardinals

Charone Peake

  • Miller’s Big Board – #9 WR, #55 Overall , “Biggest Sleeper”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 3- Pick #4 – Dallas Cowboys
  • WalterFootball – 105. SF 49ers
  • Reuter – 113. LA Rams

Jayron Kearse

  • Miller’s Big Board – #4 SS, #103 Overall, “Best Coverage”
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 4- Pick #24 – Cincinnati Bengals
  • WalterFootball – 178. Denver Broncos
  • Reuter – 136. Denver Broncos

DJ Reader

  • Miller’s Big Board – #28 DL, #236 Overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 7 – Pick #13 – Oakland Raiders
  • WalterFootball – 159. Houston Texans
  • Reuter – 119. Houston Texans

BJ Goodson

  • Miller’s Big Board – #25 LB, #234 overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed
  • Miller – Round 7 – Pick #6 – Miami Dolphins
  • WalterFootball – 107. Miami Dolphins
  • Reuter – 98. Denver Broncos

Eric Mac Lain

  • Miller’s Big Board – #23 Guard, #421 Overall
  • Mayock’s Big Board – Not Listed

NFL Draft Profile: Shaq Lawson

As the 2016 NFL Draft nears, we’ll take a look at several Clemson Tigers expected to be drafted. This includes observing the prospects’ strengths and weaknesses, clips from the season, and current analyst projections.

Going into the 2015 football season, expectations were skyhigh for Shaq Lawson. Coming in as a highly rated recruit out of Daniel HS and Hargrave Military Academy, most already knew of his talent and were just waiting for him to explode. Stuck behind defensive ends such as Vic Beasley, Tavaris Barnes, and Corey Crawford, Lawson had to wait until 2015 to fill into a starting role, but showed spurts of his potential in 10 tackles for loss in 2013 and 11 in 2014. This past season, his first as a starter, Lawson would produce 25.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks. Plenty of defensive end talent has come through Clemson, and one could argue Shaq Lawson is the most complete.

Lawson’s Positives:

  • Size – Prototypical defensive end size, built like a Mack Truck at 6’3″ 269 lbs. Has the filled out frame needed to contend with the largest and strongest offensive lineman in the league. “NFL Ready” would be the best way to describe Lawson’s build. Can step in on day one and make a difference.
  • Motor – Consistently putting pressure on blockers and working to shed them to get to running back or QB. Violent and aggressive defensive end, Lawson knows how to use his strength and power to work over offensive linemen. Notably tends to come up with extra push and energy in critical situations. Good example of this push and his motor is in the Florida State game as the Seminoles attempted to convert a 4th and 1.


  • Run Defense/Setting the Edge – Lawson’s large frame and strength allows him to be much more than a pass rusher as a defensive end. He knows how to push and use his hands, keeping the ball carrier to the inside. The ability to shed blocks in the run game is what provided Shaq with 25.5 tackles for loss in 2015, as few OL can prevent Shaq from controlling the line of scrimmage. Your best shot is running plays to the side opposite of Lawson. Example of Shaq quickly shedding the tackle’s block and creating a TFL.


Shaq utilizes his patented spin move in the run game. Quickly beats the tackle to the inside to place himself 1-on-1 with the ballcarrier.

Watch Shaq in a run defense situation in which a tight end tries to block him. Uses his power to simply toss the would-be blocker out of his way and makes a stop.


  • Pass Rush – The best way that I can describe Lawson as a defensive end is “complete.” He really can do it all. Has the size, the motor, the ability to stuff the run, and last but not least, is a terror rushing the quarterback. Shaq has a variety of power and finesse in his pass rushing game, able to administer several moves against the opposing tackle. He may hit you with the bull rush one play, then come back with a spin in the next. This versatility allows him to be deadly. Watching Lawson’s film, the best options are to either double team him and/or run the play to the opposite side(where you run into Kevin Dodd). There are few instances in which an offensive tackle will contain Shaq Lawson throughout an entire play. First example  of Shaq’s pass rushing prowess comes from the championship game, in which Lawson is initially held up until he unleashes a lethal swat to the outside of the tackle.

Lawson ends up getting double teamed by an Irish duo including likely first round draft pick, Ronnie Stanley(#78). Lawson shows off the spin move, forcing the two to tackle Shaq and take a holding penalty.

Miami tries to pull the right guard around to block Lawson.


Clemson only brings a two man rush of Dodd and Lawson here. Lawson impressing with the hands and footwork. Starts outside and hits the tackle with the quick cut back inside. Finishes the play off by slamming Kaaya.


When you need a big defensive play, call Shaq Lawson. Lawson comes up big in the ACC Championship to force a fumble and help thwart a UNC comeback. More hand strength to get to the outside. Not quite Vic Beasley quickness, but still finds ways to get around the tackle.

Reasons for Hesitation:

  • Shoulder – Lawson’s shoulder was flagged by one team during the medical check portion of the NFL Combine. Even though it was later re-evaluated and passed, it could still provide hesitation to teams, especially considering such teams would be considering Lawson as their first round draft pick. In addition, there is word that his shoulder could need a type of minor surgery prior to the 2016 season.
  • Late Start – One of Lawson’s reoccurring knocks is that he tends to be slow off the snap. Generally can make it up in the college level, but the pros will take advantage of a DE that doesn’t get off the ball quickly. It’s certainly a coachable flaw and one that Lawson can work on and improve as he gets into the league. A consistently explosive first step will take his game to the next level. Here’s an example against FSU where his late get off never allows him to have a presence in the play.

Another instance where Lawson is last to get out of his stance, and is easily handled by Stanley of Notre Dame.


  • Conditioning – Lawson will need to work on his conditioning and ability to go 100% throughout a full game. This past season he had tendencies of not going overly hard on certain plays that were run away from him, conserving it for use later. Naturally, when you play nearly all snaps in a game and a high motor, it’s difficult to keep your breath each play. But it’s still something that NFL teams have noted and will hope to improve. Conditioning is likely partially responsible for late get-offs in games as seen above. Notice a bit of fatigue in the clip below against FSU…


Josh Norris(RotoWorld) – First Round – 18. Indianapolis Colts

Matt Miller(Bleacher Report) – First Round – 11. Chicago Bears

Daniel Jeremiah(NFL.com) – First  Round – 16. Detroit Lions

Walter Cherepinsky(WalterFootball.com) – First Round – 12. New Orleans Saints

Dane Brugler(CBSSports) – First Round – 17. Atlanta Falcons

My Projection – First Round – 16. Detroit Lions – The Lions could use an additional pass rusher, especially considering they only have three DE’s under contract currently. Toss in the fact that Lawson privately worked out for the team and received rave reviews in an explosiveness drill, and this could provide a likely landing spot for Lawson. I considered going with Chicago at 11, but they run a 3-4 defense and Lawson is used to playing in a 4-3.

The Latest:

April 25th – MMQB(Peter King) via Rotoworld – “Peter King of The MMQB keeps hearing the Bears “will go defense” at pick No. 11. This site and others have projected a left tackle for the Bears to complete a revamped front five over the last two seasons. King, on the other hand, mocks Clemson’s Shaq Lawson to the Bears as an extra edge rusher for the defense. King adds Lawson could need a minor shoulder procedure prior to the season, almost certainly on the same shoulder that was flagged by one team during the NFL Combine.”

April 23rd – NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein via Rotoworld -” NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes that Clemson edge rusher Shaq Lawson will be drafted before teammate and fellow edge rusher Kevin Dodd. “Both are different in their approaches as pass rushers, so it might just be a matter of taste,” Zierlein wrote, “but Lawson’s clean combine medical recheck should boost his stock.” The medical issue in question was Lawson’s shoulder. During medical rechecks in Indianapolis earlier this month, the 6-foot-3, 270-pounder’s occasionally balky right shoulder (he wore a brace in 2015) was deemed clean and clear. He is a first-rounder through-and-through and could conceivably draw interest into the top-10, though that is not a given.”



Featured photo cred: Twitter

Video Clips via YouTube

Top Plays from 2015: 16-20


Hunter Renfrow’s first TD catch against Alabama in the National Championship (Source Photo: Kevin French/Icon Sportswire)


Clemson just capped off one of the best season’s in school history en route to a 14-1 record with an ACC Championship, Orange Bowl win, & a berth in the national championship game. In this feature we’ll take a look back at the Top 20 plays from the memorable season starting with #20 through #16…

#20. Jordan Leggett screen touchdown versus Miami
This play was the start of the end for Al Golden’s last game on the Miami sidelines. Clemson’s first drive down the field was a cakewalk and Leggett capped it off with an escort by his offensive line into the endzone. The fact that Miami didn’t pick up on the gimmick by the OL staying put adds even more insult to injury. This was the first of six touchdowns for the Tigers in the opening half.


#19. Hunter Renfrow’s first touchdown against Alabama
In Clemson’s first trip back to the national championship game in over two decades a former walk-on wide receiver delivers their first touchdown. And in picturesque fashion. Deshaun Watson put the throw on the money, but Renfrow did his part by toasting a former 5-star recruit in Minkah Fitzpatrick for the score. Renfrow wasn’t done embarrassing Fitzpatrick either as he went for another score against him just 5 minutes later.


#18. Zac Brooks trucks through an Oklahoma defender
Brooks spent the better part of his career battling through an assortment of injuries. But on this evening, and in particular this play, you can see Brooks unleash a can of pent up frustration on poor #13 for Oklahoma. This physical play encompasses exactly what Tony Elliott wants out of his backs and it was great to see the senior cap of his career with a bang, literally.


#17. Shaq Lawson’s strip sack of Marquise Williams in the ACC Championship
This sack was pivotal in that it helped thwart a ferocious comeback by the Heels, who had began to seize all the momentum after Clemson had began to let a 19 point lead slip away. On this play, Lawson absolutely manhandles the left tackle in pursuit of Williams and the refs could have even thrown in a flag for holding if they wanted. Clemson would add a field goal on their next drive, which helped create a much needed cushion to ensure the ACC Title. Without Lawson’s gamechanging play things may have gotten even more dicey for the Tigers down the stretch.


#16. Cordrea Tankersley caps off first half blowout against Miami with a pick six
Earlier you saw the first score for the Tigers, and here is the score that likely sent Miami’s Al Golden packing. Tankersley does a good job using his hips to stay in front of the receiver then proceeds to beat him on a 50/50 ball. And once he made the interception it was clear sailing to the endzone to finish off a 42 point first half performance in Sun Life Stadium. It’s plays like this that should have Clemson fans fired up about his move to the #1 corner spot this coming Fall.


**As always check out our SUR Message Boards for the latest Clemson discussion and make sure to checkout our weekly Podcast for commentary from the SUR staff**

Podcast: Recruiting news and notes, NFL draft talk, plus much more

Time Marks/Topics:

01:18-Recruiting News and Notes
13:25-NFL Draft thoughts
24:25-Marcus Lattimore denied position by NCAA
28:20-Rashan Gary and “Clemson Dan”
31:45-Marty’s stat corner
35:27-Starting Pitching
38:33-Finances and will the ACC exist in 10 years
44:50-Biggest test for Clemson other than FSU
47:53-Boom Bus
51:00-Pizzagate at Texas
53:40-Boston College Spring Game
54:56-Coming up on SUR

You can also download and subscribe to the podcast here via iTunes.

Recruiting Footprint Shift – Visual

It’s early in the 2017 cycle, but over the last 4 cycles it’s easy to see the shift the Clemson recruiting footprint has undergone. Back in 2012, over 47% of snaps taken were by South Carolina natives. By 2015 that had decreased to 29% and none of the current 2017 commitments are from the state of South Carolina.

For states with the population of South Carolina there are going to be good years and not so good years. The state has produced top notch, NFL talent in the past (Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, Nuk Hopkins, Andre Ellington, Jaron Brown and Martavis Bryant to name a few) and will do so again in the future.

2015 Season Wrap Podcast with OrangeandWhite.com

Brandon Rink and Brad Senkiw of orangeandwhite.com join me to review the 2015 season.

In this episode we discuss:

*Final thoughts and observations on the 2015 season.

*Look ahead to 2016 including 5 early NFL entrants and 4 big returnees.

*Talk 2016 schedule which includes road contests in Auburn, Tallahassee and Atlanta.

*Opine on the Tigers chances to make a return trip to the playoff.

Apologies in advance for technical issues during the podcast.

Thanks to Brandon and Brad for their time throughout the season.  I’ve enjoyed tagging along as they traipsed through ACC country and out west to Arizona to follow the Tigers epic journey.

IM BookThe Anderson Independent Mail has put together a hardcover book on the season titled “Earning The Stripes” that includes selected photos and stories from the historic 2015 season.  You can find more information and/or order here. (I do not receive anything for this plug (neither do they), just the satisfaction of helping promote the work of three good guys (including Dan Hope) who have been very generous to me and SUR).

You can download and subscribe to the podcast  via iTunes here or at the bottom of this page for iTunes or Android, play in this window or play in a new window.

Podcast artwork courtesy Eargle Design.