Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Concluding thoughts on Clemson- nervous optimism

I rewatched the game. This time with ear plugs.

First, addressing yesterday's question. I might have overreacted, but not by much. We had 222 yards rushing on 41 attempts. Those are numbers we'd take nine times out of ten. But the bulk of the workload went right into the middle of Clemson's defense. To make matters worse they were keying on the slow developing draws and often Marshall never had a chance at getting into space before he even had secured the handoff.

So my answer, based mostly on film from last year that I also re-watched, is that our running game does indeed complement our backs. But Saturday against the Gamecocks we need to get back to stretching the defense out laterally more.

Other than that, not letting Grantham relay the first offensive play of the second half in (I mean, YGTBFKM. First play of the half and we get a delay of game? WTF?!?) and finding some consistency in the offensive line, there's not much to quibble over with the offense. Just a great game, both through the air and on the ground. Quayvon Hicks is going to be fun to watch and luckily Scott-Wesley has developed into a dependable target now that Mitchell is lost for the season.

On the defensive side of things, there is a lot of reason for optimism. Several different guys brought pressure in non-blitzing situations. Sterling Bailey, Ray Drew and Mike Thornton had good plays in the backfield. Of course, Jordan Jenkins is already proving he's ready to step in as this season's pass rusher extraordinaire. But he may be better against the run than Jarvis and Houston.

In the secondary, the young guys did as well as I think we could've asked. I had a chance to see Tray Matthews up close Saturday and he's a big kid with great speed. That we knew, but it'll be fun watching him, Langley and Wiggins develop. I was particularly impressed on a deep out to Watkins where Langley was clearly protecting against something deep and broke on the ball with authority. He closed with nearly enough speed to break up the pass that was well ahead of him. His arms are long. He had some mistakes, but overall he and the young secondary performed up to reasonable expectations for the offense they were facing.

Special teams...ok. The good is that the coverage teams were really good. Barber handled the kickoffs extremely well considering and placed the ball deep on all but one. He also netted over 42 yards per punt. The concerns were with the punt returns, or lack thereof (which appear to be part of the strategy as much as anything), and of course the botched snap on the field goal attempt.

The snap can be fixed with more reps, but Coach Richt has to find some balls to return some damn punts.

Overall, things are fixable. It'll develop as a big week for the coaches, the o-line and the special teams. The coaches have to make some adjustments and regroup after getting out-classed by Dabo's crew. But I think being at home will help things. If Bobo can use Murray's legs and a better designed and more varied run scheme, that will help the offensive line as much as anything. And that was the biggest concern coming out of Clemson. Those guys faced a defensive front that was allowed to play with their ears pinned back against a group who couldn't hear anything. You can't allow the Gamecocks to do that, because they are leaps and bounds better than the Tigers' defensive front.

So...moving on...we got beat by a good team. It shouldn't have happened as I still think we're better than what we saw. It's imperative that the coaches don't let this start slip into what we had in 2011, where a big and glamorous opening loss slipped right into 0-2 out of the gate.