In our fourth installment of our football previews, we sit down and chat with SBNation blog Shakin' The Southland about this week's upcoming game between the Eagles and the Tigers. Make sure to head over their later this week to see our responses to their questions.
BC Interruption: That was a tough game against Florida State last week. The Clemson offense was clicking, but the defense allowed over 500 yards to the Seminoles. Is Clemson's defense that bad, or was FSU's offense that good? Or a combination of both?
Shaking the Southland: The Clemson defense that you saw against FSU last week is really that bad. I'm not taking anything away from what FSU was able to do, because they have the talent to exploit it, but the defense is as bad as it looked. Auburn, Ball State, and Furman all had their fair share of success against this defense as well. In a few of these games we were just lucky enough to get redzone stops, so the scoreboard provide a proper indication of the defenses struggles.
There isn't an area on this defense that you can point to as a strength. The defensive line provides little resistance, even against the likes of Ball State and Furman. The DT's are getting washed out of plays and the DE's cannot set the edge or generate a pass rush to save their lives. Once runners get to the second level, they face LBs that either a) do not stay in their gaps, or b) do not know their gap responsibility. Lastly, the secondary guys take terrible angles towards ball carriers, fail to wrap up, and do not have the athleticism or whereabouts to make a play on a football while the ball is in the air.
Yeah. The defense is really that bad.
BCI: It seems like Clemson has a whole slew of offensive weapons this year. Who do you expect to have the biggest game against a struggling BC defense?
STS: This is an obvious one, but I'd watch out for Sammy Watkins. His first game back was against Furman, so only a few basic plays were run for him. Last week against FSU he saw bracketed coverage and was kept in check the entire game. I'm sure he has to be frustrated with his lack of production catching the football at this point and I'm taking a guess that he'll break out this week.
He'll be helped by the fact that Nuk Hopkins has become one of the best WRs in the country. He is playing himself into 1st or 2nd round NFL draft status and will garner a lot of attention from opposing DC's. CU fans have known how good he is for a couple of years, but others are starting to figure it out and it should open some things up for Sammy Watkins on the other side.
BCI: Chad Morris has done a pretty remarkable job revitalizing the Clemson offense, which went from 88th in 2010, to 26th last year. Where do you see the biggest changes in philosophy from Billy Napier to Morris?
STS: Chad Morris is quickly become a folk hero in Pickens County. His offensive playcalling is elite and was on full display in the 1st half against a very talented FSU defense. Under Napier, Clemson didn't really have an offensive identity because Dabo and Napier differed on offensive philosophy. Napier prefered to run a pro-style offensive out of an I-formation. Dabo leans more towards a spread type of offense. That's what makes the Chad Morris hire by Dabo such a great fit.
Morris is a disciple of Gus Malzahn, who as the offensive coordinator of Auburn road Cam Newton's back to a National Championship. His philosophy, in it's most basic element, is to spread the defense out and force them to play nickel to cover the speed and talent at WR, and then pound you in the A-gap with a straight ahead running game when you only have 6 in the box. He likes to use a lot of motion and window dressing to keep defenses honest and to open up running lanes. Clemson has gone from one of the worst BCS conference offenses to one of the best offenses in the country under Morris's guidance.
BCI: Tajh Boyd, who BC tried to recruit--not bitter or anything, has become one of the premier quarterbacks in the ACC. Talk a little about his strengths, and what parts of his game he needs to still improve on.
STS: I thought Tajh played really well last year, as evidence by his almost 4,000 yards, 33 TD and 12 INT season. But his biggest issue was pressing and forcing things when Clemson fell behind. Through 8 games last year, all victories, he had 24 TDs and 3 INTs. In the last 6 games, which CU went 2-4, he struggled with 9 TDs and 9 INTs. A big part of his struggles were the fact that Clemson fell behind early in those games and he tried to make plays that simply weren't there. To me, it was a team problem. We'd fall behind, the defense couldn't stop anybody, the offensive play calling became pass happy, and Tajh forced balls down the field trying to get us back in the game with a big play.
This year, on the other hand, he has shown to be much more in control of this offense. He has played with poise under pressure. He led Clemson to a 4th quarter comeback victory over Auburn in which he made plays with both his arm and his legs down the stretch. He played very well against FSU also, while facing pressure from one of the best defensive lines in the country. He dropped about 15-20 lbs in the offseason (you'll probably hear the announcers mention this several times during the broadcast) and it seems to have helped his confidence in the pocket. He is no longer a sitting duck. He's shown tremendous athleticism to escape the pass rush and get out of the pocket. Credit to him for putting in the hard work and dropping the bad weight.
BCI: The Vegas spread for the game is 10. Have Clemson fans stopped laughing yet? Okay in all seriousness, predict the outcome of the game.
STS: I was a little surprised by the spread when I orginally saw it. For a team that went toe to toe with the #4 team in the country for 3+ quarters at their place, I would've thought that we would garner a little more respect for Vegas. But, like I said earlier, this defense is really bad and Vegas is surely well aware of that.
I was worried that this could potentially be a letdown game after the emotional loss on Saturday night. But after Tajh Boyd called a players only meeting early in the week, it seems he may have gotten these guys to regroup and focus on the rest of the season. For that, I've become more optimistic about our fortunes for this week.
I think our offense should move the ball all game and put up a lot of points. But I also think Rettig will have his share of success against our porous defense. Clemson 45, Boston College 28.
Thank you for your answers, and make sure you stop by Shakin' The Southland for all of your Clemson news and opnions.