As we continue our march towards the beginning of the college football season, here's a look at our upcoming opponents. Today we look at the Eagles homecoming week opponent, the Clemson Tigers.
The Clemson 2013 Season In Review
Clemson finished the 2013 season 11-2, and ranked 8th in the country. For many programs this outcome would be seen as a positive experience. The Tigers won the Orange Bowl defeating Ohio State, they beat Georgia at home to start the season and they only lost one ACC game the entire season. But looking bigger picture there were two goals that Clemson set out for that they did not accomplish. They did not win the ACC, after getting trounced by Florida State 51-14, and they lost to instate rivals South Carolina for the fourth straight time. Both of those losses were hard pills to swallow for Dabo Swinney, Clemson and their fanbase.
However there were lots of positives to pull from 2013. Coasting through the ACC (minus FSU), and winning a BCS bowl were great accomplishments for the program. Tajh Boyd had a tremendous season finishing his career at Clemson with over 10,000 yards passing and 107 passing touchdowns. Sammy Watkins left the program and was a Top 5 draft pick by the Buffalo Bills, and looks to become one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL. And still with the program is Vic Beasley, who could be looking at putting together an award winning season this year at defense end.
The Clemson Offense
It's going to be an interesting season for Chad Morris and his Clemson offense. If you haven't acquainted yourself to Chad Morris, he is going to be a name you want to know. He is a dynamic offensive coordinator that has completely overhauled Clemson's offense into one of the best in the country, finishing the season 9th in yards per game with over 500. If you want to read more in depth about the schemes and plays he uses, definitely check out this article by SBNation's Ian Boyd who dissects the Clemson Playbook.
As mentioned above, Tajh Boyd has graduated which leaves a giant void of talent at the quarterback position. To make matters a little more complicated Chad Kelly was thrown off the team after an apparent altercation on the sideline with the coaching staff during the spring game. Earlier in April, Swinney named senior Cole Stoudt the starting quarterback. Stoudt who has thrown 86-119 for 742 yards and 8 touchdowns in his career. He may not be as mobile as Boyd was but Stoudt can still move the ball with his feet. If he struggles or is injured, look for freshman DeShaun Watson to get the nod. Watson, the #1 QB in the 2014 recruiting class could be a future ACC star.
Clemson also lost their starting running back from 2013, as Roderick McDowell graduated, leaving a trio of upper class running backs to take his place. Zac Brooks a junior has some experience and works well catching the ball as well, so he could be a potential replacement for McDowell. D.J Howard a senior has limited playing time as well, and he will be competing with redshirted freshmen Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman along with true freshmen Adam Choice and Jae'lon Oglesby.
The wide receiver position will again see big changes after the departures of Sammy Watkins and Martavius Bryant. While there is no real established wide receivers on the roster, there is a slew of young talent that could be ready to step up and make moves. The leading returning receiver is Adam Humphries who at 5'11 projects more as a slot receiver. Charone Peak is a name that is worth looking out for, he is a very talented wide out that will be returning to Clemson after missing last season with a knee injury. Young sophomores Germone Hopper and Mike Williams look to take a step forward as well.
On the offensive line Clemson lost 3/5 of their starters from last year including second team all ACC left tackle Brandon Thomas. Clemson's offensive line did let up a fair share of sacks in 2013, but that is what happens when your offense is on the field so much and has so many plays from scrimmage. Ryan Norton will be the starting center again this season after starting all 13 games last year for the Tigers, but their is questions at tackle (Isiah Battle/Shaq Anthony), and at guard with David Beasley battling with Kalon Davis and Eric McLain.
The Clemson Defense
In terms of style, Brett Venerable is going to bring in. None of this bend but not break non sense. He is going to have talented players that can create pressure on their own. SBNation's Bill C breaks down the defensive style opposing offensive coordinators can expect
Third-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables didn't need much time to craft a defense that works a lot like his 2007-08 Oklahoma defenses, which had a deep roster of attacking options of the line and allowed him to go to a semi-permanent nickel formation. Four linemen up front can almost create blitz pressure themselves, allowing seven super-fast defenders to sink into coverage.
Clemson leveraged offenses into short gains and mistakes. When the Tigers allowed a big play, it was a huge one -- they ranked 44th in allowing 175 10+ yard gains but ranked 81st in allowing 28 30+ yard gains -- but you can allow occasional big gains when you're forcing countless three-and-outs and 30+ turnovers. Clemson was fun and aggressive on defense in 2013, and while there may be a few more glitches in the secondary this year, the overall identity probably won't change much.
Watch out for Vic Beasley, who had 13 sacks last season, and almost definitely will be one of the top defensive ends in the country. If you don't remember him, let me give you a reminder of what he did to BC last season:
It won't just be Beasley that opposing offensive lines are going to need to scheme against. Grady Jarrett is a fine defensive tackle who led the Tigers in tackles last season, and Corey Crawford and Shaq Lawson who combined for 6.5 sacks last year.
In the linebacking group, keep an eye out for Stephone Anthony, a dynamic linebacker who could be one of the top in the ACC at the end of the year. The biggest question mark facing this defense in 2014 will be the secondary which will be trotting out a bunch of unproven yet talented commodities. Garry Peters and Martin Jenkins look to be the cornerbacks, with Adrian Baker and Marcus Edmond fighting for time. Clemson can cover up deficiencies on the back end though with the power up front.
Where BC Should Be Successful
Honestly I would like to see BC try and bring back the scheme that they used last year against Clemson. Anytime that you can keep a high scoring offense to 24 points, that is a formula you need to try again. The Tigers are certainly not the same team that we saw last year, and there is going to be some drop off offensively, so anyway that Don Brown and Ryan Day can scheme to take the legs out from under Clemson will be to the Eagles benefit. They'll have to continue what they did last year which is power running, ball control, and pressure the hell out of Cole Stoudt and hope for some turnovers. BC left a lot of points on the table last year, and if a few things went their way they could have won that one. Let's hope it's the same this year.
Where BC May Struggle
Clemson's defensive front is frightening. This is going to be one of a handful of games that I would predict BC's front line will struggle against a fast and ferocious defense. Vic Beasley is going to be a handful for whatever guard lines up against him, and there is too much talent up front for BC to simply double up on him. If BC goes out and starts the game out with a few quick three and outs on offense and allows Clemson's offense to find a groove, they could be in trouble. If the Eagles fall behind early that will fall right into Clemson's game plan and that could be disastrous.
Wayyyyyyy Too Early Prediction
Clemson 35 Boston College 21. I want to pick the Eagles to win against a ranked opponent like Clemson, I really do, however I just don't think it will be this one. The Tigers are far too talented on defense, and have enough weapons on offense to exploit the Eagles secondary. It may stay close for a while, but I expect the Tigers to walk away with a victory in this one.