As BC gets closer to Saturday’s epic matchup with the Clemson Tigers we got the opportunity to talk with Ryan Kantor of Shakin The Southland, SB Nation’s Clemson Community. He was kind enough to answer some question about the #2 Tigers, and give us some insight on the season so far. Make sure to follow Ryan on Twitter.
1. Trevor Lawrence has been one of the best in the country, what makes him so dreamy....I mean dangerous. And have you seen any flaws in his game so far?
Ryan: Lawrence has elite arm strength, throwing at NFL velocity (sometimes too hard) already. Pair that with his quick release and there are plays we can run that were essentially infeasible before he took over. The screen game is back and attacking the middle on slants and posts is a major threat now. Where he has struggled a bit is on deep fly routes, particularly early in games. He seems to overshoot his first deep ball or two. He had struggled to get a feel for how much time he has in the pocket and was taking foolish sacks, but he quickly made progress there. I expect the same progress on his deep ball.
2. Clemson’s defensive line is possibly the best I have ever seen at the college level. Can you break down what each defender brings?
Ryan: DT Christian Wilkins, the fan favorite and New England native (he grew up a BC fan!), is the leader of the bunch. Earlier in his career, Clemson had several injuries on the edge and he had the quickness to shift over and play DE so Clemson could get their best group of lineman on the field. He doesn’t lack for power, but it’s his speed and technique that impress me the most. He seems to slip through cracks to pick-up tackles for loss – he has 8.5 on the year. Dexter Lawrence, the nose guard is the biggest man on the line and will gum up the rushing attack while trapping and pressuring the QB for the others to eat alive. He only had 1.5 TFL and 0.5 sacks, but he is a major impact player and will go in the first half of the first round this year.
On the edge you have Clelin Ferrell, and elite speed rusher with 7.5 sacks and Austin Bryant, who is often unfairly overshadowed, but is a great all-around strong-side defensive end.
3. The Clemson offense has an arsenal of weapons. Who has really stepped it up this year, and who do you think will have a big game against BC?
RB Travis Etienne and WR Tee Higgins are probably our best weapons, and WR Hunter Renfrow is our most reliable, but the player who has been the most pleasant surprise has been WR Justyn Ross. The true freshman 5-star from Alabama has forced his way into games despite a bevy of very talented more experienced WRs on the roster. He is averaging 21.6 yards per reception. When paired with Tee Higgins and Trevor Lawrence, the Tigers can stretch you vertically, which changes everything for the offense.
4. The weather is going to be cold (34 is the projected low), do you think that will effect a team from South Carolina?
The last time we played at BC it was fairly nice out and road games at Syracuse are played in a dome, so we really have no indication either way. Without snow, I don’t think it will be a deciding factor in the game, but it could be one factor that leads to a “cold” start for the Tigers. Many of the younger players have never been that far north in their entire lives. Trevor Lawrence has never been north of Virginia.
5. Do you think the NFL will ever call for Dabo Swinney? Or do you think he will be at Clemson for the long haul?
I don’t think he’d ever give the NFL serious consideration. Dabo Swinney is a man of deep faith from Pelham, AL. He isn’t a football tactician; he is a program builder and an investor in young men’s’ lives. Manie Robinson writes in his book, Top of the Hill, that while Dabo Swinney was working in commercial real estate (between assistant coaching stops at Alabama and Clemson), his wife Kathleen knew that he needed to get back into coaching when a former player called the house to chat with them. Those connections are what they value more than anything and that’s why I think the whole “Clemson Family” thing is real and why he’ll never coach in the NFL.
6. This is a big game for BC, fans are pretty stoked about two top 20 teams battling. Are Clemson fans excited as well, or is this just more business as usual?
A little bit of both. On the one hand, Boston College is likely the best or second best team on our schedule (depending how you feel about TX A&M and NCSU). I originally picked Clemson to finish 11-1 and circled the trip to BC as the most likely loss. I think with what’s on the line (orange “championship” britches are being whipped out), that’s now less likely.
Clemson fans get excited to watch their team scrimmage so they’re definitely excited for this one, but compared to colossal matchups of past years like 2015 vs. Notre Dame, 2016 vs. Louisville, 2016 at FSU, and 2017 vs. Auburn, this feels a little more like business as usual.
7. Score prediction, think it will be close?
BC has had four games in which they allowed 28+ points (Wake Forest, Purdue, Temple, and NC State). The yardage has come both on the ground (298 rushing yards by Wake Forest and 275 rushing yards by Temple) and through the air (308 passing yards by NC State and 296 passing yards by Purdue). I think with the variety of ways Clemson’s offense can now attack defenses, they’ll likely find some vulnerabilities and score 28+.
Conversely, on defense I think Clemson matches up favorably against a run-heavy offense. The Tigers remain #1 in rushing defense (S&P+). I’d be more concerned playing a good, but less talented opponent that’s pass-heavy and gets the ball out quickly like Washington State, than one that is so reliant on running the ball. I think this is a good matchup for us. We won’t let AJ Dillon be the reason you win. I think Vegas has it about right with a spread in the 14 to 21 point range.
The spread opened at -17.5.