Mid-season Grades

by - Senior Writer -
Tajh Boyd hasn’t been perfect in 2012, but has made tremendous strides.
Tajh Boyd hasn’t been perfect in 2012, but has made tremendous strides.

CLEMSON – Yes, we survived the open date.

As hard as it is to believe, the Tigers have played exactly half of the games on the regular season schedule, and if you’re like me, it seems like July was just yesterday and we were counting down the number of days until fall camp started.

We now sit at the halfway point, and Clemson’s students are on fall break. With that in mind, the TigerNet staff is going to hand out mid-term grades to the football team, which sits at 5-1 and is currently ranked 19th in the BCS rankings, 13th in the USA Today Coaches poll and 14th in the Associated Press poll.

Instead of looking at just the offense or just the defense, we are going to break down each position.


Grade: B+

In order to get a grade of an ‘A’ a player or a position has to be almost perfect. Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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hasn’t been perfect in 2012, but he made tremendous strides of the summer and seemingly gets better each week. He is more of a threat running the football, and seems to have a better feel for when to pull it down and run, check it down or air it out. He has thrown for 1,748 yards and has 14 touchdowns, but what sticks out to me is his completion percentage – he is completing 68.2 percent of his passes. Boyd is also second on the team with 224 rushing yards, and offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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isn’t afraid to call Boyd’s number on running plays. Boyd has five interceptions, and he told us after the Georgia Tech game that he can point out what he did wrong on each turnover. Take away the turnovers, and he would get an ‘A.’ Backup Cole StoudtCole Stoudt
So. Quarterback
#8 6-5, 205
Dublin, OH

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has been effective in his limited role.

Running backs

Grade: B+

Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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exploded in the season opener against Auburn and hasn’t looked back. There have been games where he hasn’t been a focal point, and there have been a few games where teams have kept linebackers close to the line of scrimmage in order to stop him. Despite all of that, he still leads the ACC with 597 yards and six touchdowns, averaging over five yards per carry. He told us in the off-season that he wanted to work on his receiving skills, and he has caught seven passes for 137 yards and another touchdown. He also has played well in the return game and leads the Tigers with 147.8 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks third in the ACC. Rod McDowell has proven to be a viable second option, and he is second behind Ellington with five touchdowns. D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
RS So. Running Back
#22 5-11, 195
Lincoln, AL

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has battled a shoulder injury, while freshman Zac BrooksZac Brooks
Fr. Running Back
#24 6-1, 185
Jonesboro, AR

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has seen limited playing time.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Grade: B

Nuk Hopkins took advantage of the absence of Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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– who has missed three games – in a big way. Hopkins is second in the nation in receiving yards, third in receiving yards per game and he leads the ACC in both of those categories. He also has eight touchdown receptions to his credit, and is on pace to set any number of Clemson records this season. Watkins still hasn’t fully gotten into the flow of the offense, but Jaron BrownJaron Brown
Gr. Wide Receiver
#18 6-2, 205
Cheraw, SC

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has been clutch on third down, while Adam HumphriesAdam Humphries
So. Wide Receiver
#16 5-11, 190
Spartanburg, SC

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and Charone PeakeCharone Peake
So. Wide Receiver
#19 6-3, 200
Moore, SC

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have each had their moments. Tight end Brandon FordBrandon Ford
Gr. Tight End
#80 6-4, 240
Wando, SC

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has 20 catches for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and there has been very little dropoff from what Clemson fans saw out of Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen
Tight End
#83 6-3, 255
Fayetteville, NC

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a year ago. Honestly, this group could very easily have gotten an ‘A’ from us, but there have been a number of drops – especially early in the season – that have to be taken into account.

Offensive line

Grade: B

We like this group a lot. I had one ex-NFL guy tell me this week that he is excited about the progress of this group, and excited that not only is the starting five better than we expected, but several reserves have gotten a ton of playing time. The Tigers are third in the ACC in rushing offense – averaging 201.2 yards per game – and Morris hasn’t lacked the confidence to run in short-yardage situations, and the Tigers have managed to convert six-of-seven fourth down opportunities. There have been times that the running game has failed to gain traction, and even though Boyd has had time to throw most of the time, the Tigers have still given up 10 sacks. Granted, some of those are coverage sacks and some are Boyd either turning the wrong way into a defender or holding onto the ball too long. Overall, however, this group has been fun to watch, and you really get the feeling they are only going to get better.

Defensive line

Grade: C

If we had more time, we would break this down into two groups – the tackles and the ends. We feel the tackles have played much better than the ends, and senior end Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman
Sr. Defensive End
#97 6-4, 270
Florence, SC

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has been a bit of a disappointment. He came into the season with just five career sacks over three seasons, and he has zero sacks and just 11 tackles in 279 snaps this season. He was replaced at times by Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes
RS So. Defensive End
#6 6-4, 275
Jacksonville, FL

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in the game against Georgia Tech, and Barnes had some success at sealing the edge. Barnes has nine tackles in just 116 snaps, and may see increased playing time in the second half of the season. Vic BeasleyVic Beasley
RS So. Defensive End
#3 6-3, 225
Adairsville, GA

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has two sacks in backing up Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
So. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 270
Columbus, GA

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. At the tackle spot, Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 285
Wilmington, DE

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has seen his role increase and should see even more time as the season unfolds. DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams
So. Defensive Tackle
#99 6-1, 285
Central, SC

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is tied with Beasley for the team lead with two sacks, and Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
So. Defensive Tackle
#50 6-1, 290
Conyers, GA

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and D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-3, 335
Greensboro, NC

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have been solid if not outstanding. The ends would get a C-minus or a D, while the tackles would get a C-plus from us.


Grade: C

This group has been all over the place this season, but the one constant has been the play of Tig Willard. Middle linebacker Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
So. Linebacker
#12 6-3, 235
Polkton, NC

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leads the team with 51 tackles, while Willard has 41. Anthony was replaced by Spencer ShueySpencer Shuey
RS Jr. Linebacker
#33 6-3, 230
Charlotte, NC

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against Georgia Tech, and has looked unsure of himself at times. However, the talent is there and the confidence is growing. Tony StewardTony Steward
So. Linebacker
#7 6-1, 235
Hastings, FL

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has seen increased playing time over the past few weeks, and might see even more as he not only gains more confidence in his surgically-repaired knee but learns Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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’ system. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Steward, Willard and Anthony getting the majority of the snaps by week ten. There have been highs, and there have been lows. Across the board – very average.


Grade: D

We know, some of you are going to complain because this group doesn’t get an ‘F.’ There have been coverage issues, and there have been tackling issues. In fact, there have been a lot of both with this group. We saw Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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at safety for much of the Georgia Tech game, something we will probably see in the second half of the season as he tries to bring a different kind of presence to the back four. We actually think this group played better over the past few games, especially after Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS So. Defensive Back
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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moved to one of the corner spots, allowing Xavier BrewerXavier Brewer
Gr. Defensive Back
#9 5-11, 190
Jacksonville, FL

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to play mostly in nickel situations while also backing up one of the corner spots. Rashard HallRashard Hall
Gr. Safety
#31 6-2, 210
St. Augustine, FL

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has three interceptions, and all three have been big, but he has struggled with bad angles and poor tackling. If Clemson wants to run the table over the final six games, this bunch has to get better.

Special Teams

Grade: B

Chandler CatanzaroChandler Catanzaro
RS Jr. Punter / Kicker
#39 6-2, 195
Greenville, SC

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, by himself, gets the team’s lone ‘A.’ He has been perfect on all 11 of his field goal attempts, and even has a 50-yarder to his credit. He has made a school-record 19 consecutive field goals dating back to last season. Spencer BentonSpencer Benton
RS Sr. Punter / Kicker
#13 6-1, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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made an ACC record 61-yard field goal against Furman, and has done a solid if not spectacular job as the punter. Punt coverage has been solid for most of the first half, but the Tigers struggled with kickoffs. Despite having Benton and Bradley PinionBradley Pinion
Fr. Punter
#92 6-6, 230
Concord, NC

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– who both have big legs – touchbacks haven’t been a sure thing and when opposing teams have gotten a chance to bring out a kick, there have been issues, especially at FSU.


Grade: B-minus

The Tigers have won the five games they were favored to win, and lost the one game they were supposed to lose. The Tigers didn’t let the one loss beat them – recovering nicely to win at Boston College a week later – and then disposed of Georgia Tech in the last game. The offense is playing at a high level and figures to get even better as Watkins gets back into playing shape after missing three of the first six games. Defensively, it has looked a little better – at times – but there are still issues, especially with tackling and with the play of the defensive ends. Special teams haven’t been a killer, and Catanzaro is a tremendous weapon. Considering this team is 5-1 and ranked in the top 15, is the B-minus a little tough? Yes, but the defense has to improve.

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