Second Look: Grading Clemson versus Georgia Tech


by - Correspondent -
Trevor Lawrence's TD connection with Tee Higgins was one of a couple key throws in the blowout win.
Trevor Lawrence's TD connection with Tee Higgins was one of a couple key throws in the blowout win.

The season opener is in the books and No. 1 Clemson easily dispatched cross-division rival Georgia Tech.

TigerNet tackles week one for the Tigers with the key takeaways and game grades.

What we know about Clemson football (week one)

* Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the competition for starting spots along the defensive line would likely extend into the season. We saw Nyles Pinckney and Tyler Davis trot out as starters at defensive tackle and Logan Rudolph and Justin Foster start at the defensive end spots.

One game does not a season make, and this competition will ramp up with this week’s home game against Texas A&M. There are some takeaways from the 52-14 win over Georgia Tech, however.

We will start with the defensive tackles – it looked like Davis and Pinckney were the best during their time together. Other guys stepped in and played and played fairly well, including Xavier Kelly, but based off what we saw from the press box, it’s Davis and Pinckney who give the Tigers the best shot.

I was a little surprised with Brent Venables showing a lot of 3-down (three down linemen) looks, with one of the defensive ends (a Jack) standing up. I am not sure if depth concerns led to that or if it was what they were seeing out of the Georgia Tech offense. It burned the defense once when Foster was the Jack and let a back slip out of the backfield for a long pass play that set up Tech’s first touchdown. That isn’t a matchup that goes in Clemson’s favor.

As for the defensive ends – Xavier Thomas simply creates havoc and needs to be out there as much as possible. I also liked what I saw out of KJ Henry and Justin Mascoll.

Kicker B.T. Potter was impressive. He hit all of his extra points, consistently put his kickoffs out of the end zone, and then nailed a 51-yard field goal that would have been good from 60. -- David Hood

* Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence wasn’t at his best Thursday night, but still made plays with his legs and turned his worst play (an interception) into his best play (tackling Tre Swilling at the two-yard line after it looked like Swilling would return that interception for a pick-six).

Backup quarterback Chase Brice was impressive, however. Brice showed his mettle in leading Clemson to a come-from-behind win over Syracuse last season, and there is no doubt in my mind that Brice is the best backup quarterback in the country.

Brice finished 5-for-7 for 53 yards and a score, but he would have been perfect if his receivers had held onto the football. Freshman Brannon Spector dropped a touchdown in the end zone, and wide receivers Cornell Powell also dropped what looked like a score.

One national media member wrote last week that Clemson would be in trouble if Lawrence went down. I disagree – Brice is one heck of a quarterback and he has so many weapons around him – including running back Travis Etienne – that I don’t think the Tigers would miss a beat.

Brice would be a starter at almost every other program in the country. -- Nikki Hood

* Find the nearest item made out of wood to knock on -- but the Tigers have exited fall camp and then game one healthy going into a top-15 matchup hosting Texas A&M (No. 12 in this week's AP poll; No. 11 in the Coaches Poll). Even with one of the bigger injury question marks, returning starter Amari Rodgers dressed out in warmups on Thursday (but did not play) only a few months removed from surgery on a torn ACL.

And with that health, Clemson mixed in 90 players to build experience across the board for next week and beyond. Eighteen different Tigers were targeted and 13 made a catch. Five running backs got six or more touches. Twenty-four different defenders registered at least one tackle, with nine getting in the mix on a stop for lost yardage.

Some new starters gained some key experience, especially on defense and even special teams with strong efforts from Joe Ngata on kick returns (25 yards per average) and Potter hitting a 51-yard field goal.

There are areas to improve for sure but Swinney's Tigers are in a good spot going into the marquee non-conference game of the season. -- Brandon Rink

Game grades

Offense: B+

The effort looked every much like a season opener at points in execution, with three turnovers bringing down the grade a good bit as well, but Etienne's dominant performance, a strong effort upfront and some nice connections in the passing game provide plenty to look forward to in week two.

Defense: B+

Georgia Tech was an overmatched team in transition and the Clemson defense largely took care of business, even keeping points off the board with a nice goal line stand in the first half.

Special teams: A

This was one of the stronger and complete efforts from a Clemson special teams group in recent memory, with positive points in every aspect of the game.

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