Talent Gap? Kirk Herbstreit breaks down Clemson vs. Miami


by - Senior Writer -
Trevor Lawrence's big hands might be an advantage in the rain (ACC photo).
Trevor Lawrence's big hands might be an advantage in the rain (ACC photo).

Kirk Herbstreit says that Clemson has the edge in talent, but D’Eriq King gives Miami a chance to pull off the upset.

Herbstreit will be on the call (along with Chris Fowler) when No. 1 Clemson and No. 7 Miami face off at 7:30 pm Saturday night (ABC).

Here is what he had to say about the game:

Does Clemson have the edge in talent or has Miami closed that gap?

“Well, I would say, first of all, in years past, there's been an obvious talent gap between Clemson and every school in the ACC, but in calling a couple of the Miami games this year, as we've talked about excessively, D’Eriq King gives them hope. He kind of, I think, makes this feel different, he makes Miami feel different to me. I think that position on any team, impacts the personality and the confidence of a team and it's been so long since Miami has had that position cleaned up and where the defense believes in him, the offense believes in him. I go all the way back to Dorsey – I know there’s Brock Berlin – but I go all the way back to Ken Dorsey. So I think that's real.

“You know, I think they're coming into Death Valley with a real belief that they can win because of him and Rhett Lashlee’s new scheme. I don't know enough about Clemson yet. I was just going through film this morning again, watching the Virginia game. I mean, we love Trevor Lawrence and there's great receivers, but this defense is unknown. The offensive line is unknown. The way Dabo [Swinney] recruits and the longevity of their success, you would think they're all going to just be the next wave of great players, but we don't know yet. So with that in mind, if there's one area that I'm anxious to see, it's the Miami defensive line against the Clemson offensive line. I think that's one area that if I'm a Miami fan… they don't have to just be a stalemate there, they have to win… they have to win there with Silvera in the middle and Phillips and Roche on the outside. That has to be a matchup that if they win this game or their competitive when the game's over, we’ll all say to each other ‘How about Phillips and Roche and that D-line?’ That has to happen in this game I think for Miami to have success.”

Q: I see you ranked Miami at four and five in your own personal rankings. What is the ceiling for this Miami team?

“Well, calling their Louisville and their Florida State game over the last two games, and I've done a ton of Miami games going back to like ’01, ’02 when they when they were able to climb the mountain… I'm a fan of their program. I'm a fan of seeing them get back to kind of being a perennial power. I've been one of those guys that’s been anxious to say, ‘oh, man, you know, we've seen some signs here they're starting to show they might be back’ and only for the rug to be pulled out on all of us. And I just, I might be completely lost here. I kept saying during our broadcast it just feels different. It's not, you know, even when Mark Richt had that run a few years ago, they were kind of doing it with smoke and mirrors offensively. They were doing it with defense and they kind of played complimentary football. They had some big turnovers. They took advantage of playing Notre Dame and I think it was Virginia Tech at home, and then all of a sudden they lost at Pitt.

“I think it was the day after Thanksgiving and that truly, I don't know if it was a great team. And this one, we don't, we keep saying we're going to find out when they go to Death Valley October 10 and that's what we're going to find out. I think they look better. I still think they're developing depth, but they look better and I think they've been a quarterback away on some of these teams, they've had over the last 10 years away from being competitive and I think the D’Eriq King kind of stabilizes this team and gets them to believe that they have a chance. You know how when you feel like your quarterback can make a play or your quarterback can give you a chance, it doesn't just affect the offense, it definitely affects the defense, and Blake Baker and how they're calling the defense on that side of the ball because they don't feel like their margin of error is so small anymore because they've got this offense. And so, I'll have a much better answer after Saturday night, but going in, it feels a lot better than it has in previous years because of… I don't want to just say because of D’Eriq King, but I think the maturity and the attitude overall, the whole team, but especially because they have an offense and a quarterback now that can score points.”

Q: So the last time Miami faced Clemson, I think after the game Dabo and his team snapped the turnover chain in the locker room. If you were the coach, would you use something like that for motivation or we just go forward in this business as usual?

“I think under these circumstances, I think Manny's trying to do the right thing by saying ‘hey Clemson has been here and done that these kind of games prime time and we're trying to earn our way into this.’ I personally think this is not a game about emotion, because I think emotion and hyped up games is fleeting. This is a game about execution. This is a game about maturity. This is not a game about trash talking and that kind of thing, because that, that's when you're buying into momentum that that could be gone after an interception or it could be gone after a Clemson touchdown, and all of a sudden, all that momentum and all that bravado is gone. I think it's more about focusing in on let's just do our jobs, let's do what we've been doing against Florida State and Louisville.

“We don't have to do anything above that, let's just be us. And I think if they focus on that they got a much better chance than using props or getting mad because Clemson did something. Clemson's been where they are for a long time, and this is the first time we've had a team in the ACC with a chance to kind of knock on their door and say, Hey, man - I'm ready to step in the ring and go toe to toe, and I want to see where I stand with you because you're the bar and we want to find out where do we stand with you. It's been a long time and I think they have a chance to earn some respect, and we'll see if they do it.”

Q: First of all, will you be able to spend any time with your sons this weekend?

“I'm hoping to… my wife and my other sons are going to be going with me. I'm staying for my son who's a senior in high school has a game, a big game on Friday night, then we'll fly over so the timing might be tough. I'm hoping this day depending on the hurricane situation, hoping to stay over Saturday night after the game and take them to breakfast on Sunday morning. So trying to work that out as we speak, actually.”

Q: You touched on the offensive line for Clemson a little bit and kind of that matchup, but, what do you make of Dabo saying that this line is playing as well as any group he's been around? And do you see that when you turn on the tape?

“I think the offensive line is probably the area that, if you go back that Tajh Boyd to when Deshaun [Watson] came in and then when Deshaun left, I think the area that they probably become really, really good is the offensive line and the ability to run the ball. I mean, you go back to when Sammy Watkins was there, it was really more about everything on the perimeter and then just doing just enough in the running game. And then when Deshaun was there, they started to get better backs, they started to get better in the trenches, and I think that's kind of become now a new aspect of their offense. So here we are, this year. You got four new starters. And I know some of these guys that played, but really Jackson Carman's the only returning starter so Dabo watches these guys at camp, he watches them in practice, he watches them against his own defense.

“If you just go by watching them in these games, they look good, but I still think this is a game that we need to see against the talent that they're going to go up against to see really where they stand, and are they potentially a dominant offensive line like they've had like I said over the last three or four years they've had they've been really good in the trenches and I don't really want to judge them yet until I see how they play against Miami. Hopefully it's a, you know, an opportunity for them to show that they can be as good if not better than what they've had in the past but right now it's kind of an unknown until they go up against the quality defensive line like we’ll see Saturday night.”

Q: On 90% chance of rain in Clemson this weekend. What kind of factor does that play in the running game and the passing game for both teams?

“Yeah, I know that talking to Trevor yesterday, you know, they haven't had a ton of wet game since he's been a quarterback there, but he does, because he has large hands, he handles a wet ball pretty easily. I'm going to talk with D’Eriq later today to task in that same question because I've been looking at that forecast as well. I'm a big believer, unless it's a monsoon, but if it’s just a really, really wet slick surface, I'm a big believer that it helps the offense, more than hurts the offense. I think you know when you're running a route or you're using your body weight, you can kind of position your weight.

“And distribute on your feet, knowing which way you're going and be very careful and mindful of not slipping, whereas the defender, especially a man coverage, he's reacting to where I'm going. And I think it's much easier for him to lose his footing than it is for the offense. So I think if it's a monsoon, it's hold on to your hat, you know, this thing could get sloppy. But if it's just wet conditions, then I think the offense - if your quarterback can handle the ball - then I think the offense has an advantage.”

Q: I'm just curious what you think the national perception is of this Clemson dynasty, going back to 2011. They’re just one win behind Alabama going all the way back to then. They’ve been in the top five of the AP 44 straight weeks. If they remain in the top five all season, which they probably will, they'll be second all-time with that streak and they could break the record next year. Do you think that just because of the timing of it – it’s coming on the heels of the greatest run we've ever seen with Alabama – it seems like people nationally might be somewhat desensitized to what Clemson has been able to do.

“Yeah, those are all great questions. I really feel like 2012, if I remember the right year, they played LSU in like a Peach Bowl or it was a bowl game, and they were coming off a loss to South Carolina and they beat them in a last second field goal. It was like 24-23 or 25-24 that was at the end of ’12. I almost look at that as like, the page turned and from that point on. They started to become a different brand. Now, I'm not saying they were national champion brand. At that point, but the next year, they ended up beating Ohio State in an Orange Bowl, and then I think it just kind of got them really rolling. I think a year or two later, they end up planning a national championship and losing a heartbreaker to Alabama and they really haven't looked back from that point on. But I tend to agree with you - while maybe you and I and people who like live this stuff, and from the West Coast, East Coast, north, south, I try to respect it all and watch it all.

“One thing I feel like is hurting Clemson when it comes to this discussion is the ACC - the perception of the conference. Like they beat Virginia the other night, and if you listen to kind of just the buzz around the people talking. It was like, I think, Trevor Lawrence said it was like Virginia was like a high school team. And they've been dealing with that answering questions with boy, you know, you guys didn't look very good against North Carolina State or you didn't look very good against Virginia. They beat Virginia and it wasn't a perfect game, but they beat him pretty soundly. And you go back to some of the games that they played last year and the year before. I mean, they would have to answer they they'd win by 25-30 points that they'd have to answer questions like, they just didn't play a lot of ranked teams, whereas Alabama is in the SEC and there's a perception, even Ohio State in the Big Ten, there's a perception Ohio State goes to Penn State or they play Wisconsin or they play Michigan or they play Michigan State.

“There's these games and these brands that people tend to respect and the same with Alabama playing Auburn or LSU or Texas A&M. I think it's hurt the national perception, even though Clemson, when they get into the postseason doesn't seem to bother them until last year against LSU. I mean they've gone toe to toe with Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame, you name it. So that's you and I knowing it, but I'm just saying people in the SEC, and the Big Ten and around the country, I still don't know if they quite grasp what Clemson has accomplished and how good they are, and how long they've been a dominant team. I mean, right now, you could say Alabama was out there with Nick Saban, LSU had a great year last year. But going back from about 2014 on, you're looking at what six, seven seasons that Clemson's been as reliable as any brand in this sport, and I just don't know if people outside of Clemson fully appreciate that.”

Q: Clemson's coming off of playing Virginia, where they had a bye week before the game and “was sluggish.” Could the bye week for Miami actually hurt them in terms of their momentum that they had going into, you know, the first three games?

“I think that's a philosophy that you know you could talk to some people, I think, depending on the time of the year when you when you get a bye. I know there are players that they love routine and they love to know okay, on Monday, I'm doing this Tuesday, I'm doing this Wednesday, especially if you get into a groove when you're when you're really hitting on all cylinders. Almost the last thing you want is a bye, right. And then there are other times where you got a guy that has an ankle and a guy that's got a shoulder and you've been through six straight weeks where a bye can't come fast enough, even if you are winning games. We’ll have to see how Saturday night goes to see if it affects this Miami team.

“I really tend to think that because of their offensive style that the up tempo approach a quarterback that's playing with a lot of confidence. I don't know. You know, I'll have to talk with Rhett Lashlee here (this week) to find out what they did to try to maintain their kind of the continuity and the rhythm that they had after Louisville and Florida State, but I'm sure they would have loved to play the game last week and keep this thing rolling, but we'll see at the end of the day, how it impacts them when they go up against the top teams.”

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