Grading Clemson vs. Missouri

by - Correspondent -

QUARTERBACKS- Woodrow Dantzler followed up last week’s 16-17 passing performance with a 12-19, 188-yard masterpiece against Missouri. The Tiger junior continues to show poise as a passer and explosiveness as a runner, two factors that make him among the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country. Red-shirt freshman Willie Simmons spelled Dantzler in the fourth quarter and appeared to be considerably more comfortable behind center than he did last week against The Citadel, connecting on 3-5 passes for 87-yards (including two drops).

Grade: A-

- Tommy Bowden wants depth and competition at every position and it certainly looks like he’s found it at the tailback spot. While Travis Zachery was again solid against Missouri (17 carries, 67 yards, three touchdowns), true freshman Keith Kelly exploded onto the scene late in the fourth quarter with 32 yards on eight carries, including a 13-yard touchdown scamper that featured a number of impressive cutbacks and broken tackles. Chad Jasmin looked sharp in the fourth quarter with 34 rugged yards on only four carries while Bernard Rambert continues to shine as Zachery’s backup. It is becoming quite apparent that the Tigers will be loaded for some time in the offensive backfield.

Grade: A

RECEIVERS- Perhaps Rod Gardner should play these games wearing boxing gloves. The 6-3 senior makes opposing cornerbacks look downright pitiful, particularly on deep balls where he consistently manhandles the little fellas and snatches anything within his considerable reach. Missouri’s defensive backs became his latest victims on Saturday as he pulled down four balls for 98 yards and two spectacular touchdowns. Jackie Robinson has developed into an excellent possession receiver, pulling down four balls for 26 yards while Justin Watts remains rock solid. Inconsistent frosh Kevin Youngblood remained, well, inconsistent on Saturday, dropping two easy passes while hauling in two impressive bombs. With improved concentration Youngblood should develop into something special in the next few years.

Grade: B+

OFFENSIVE LINE- Missouri defensive end Justin Smith- otherwise known as “Godzilla”- entered Saturday’s contest as an Outland Trophy favorite. 60 minutes of football and only one tackle later Smith was ready to return to Monster Island and lick his wounds. The Clemson offensive line successfully neutralized the Missouri superstar with quick cutback blocks and superior athleticism, paving the way for 206 rushing yards and- perhaps most importantly- no sacks (the Clemson second unit allowed a sack of Willie Simmons late in the fourth quarter). Offensive line coach Ron West and the entire starting line deserve credit for a truly inspired performance against some very tough competition.

Grade: A

DEFESIVE LINE- After a rocky start in stopping the run (running back Zain Gilmore had 24 yards on Missouri’s first possession) the Clemson line tightened the clamps for the rest of the afternoon, giving up only 72-rushing yards on 36 attempts. The Clemson front was relatively effective pressuring Missouri quarterback Kirk Farmer although the Tigers were mostly effective with linebacker blitzes. Nick Eason recorded a sack while Freddie James caused a fumble in the third quarter that led to another Clemson score to highlight the defensive effort. There is room for improvement but this unit is in much better shape than they were just one year ago.

Grade: B

LINEBACKERS: The Clemson linebacking corps has quietly evolved into one of the elite groups in the nation, with Keith Adams and Chad Carson leading the charge. Braxton K. Williams recorded a critical sack early on against Missouri while Adams and Carson continually harassed Farmer throughout most of the afternoon. Another solid day for this exceptional group.

Grade: A-

SECONDARY: If the Missouri receiving statistics included Brian Mance, the Clemson sophomore would have been Kirk Farmer’s second favorite target with two receptions. Mance’s two interceptions and one fumble recovery tied a Clemson record with three defensive takeaways- a feat last accomplished by Brian Dawkins against Duke in 1995. Charles Hafley helped to open the floodgates for the Clemson route with his interception return for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter while Robert Carswell contributed six tackles from the strong safety position. Darrell Crutchfield struggled at cornerback for much of the afternoon, marking perhaps the only significant blemish on an otherwise effective effort by the Tiger defensive backfield.

Grade: B+

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sebastian Lazzarakowski? Clemson kickoff man Tony Lazzara certainly showed similarities to the ex- Florida State kicker with his booming third-quarter kickoffs. All four of his kicks sailed deep into the Missouri end zone, drawing the cheers of the Death Valley crowd and posing a simple question to many: Where has Lazzara been hiding this cannon? Joe Don Reames questionable fumble and Aaron Hunt’s missed PAT were the only serious flaws in an otherwise efficient day for the Clemson special teams.

Grade: B

COACHING: The Clemson offensive game plan proved to be excellent, particularly in handling Missouri’s Justin Smith. While Reggie Herring’s defense came out of the gate slowly, the Tigers were able to adjust and effectively contain Missouri for most of the afternoon. Regardless, forcing six turnovers on any afternoon is impressive in its own right. All in all it was an excellent strategic showing for Clemson on all fronts.

Grades: Offense A+/ Defense B+

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