Grading the Tigers vs Georgia Tech

by - Correspondent -

QUARTERBACK- Woodrow Dantzler’s 38-yard touchdown run to end the first half could end up being the play that saved Clemson’s season. Trailing 19-7 and devoid of any semblance of momentum, the Tigers looked like a team on the ropes until #1 streaked down the middle of the field, cut right and glided in for the score, silencing the Georgia Tech crowd and igniting his own sideline.

With a final tally of 418 yards of total offense- 164 rushing and 254 passing- Clemson’s senior quarterback deserves a game ball dipped in gold.

Grade: A+

RUNNING BACKS- Not to be overshadowed by Dantzler’s masterpiece, Travis Zachery’s inspired performance was spectacular in its own right. Zachery gained 93 tough yards and three touchdowns on the ground to go along with seven receptions for 46 yards. Perhaps more importantly, his downfield blocking on Clemson’s ultra-effective quarterback draw plays was absolutely critical in springing Dantzler’s huge runs.

Grade: A+

RECEIVERS- The remnants of Clemson’s battered receiving corps came through with an inspired performance against Georgia Tech. Redshirt freshman Derrick Hamilton followed up his nine-reception performance against Virginia with seven catches for 75 yards against the Yellow Jackets while Matt Bailey and J.J. McKelvey fought of injuries of their own to haul in two huge touchdown catches. Not unlike Zachery, the receivers were particularly effective with their downfield blocking during Dantzler’s’ scrambles.

Grade: A-

OFFENSIVE LINE- After three less-than-impressive performances to open the season, the Clemson offensive line bounced back against Georgia Tech. The Tigers were particularly strong in their second-half run blocking as the O-line consistently created lanes to run for both Dantzler and Zachery. While this unit still has room to improve, Saturday’s effort was clearly a step in the right direction.

Grade: A-

DEFENSIVE LINE- Clemson’s beleaguered defensive line continued to struggle against Georgia Tech, particularly late in the game when the Tigers’ lack of depth up front became a factor. Freshman Maurice Fountain showed promise with a quarterback sack and a late-game tackle for loss.

Grade: C-

LINEBACKERS- John Leake came through with 19 tackles while Rodney Thomas contributed three tackles for loss to lead Clemson’s linebacking effort. A respectable effort, particularly after last week’s debacle.

Grade: C+

SECONDARY- Aside from being horrendously burned by a Godsey play-fake that led to a 35-yard TD pass to a wide-open Kelly Campbell, the Tigers showed marked improvement in both their tackling and coverage. Senior safety Charles Hafley highlighted the group’s effort with an interception and a team-leading12 tackles as the Tiger DB's limited Tech to 216 yards passing.

Grade: C+

SPECIAL TEAMS- Both Tony Lazzara and Aaron Hunt booted kickoffs out of bounds while Wynn Kopp mustered a mere 32.5 yard average on four punts. Clemson’s punt and kickoff coverage was average; Brian Mance and Hamilton each had respectable return yardage on kickoffs. Hafley’s one-yard run on a fake punt kept Clemson’s first touchdown drive alive.

Grade: D

COACHING- Offensively, Brad Scott and the offensive staff continued to go to Dantzler and Georgia Tech was unable to stop him. Considering the beat-up state of the Clemson receiving corps, it’s hard to find much fault with that strategy.

Defensively, the Tigers showed improvement against an explosive Georgia Tech offense. Clemson’s anemic tackling of one week ago had to improve against the Yellow Jackets and, thankfully, it did. It appeared that defensive coordinator Reggie Herring pulled in the reigns on the Tigers’ extensive blitzing habits and it seemed to help take some of the pressure of the team’s inexperienced secondary. Lack of depth and fatigue hampered the Tiger defensive effort in the fourth quarter, but Saturday’s effort still proved to be a clear step in the right direction.

Grades: Offense- A- Defense- C+

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