Grading the Tigers vs. Georgia Tech
QUARTERBACKS- One thing has become decidedly clear in the last two weeks:
Willie Simmons is Clemson's best quarterback. While Woodrow Dantzler is undoubtedly
an exceptionally gifted athlete, Simmons' pocket poise and passing accuracy
helps to make him a better all-around package behind center. It would be a crime,
however, to relegate a player as gifted as Dantzler to the sideline, leading
one to ponder the possibility of a position change for the elder quarterback
in the coming year.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery quietly piled up 101 rugged yards on 16
carries and hauled in a team-high four passes for 49 yards, including a 29-yard
touchdown strike from Dantzler in the first quarter. Somewhat surprisingly,
backup Bernard Rambert has struggled to break out in 2000 after an exceptionally
strong finish last season.
RECEIVERS- Georgia Tech effectively eliminated the deep ball from the
Clemson attack by consistently positioning their safeties deep in the defensive
secondary and regularly double-teaming Rod Gardner. Regardless, Gardner made
amends for an earlier fumble when he pulled down Simmons' 18-yard pass to give
the Tigers the lead with 1:52 remaining. Justin Watts contributed with three
critical catches while Jackie Robinson grabbed two passes for 13 yards. Matt
Bailey's drop of a Simmons pass on third down helped to stall a Clemson drive
in the third quarter, resulting in a missed field goal by Aaron Hunt.
OFFENSIVE LINE- Despite flashes of brilliance, the Clemson line struggled
to contain Georgia Tech's front four for much of the afternoon. The Yellow Jackets
rarely blitzed but were still able to consistently pressure Tiger quarterbacks
with a four-man pass rush.
DEFENSIVE LINE- Georgia Tech quarterback George Godsey dropped back to
throw 59 times against Clemson, meaning that the Tigers had 59 chances to get
to the enemy quarterback. Of those numerous passing attempts, the Tigers were
able to produce a mere two sacks and only a handful of quarterback pressures,
leaving the Yellow Jacket quarterback ample time in the pocket to throw for
a Georgia Tech record 454 yards. The Clemson line is undersized and lacking
in depth, but the simple fact is that there is no excuse for this unit to be
as ineffective as they were against the Yellow Jackets.
LINEBACKER- Chad Carson was perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise
forgettable performance by the Clemson linebacking corps. Carson finished the
day with 15 tackles, including 12 first hits.
SECONDARY- It is never good when a cornerback finishes a game as his
team's leading tackler. Alex Ardley did exactly that, recording 15 tackles to
finish tied for game-high honors with Carson and Robert Carswell. Ardley and
his secondary counterparts spent most of the afternoon pulling down Kelly Campbell-
13 times to be exact (Campbell caught a school record 14 passes, including a
48-yarder for a touchdown in the fourth quarter). It's safe to say that Florida
State quarterback Chris Weinke is virtually salivating when he looks ahead to
SPECIAL TEAMS- The good: Brian Mance's spectacular 88-yard punt return
for touchdown; Toure Francis' first quarter block of a Chris Moorehouse punt;
Jamie Somaini's 47-yard average on seven punts; Clemson's punt and kickoff coverage.
The bad and ugly: Aaron Hunt's two critical field goal misses from 39 and 29
yards in the second half. In hindsight, it was silly to ever have mentioned
Clemson as a possible national championship contender considering the sorry
state of the Tiger placekicking game.
COACHING- Credit Georgia Tech for holding the Tiger offense to a season-low
354 total yards. While Dantzler was clearly hobbled by last week's ankle injury,
the Clemson offense certainly appears to gain another dimension with Simmons
at quarterback. Curiously, the Tigers never really attacked the middle of the
field against a Yellow Jacket defense apparently intent on stopping sideline
routes. Defensively, the Tigers continue to look perplexed when it comes to
stopping the forward pass. While George Godsey is a capable quarterback, he
certainly isn't the caliber of player who should be able to pick apart a Clemson
defense for 454 yards. The clock may be ticking for coordinator Reggie Herring
as the Tigers continue to give up big plays in the late stages of close games.
Grades: Offense- C Defense- F