QUARTERBACK- If sophomore Woodrow Dantzler’s record-smashing effort against Maryland was any indication of future potential, Clemson needs to clear out some space in the trophy case for a Heisman. Dantzler’s 415-yards of total offense was arguably the most impressive display of offensive brilliance in Clemson football history. No turnovers + 252-yards passing +183-yards rushing = a superstar in the making?
Grade: A+ (Note: Dantzler gave himself a “C” for Saturday’s performance. Using his standards, Wilt Chamberlain would have received a “D” for his 100-point game.)
RUNNING BACKS- If it’s possible to rush for 105-yards and three touchdowns quietly, Travis Zachery did it on Saturday against Maryland. While Dantzler received most of the post-game spotlight, Zachery consitently plowed through the Terrapin defense for positive yardage. Bernard Rambert showed a glimpse of his future potential in relief of Zachery with two touchdowns on only seven carries. Not bad for his first action as a Tiger.
RECEIVERS- Against the Terrapins, the only thing Rod Gardner didn’t catch was the opening coin toss. Lewis Sanders, Maryland’s All-American candidate at cornerback, looked like a poodle trying to take meat away from a lion as Gardner muscled his way to 128-yards on five receptions. Brian Wofford pitched in another five catches as the Clemson wide-outs turned in another stellar performance.
OFFENSIVE LINE- While Woody Dantzler looked like he could have safely run through Bagdhad with an American flag draped around his shoulders, the Clemson offensive line deserves a great deal of credit for Saturday’s offensive performance. While the Tigers may be undersized up front, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez took advantage of the offensive line’s athleticism against the Terps. Many of the Dantzler’s quarterback draws involved linemen pulling and providing a convoy of blockers around end. Slower, bulkier linemen simply lack the agility to pull with the effectives that the Clemson guards and tackles did against Maryland.
DEFENSIVE LINE- The Clemson defensive line is simply being man-handled on a week to week basis. Maryland runners found sizable holes to run through, whether it was up the gut or on the outside. When Clemson linemen had their shots, Terrapin runners invariably ran through their tackles with apparent ease. The defense line play must improve before the Tigers can consitently shut down the run.
LINEBACKERS- Not unlike their counterparts on the defensive line, the Tiger linebackers consistently offered little resistence to LaMont Jordan and the Maryland running game. For the most part, Clemson linebackers made the fundamental mistake of attempting to bring down the powerful Jordan with arm-tackles. Jordan’s 177-rushing yards testify to the ineffectiveness of the Clemson defensive effort. While Keith Adams had his worst outing of 1999 with only seven tackles, Altroy Bodrick did provide a boost for the Clemson linebackers with ten tackles in his first game back from an ankle injury.
SECONDARY- After being torched by North Carolina State, the Clemson secondary came back strong against freshman quarterback Calvin McCall and Maryland, limiting the Terps to only 148-passing yards. Dextra Polite sparkled with three passes broken up and Charles Hafley showed flashes of brilliance at strong safety. While Tiger coaches certainly don’t want their free safety to be the teams’ leading tackler, Robert Carswell finished the game with 13 stops. Rookie Brian Mance saw increased action and was burned for Maryland’s longest passing gain of the day, a 30-yard sideline pass in the second quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS- Maryland’s Lewis Sanders entered Saturday’s game as the nations third-leading kickoff returner, averaging over 38-yards per attempt. Against Clemson, the Tiger special teams held Sanders to 38-total yards on two returns, almost twenty yards below his average per-runback. Ryan Romano had an excellent day punting the ball, averaging almost 44-yards per punt with a ball downed inside the Maryland ten-yard line.
COACHING- Tommy Bowden and Rich Rodriguez have effectively taken the Clemson offensive line’s size disadvantage and turned it into a positive by accentuating speed and quickness in place of brute strength. That coupled with a game plan that allowed Dantzler to shine again proved that the Tigers have two exceptional offensive minds on their staff. On the other hand, the Clemson defense is reeling. The Tigers miss tackles and are often out of position, two fundamental shortcomings that reflect poorly on the defensive coaches. Reggie Herring is an aggressive, competent coach, but right now, the Clemson defenders are making him look bad.
Grade: B- (A for offense, D- for defense)