The running game: It was good to see Yusef back on the field. They need him if they’re going to run between the tackles with someone other than Charlie. The real surprise here is that it’s Duane Coleman that’s the star at tailback instead of Reggie Merriweather. Coleman had 86 of Clemson’s 138 yards rushing. A lot of that came on one drive in the fourth quarter when Coleman ran wild. I’m still not convinced, of course, that Clemson can do much between the tackles. But Clemson’s coaches recognize this and are obviously looking to get Coleman on the corners. BTW, tear out that page with the option on it before Charlie gets hurt.
The passing game: No problems here. Dabo needs to pick apart the film and look for blocking and missed assignments. I can’t speak to those here since the game wasn’t on television and all Georgia Tech was interested in putting on its big screen was advertisements for the DVD of Tech-Auburn. Charlie was critical of his own play and that’s fine. He had a few bad throws. As I’ve mentioned, I like his attitude and I hope that the receivers are as critical of their play as he is. Kevin Youngblood gets special mention here with the threads he came out in after the game and the bling bling that went along with it. Nice. The rest of the team came out in sweats at 10:30 p.m. in Atlanta. Youngblood was dressed for the occasion in one of the biggest party towns in America. Too bad for him he had to get directly on the bus back to Clemson.
The bottom line: This is a different team, offensively from the first two games. Would they be able to beat Georgia with this gameplan on offense? Who knows, but I doubt it. The offense gets a B+ because I think they’re capable of even better things and there has to be some incentive to do better. The question here is will other teams figure out how to force Clemson into running the ball? It’s basically the difference between the team we saw last year against UNC and its alter-ego we saw against N.C. State. Let’s hope the alter-ego stays in the closet.
Against the run: Clemson’s defensive line played extremely well. 45 yards rushing is a real effort against Georgia Tech. The defensive line rose to the challenge. Thielen Smith is a coach that has taken his share of heat over the years (he needs to step up to the plate in several areas, including recruiting), but he obviously had his defensive line ready to play.
Against the pass: Five sacks and an interception by John Leake. What’s up with that?!? Where, exactly, did that come from? That interception by Leake was a thing of beauty. The turnover margin is slowly turning Clemson’s way, which anyone recognizes as a key. Would Clemson have won this game without the fumble recovery and the interception? Sure. But this is a sign that things are turning the right way on defense.
The bottom line: While I’m not in the business of giving out A’s here just because a team looked good in one game, the defense deserves extra credit for this one. Not to take anything away from the offense, but it was the defense that played better than at any point this season and led the charge in Atlanta. There’s not enough you can say about what the defense did Saturday night. At no point was I concerned about Georgia Tech’s running game. And the passing game? While Tech produced 248 yards there, I wasn’t worried. The defense played out of its mind…I have confidence that John Lovett (as in Corvette) can keep this defense in another gear, so to speak. This defense isn’t Justin Miller and 10 other players trying to make Justin’s highlights. The other players are making highlights of their own. Based on those photos of him after the game, the fact he isn’t making all the plays isn’t affecting his confidence.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Kicking: Jad Dean didn’t have his best night, but there weren’t any breakdowns in the coverage and the fumble on the opening kickoff set the tone for the game. From that point on Georgia Tech was scrambling. Credit Dean with starting the game off right.
Punting, kicking and kick coverage: Cole Chason had his best game (thanks to a great roll on one of his punts…but that’s part of the game so can’t take anything away there). Miller had a great return on a punt return. Coverage on punts and kickoffs were above average.
The bottom line: I still think that at some point this season the coaches will be forced to find other options at place kicker. I’m sure the situation isn’t being ignored, but it would be more comforting to the average fan to see some other players get a few kicks in the blowouts.
Bowden is coaching as loose as he has since he’s been there. He’s in a zone and probably is looking at the Maryland game as a duel between him and The Fridge. Leaving Whitehurst in the entire game? That could have backfired, although I’m sure they wanted him to pick up the complete game in front of the home crowd. Like any player in a zone, you can only hope that Bowden’s confidence doesn’t get rattled. There were times during the Tech game that I could see him going back to his tendencies – the wide receiver screen, etc. (you know the plays) – but to his credit those times were brief.
Motivation: Chalk that up to Reggie Ball and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Both played right into the Clemson coaches’ hands with what amounted to the kind of motivational material you couldn’t pay Tony Robbins to deliver. Just shows what a team can do if everyone is united against a common enemy.