Grading the Tigers vs. North Carolina
QUARTERBACKS- Strange as it may sound, Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler's
foot injury in the second quarter might have been the best thing that could
have happened for the Tigers. While Dantzler is clearly one of the two most
versatile quarterbacks in the nation, it became obvious as Saturday's game progressed
that North Carolina was dead set on neutralizing his running abilities. Willie
Simmons was able to step in and ignite the Clemson passing attack with surprising
poise and a pillow-soft touch on deep balls. No question; this is Dantzler's
offense, but Tiger fans have to be pleased to know that they have a star in
waiting on the sidelines.
RUNNING BACKS- Despite churning out 89 yards on 24 carries, Tommy Bowden
was critical of Travis Zachery's effort against the Tar Heels, saying that the
junior tailback played soft when the ball wasn't in his hands. Regardless, the
North Carolina defense made things tough on Clemson runners thanks largely to
the efforts of linebackers Brandon Spoon, Merceda Perry, and Sedrick Hodge.
RECEIVERS- One has to feel a tad sorry for Tar Heel cornerback Errol
Hood. It was Hood who was deep-fried by Clemson receiver Rod Gardner on five
deep passes, including three for touchdowns. Jackie Robinson had his best game
in a Clemson uniform with four catches and a touchdown while Kevin Youngblood
contributed with a 17-yard grab in the third quarter.
OFFENSIVE LINE- Thanks largely to an inspired effort by the North Carolina
defense, Clemson struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack, with the
Tigers compiling only 112 yards on 45 attempts. To make matters worse, false
start and holding penalties by the offensive line stalled numerous Clemson drives
and left a bad taste in Tommy Bowden's mouth following the game.
DEFENSIVE LINE- While the Tiger defensive front again failed to generate
consistent pressure in an opponent's backfield, Clemson deserves credit for
limiting the Tar Heels to only 89 yards rushing on 38 carries. Regardless, the
Tiger defensive line simply must find a way to get to the quarterback in the
LINEBACKERS- If the Clemson defense is on the field and a tackle is made
you can almost be assured that Chad Carson will be near. At 6-3, 235 pounds,
Carson is relatively undersized, he doesn't have blazing speed, and he's certainly
not the strongest player on the field, but he simply finds a way to make plays.
Keith Adams' interception to seal the game was huge while Braxton K. Williams
contributed a number of tackles for loss.
SECONDARY- With a 14-point lead midway through the fourth quarter Brian
Mance did the one thing that Tommy Bowden didn't want to see: he let his man
get behind him. In what's become a weekly ritual, the Clemson defense continually
stuffed an opposing offense only to be burned repeatedly on long passing plays.
Whether it's poor coaching or simply mental lapses on the part of the defensive
backs, this trend of allowing huge plays through the air must stop for the Tigers
to have any chance of a BCS berth.
SPECIAL TEAMS- Joe Don Reames continued to shine on punt returns against
the Tar Heels while Aaron Hunt came through with four successful PAT's and a
22-yard field goal to tie the game in the third quarter.
COACHING- Credit Rich Rodriguez for taking advantage of a weak and undersized
Tar Heel secondary with the liberal use of fade routes throughout the game.
The fact that a relatively untested redshirt-freshman can come in and lead the
Tiger offense to 38 points in just over one half of play speaks well for the
Clemson system. On the other side of the ball, it's becoming quite clear that
the Tiger defense is vulnerable to the long pass, which leads to the question:
will defensive coordinator Reggie Herring find a way to adjust before Clemson
heads to Tallahassee?
Grades: Offense- B / Defense- D-