Grading the Tigers vs Virginia
CLEMSON -- After an extended summer vacation, the grades return. Question is, when will the defense?
QUARTERBACK- Woodrow Dantzler’s performance against Virginia was respectable although not spectacular, with the senior quarterback hitting on 25-34 passes for 251 yards and two interceptions to go along with 67 rushing yards. Unfortunately for Dantzler, his turnover with 4:52 remaining will be remembered as the critical play in a game that Clemson should have won.
RUNNING BACKS- Travis Zachery ran for 87 tough yards despite a lackluster effort by the offensive line. While he clearly isn’t a breakaway threat, Zachary can be counted on to produce positive yardage on nearly every carry.
RECEIVERS- Clemson’s battered receiving corps was again effective on shorter routes, with redshirt freshman Derrick Hamilton hauling down nine passes for 90 yards to lead the Tigers. As witnessed by Joe Don Reames’ drop late in the game, Clemson still desperately needs a big-play threat to emerge at one of the receiver positions.
OFFENSIVE LINE- It is becoming apparent that the pre-season accolades thrust on the Clemson offensive line were grossly inaccurate. The Tigers continued to struggle in both pass protection and run blocking against Virginia, with Cavalier defenders sacking the ever-athletic Dantzler three times and limiting Clemson to a meager 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. To say the least, this seemingly talented unit’s lack of production has been puzzling thus far.
DEFENSIVE LINE- Quite simply, Clemson’s defensive line has been manhandled in all three games thus far. While the Tiger’s lack both depth and experience, this unit appears to be unable to provide any means of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Should Nick Eason be unable to return to action next week at Georgia Tech (ankle injury), look for things to only get worse.
LINEBACKERS- The Tiger linebacking corps combined for one tackle for loss for one yard against Virginia. Considering the fact that some or all of the linebackers blitz on most every play, this stat does not speak well for the unit’s performance against Virginia.
SECONDARY- The number of tackles missed by the Clemson secondary against Virginia was startling. That coupled with the Tiger’s inability to play man coverage with any degree of effectiveness added up to a dismal showing against a relatively docile Cavalier offense.
SPECIAL TEAMS- The Tiger special teams deserve credit for excellent punt and kickoff coverage, allowing an average of only 18 yards per kick return and two yards per punt return. Aaron Hunt was again erratic, connecting on a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter and then missing a 31-yard chip shot with four minutes remaining in the first half.
COACHING- Offensively, Clemson appeared to be somewhat inhibited in the passing game, with the Tigers rarely electing to throw the ball deep and down the middle of the field. This can largely be attributed to the fact that the Cavalier defense all but gave the offense short routes underneath in an effort to take away the deep ball. Regardless, Brad Scott needs to find a way to stretch opposing defenses down field. Until someone emerges with game-breaking abilities other than Dantzler, this task will be difficult.
Defensively, Clemson appears to be lost. In all three games thus far, the Tigers have shown no pass rush despite defensive coordinator Reggie Herring’s extensive and increasingly predictable blitzing. Clemson continues to miss tackles at an alarming rate- a sobering fact considering that the unit has yet to face a particularly explosive offensive opponent. Finally, Tiger defensive backs consistently have their backs to airborne footballs and are easily burned in man coverage. Quite simply, Clemson’s defense is on track to be the school’s worst in the past 20 years.
Grades: Offense- C Defense- F