Herbstreit says Clemson's offense "ready to roll"


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Photo: Kirby Lee-Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Kirby Lee-Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON – ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was candid when assessing Clemson’s 2013 season chances Tuesday afternoon, saying that the Tigers’ offense is ready to roll but that Clemson’s defense also needs to come along.

Clemson opens the season August 31st against Georgia in a primetime matchup on national television, a game that will be called by Herbstreit and play-by-play man Brent Musburger.

Musburger and Herbstreit held a conference call with the national media Tuesday to discuss college football in general, the upcoming season and the opener between the Tigers and the Bulldogs.

The first question – whether things were different for Clemson this year – was fielded by Musburger.

“I don’t know that we know yet or at least not until we see them,” Musburger said. “We know that they can lead very well because they’ve got offensive names back, names that we are familiar with like the Tajh Boyd’s, etc. I don’t think we’re going to find out how good they are until they go toe-to-toe with Georgia.”

Herbstreit said there is no doubt that the Tigers will put up points in 2013.

“You look at them on paper and it’s hard not to love their offense, even after losing [Andre] Ellington and [Nuk] Hopkins to the NFL, just because Tajh Boyd comes back,” Herbstreit said. “He seems to be an extension of Chad Morris with his familiarity with the system. It’s a very difficult offense to prepare for and having a veteran quarterback like Tajh. I think he has a ton of talent around him and I think they are going to score a lot of points. I think their offense is ready to roll.”

However, he said the defense needs to step up, especially with the early game against Georgia and the Bulldogs’ explosive offense.

“I think their defense – in the second year under Brent Venables – will be able to be further along. They are going to need to be able to be further along because we all know about that first game against Aaron Murray and that pretty explosive offense,” he said.

Herbstreit was asked if the Tigers can get past “pulling a Clemson” and losing to a team they are favored to beat, and he said that he thinks Clemson has grown past those kinds of slip-ups under Swinney.

“It’s a very valid question,” he said. “It’s one that I have every year with Clemson and in their defense, the two teams that they lost to last year were both ranked pretty highly - losing to South Carolina, even though they were favored, and losing to Florida State. In the past, they would drive me crazy because they would beat a Florida State and then lose to a N.C. State or a Maryland that they were better than.
“Last year they lost to two teams that were pretty good teams. I think that was Dabo’s focus was trying to get this program to take that next step with consistency and I think they’ve shown that over the last year or so. If they can get off to a quick start by beating Georgia at home, I know that all of their fans are going to be excited about what this team could potentially do.”

Musburger said the Clemson-Georgia game takes on even more meaning considering the proximity of the two schools.

He also thinks the Tigers have an advantage because Georgia plays South Carolina in week two.

“It’s a terrific matchup on paper, but you never know how it’s going to play out on the field. Obviously, they’re neighborhood rivals,” Musburger said. “I was amused because a couple of weeks ago, I got a text from Clemson that said if Clemson was in the SEC this would be the closest distance between two SEC teams and I think it was something they thought needed to be stated because this would be the closest in the SEC.

“Two neighborhood rivals and I’m sure a bunch of these youngsters have competed against each other at the high school level. I only see one disadvantage for Georgia – and that’s excluding the home-field advantage for Clemson – I think the fact that the Bulldogs are looking up and seeing South Carolina right down the road in the conference opener. I think that could be a distraction for players and coaches, alike.”

Herbstreit said that Georgia will have its hands full in the first month of the season.

“Georgia opens up in Death Valley and then a huge conference game with South Carolina and then they still have LSU in the first four weeks,” he said. “They will know where they stand in the first month of the season. The thing about Georgia that I’m looking forward to in that game is much like Clemson with Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray will be a four-year starter in the SEC.”

Herbstreit says he saw an increased focus when he was in Athens last week.

“I had Georgia on the road early last year and they struggled on the road in Columbia with Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks,” he said. “I think there’s a real sense of focus with this team. I was down in Athens a week ago and this looks like a veteran team especially on the offensive side of the ball that really believes that they are going to have a great year. They all remember how close they were in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game to not just winning the SEC but getting a berth in the national championship and I think that has really driven them in this off season.

“Mark Richt was telling us that even though they lost eight starters, all of them were drafted in the NFL. They feel very good about this next wave of personnel that they are going to have to have step up. If there’s one concern that I would have if I’m a Georgia Bulldog, it would be breaking in a lot of new faces in the secondary against a very, very difficult and confusing scheme with a veteran quarterback and a lot of big playmakers. If I’m a Georgia fan, my big thing is not giving up a lot of big plays to Clemson. If they can avoid giving up big plays and keep that crowd somewhat tame, then they’ve got a shot. That game on paper looks like a shootout- which quarterback has the football last will end up winning that one.”


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