Roy Martin: Clemson - Temple Preview


by - Correspondent -
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Clemson should win and win easily Thursday night. Temple is one of the worst teams in the country who would struggle to compete in some of the better division I-AA conferences.


They have been outscored 172-7 in the three games against opponents from BCS conferences (Louisville, Minnesota, and Vanderbilt) while losing to Buffalo (3-9) and Kent State (17-28). They are averaging 4.5 points per game and giving up just under 35.


It is not a great matchup for the fans but it may be exactly what this team needs after a hard fought victory against Wake Forest and a big game with Georgia Tech on the horizon.


Yes, coaches will tell you this could be a trap game but that is merely coach speak. This game should be over with before halftime much like the contests against Louisiana Tech and North Carolina.


OFFENSE


Clemson never really struggled to move the ball last week. Instead, the continually hurt themselves with turnovers and a few miscues.


Specifically, Will Proctor had a miserable first three quarters. His decision making in the passing game was abysmal and he did not throw the ball well. He began to come around in the fourth quarter and really came through when he was needed the most.


It is not likely he will get a lot of chances this week through the air. When he does thrown, I look for Rob Spence to call some very high percentage passes early on just to regain his confidence then maybe take a few shots down the field in hopes of notching a few big plays to really get him back on track.


James Davis has a great feel for where the cuts are and he has gotten a lot stronger in the last year. He should get a number of carries early on just to keep him from getting a little rusty and possibly to pad his stats, but look for his shortest outing of the year.


The game has really seemed to slow down for C.J. Spiller in the last few weeks as he has become more comfortable. He should get a bulk of the carries as a means of continuing his development because he will have a more important role the next couple of weeks. And because of his hands, look for him to line up in the slot on occasion.


This should also be the biggest game of the year for the reserve linemen. The starters have played a vast majority of the snaps in all of the big games and rightfully so, but this group is just a couple of injuries away from being an average unit in terms of experience. The young guys need these snaps more than any group on the team.


One of the two reserve quarterbacks needs to have a solid performance because neither have looked all that sharp in their limited snaps. Cullen Harper has missed some throws and looked tentative at times while Tribble Reese has had very few chances. This is the chance for one of them to assert himself as the backup.


Spence may actually throw more to the tight ends this week because it is a good chance to look at some of the young guys and it will give Georgia Tech something else to work on. The coaches have praised Durrell Barry in recent weeks and his athleticism as a pass catcher could help take some of the heat off the depleted receiving corps.


DEFENSE


The defense has been exceptional all year. This is a great opportunity to throw some of the younger guys out there in order to let them flush some of the mistakes out of their systems.


The front has established a solid rotation throughout the year but recently took a hit with the loss of Etta Etta-Tawo. Jock McKissick, Rashaad Jackson, Dorrell Scott, and Donnell Clark are solid but the staff would like to find someone else to step in. Antwon Murchison is the man that needs to have a good game.


Gaines Adams and Phillip Merling are proven commodities at defensive end. Adams, especially, has picked up his game since week two despite playing through some injuries. It looked like he suffered a minor injury about halfway through the third quarter last week and could probably use some time off.


Ricky Sapp and Brandon Cannon have solidified themselves as the backups but still have a lot of room for improvement. Sapp is a game changer who just needs to get a little stronger. Cannon is never going to be an awards candidate but is more than serviceable. More than anything, he just needs more playing time.


Kavell Conner, Courtney Vincent, and Josh Miller are the linebackers I expect to see a lot of but I also think Jeremy Campbell and Kevin Alexander will get their fair share of reps. Campbell has played much more than Alexander and has shown a great burst to the ball. Alexander has seen very little action on defense since the first game despite looking good.


Much like the offensive line, the starters have garnered a majority of the reps in tight situations. Establishing depth needs to be a priority because Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Maryland all like to play physical games. The possible return of Tramaine Billie in two weeks could be a positive but it is not a given.


The secondary has played surprisingly well at times but depth is still an issue. Michael Hamlin’s return will help to shore up the unit but the biggest need right now is for someone to step up at corner.


I still contend C.J. Gaddis is a safety instead of a corner. He has played very well when lined up at the former. Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor have been impressive for first year guys but it seems Vic Koenning still prefers Gaddis because of his experience, not necessarily because he is a better fit. Maybe this is the week he becomes more comfortable with each of them.


SPECIAL TEAMS


For the kicking game’s sake, Clemson need to score as much as possible in Charlotte. The extra point/field goal and kickoff units need all the live action they can muster.


I have caught some heat via emails about my stance on Jad Dean. I understand why many fans are protective of players, especially those that have been as productive during their career as he has.


However, this is a big boy game on the collegiate level. Guys have to take the good with the bad. When a quarterback is playing well praise is heaped upon them, but they must also deal with all the naysayers when things are not going so well.


Kickers are no different. If anything, they should be under more of a microscope. Their sole job is to kick the ball. That is all they practice every practice. They do not have to study film, call audibles, endure punishing contact, or even be in the shape required of a non-specialist.


Dean has caught my ire because he has tried to proclaim his innocence in recent weeks. He acted befuddled when Bowden called him out after the FSU game and earlier this week he tried to deflect blame by saying Chris Gardocki told him his times were fine.


Gardocki is probably correct in stating the times of NFL kickers are not as fast but the NFL is a different game. Kickers usually get better height on their balls and the protection is much better. Really, how often do you see a kick blocked in the NFL? I do not think it an apples-to-apples comparison.


The fact is Dean answers to one man – Tommy Bowden. If Bowden says his kicker is not functioning at a high enough level, then Dean needs to work on it and keep his thoughts out of the media. The same is expected of all players. Graciously accept the praise but take the criticism to heart. There should be no greater motivating factor.


As for the rest of the kicking game, it is imperative the coaches find someone willing to field punts. Ford and Spiller are tremendous threats but both have dropped at least one each and been reluctant to field catchable balls. It is absolutely killing Clemson in the battle for field position.


OVERALL


The Tigers may or may not look a little rusty this week. The scene is definitely set for them to have a lackluster performance. Regardless of what the players say, at least some of their attention has to be looking towards next week and the Wake game probably drained them more than they let on.


How good they look will depend more on the leadership than the game plan or opponent. Playing a lot of reserves a majority of the game should not be an excuse. Clemson is much more talented and Temple is playing a lot of young guys.


The game will definitely be a snoozer for fans that like to see tight contests. It will be a joy to watch for the true Clemson fans that enjoy getting a peek at the future. Clemson wins 55-7.

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