Rivals give anonymous scouting report on Clemson, fellow contenders


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Tee Higgins is seen as a key to making Clemson more explosive in 2018.
Tee Higgins is seen as a key to making Clemson more explosive in 2018.

Sports Illustrated went around the country to get candid - and therefore anonymous - analysis from rival coaches about the nation’s top-ranked teams preseason.

Like a similar exercise with only ACC coaches, there’s nothing but praise for the preseason Playoff-favorite Tigers. This edition named some of the players rivals are watching out for.

Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant are all future first-rounders,” one coach said. “But they aren’t the only good ones. Everybody in the country wanted Xavier Thomas; he could have started at a lot of places as a freshman and now he’ll have to fight to be in the rotation. So it’s not just the starters you have to worry about. With those guys up front, their linebackers might never get touched.”

Thomas has lived up to the 5-star hype early in on camp so far, impressing in an open media session on Wednesday.

On the offensive side, the anonymous coach acknowledged some uncertainty on what to expect due to the QB competition.

“You really have to challenge their short throws or the chains will keep moving,” the coach said. “You also have to tackle well, because they can put the ball where it’s a one-on-one. They may not be as explosive as they’ve been, but they will go on lots of double-digit play drives, and Travis Etienne can always break a big one if you don’t fit the play correctly. ... They still like to beat you over the top, and Tee Higgins can be that guy to make them even more explosive.”

Staying in the ACC, some comments on Mark Richt’s coaching style are a bit eye-catching, after his Miami Hurricanes finished a Coastal Division-winning season with three double-digit losses (including 38-3 to Clemson).

“The Miami Way under coach Mark Richt is simple: Our players are faster and bigger and stronger than your players, so we’re going to let our players play,” one coach said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With the Hurricanes’ talent at their skill positions, a team like Duke has no business competing against them, but last year the Blue Devils made adjustments and the game was tight until the end. You’d like to see Richt and the staff make more adjustments too.”

Looking down the road, one coach queried thinks Alabama could be better this season.

“Let’s remember: They probably shouldn’t have even been in the playoff and won the championship by the skin of their teeth,” said one coach. “It wasn’t a totally dominant Nick Saban team. That being said, this team could be better than last year’s. ... Their offense could be as explosive as it’s ever been in the Saban era.”

Tags: Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Xavier Thomas, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins
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