Qualk Talk

Making the Grade: Clemson 59, S.C. State 0

Sep 17, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) and wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (34) celebrate after a touchdown against the South Carolina State Bulldogs during the first quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

See how The Clemson Insider graded each position group in third-ranked Clemson’s 59-0 win over South Carolina State on Saturday in Death Valley.

Quarterbacks: A 

Quarterback play was just about as good as it can be on Saturday. After a lackluster couple of games, Clemson’s passing game found its rhythm. With five different guys throwing at least one pass—including walk-on James Barnes—the Tigers completed 27-of-35 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. The position also accounted for 36 rushing yards in the game. Deshaun Watson seemed to get his groove back against the Bulldogs, but perhaps the most impressive performance belonged to backup Nick Schuessler, who firmly established himself as the primary reserve behind Watson in the pecking order.

Running Backs: A

When a player making his collegiate debut—from scrimmage, at least—is the leading rusher in a blowout win, it’s been a solid day in the backfield. Clemson averaged 5.7 yards per carry against the Bulldogs en route to piling up 227 yards as a unit. Tavien Feaster was the top rusher in the game with 83 yards on a dozen carries, while starter Wayne Gallman had a solid seven-carry, 40-yard day with a touchdown. Tyshon Dye was also a big winner on this day, averaging more than nine yards per carry in perhaps his best career performance.

Wide Receivers: A

After a chronic case of the drops last week, the receiving corps rebounded in a big way on Saturday. The passing game was efficient thanks to a better effort from the pass-catchers, who accounted for only two drops after a plethora of errors kept Clemson’s offense grounded against Troy. A resurgent Ray-Ray McCloud was brilliant, catching a pair of touchdown passes, and Mike Williams matched him with four receptions. In all, fifteen different Tigers caught passes, including players named Radakovich and Swinney.

Offensive Line: A

This is the one unit whose long-term outlook seems tough to pin down after this one. The offensive front was very good in the game, keeping Clemson’s quarterbacks upright and opening up holes for the running game. However, this group so overwhelmed the inferior Bulldogs’ front that it’s difficult to see if it was a good performance or a subpar opponent that was the determining factor. There’s no reason to give this group any less than an “A” at this point, though.

Defensive Line: A

Sensing a pattern yet? The defensive line was dominant against an overmatched offensive line from South Carolina State. Combined, this unit was responsible for four sacks and seven tackles for loss. It was also credited with five quarterback hurries. The leader of the group was Albert Huggins, who had four tackles and a sack in the game, plus a fumble recovery that was wiped out by an offsides penalty.

Linebackers: A-

The linebacking corps really didn’t do much that stood out, but it was just generally a solid unit from start to finish in Saturday’s game. The highlight of the day was the brutal hit freshman Jamie Skalski put on the Bulldogs’ quarterback to earn his first career sack. Fellow freshman Tre Lamar had 1.5 tackles for loss in the game, and there were very few missed tackles by the group as a whole. For a solid effort, a solid grade seemed worthy.

Defensive Backs: A

It was going to be difficult for South Carolina State to come into Memorial Stadium and establish the run against Clemson, so the most effective course of action is generally to try to make some plays in the passing game. That didn’t happen, thanks to some outstanding coverage from Clemson’s defensive backfield. In addition to a Jadar Johnson interception, the group helped the pass rush by forcing the Bulldogs to hold the football longer than normal. With a plethora of players chipping in, this was a dominating performance by the secondary.

Special Teams: B-

Once again, there were some good moments, and there were some things to correct. The second field goal that was blocked was all kinds of screwed up, and it was hard to tell why. Initial returns blame a bad snap or hold, but it wasn’t immediately clear which one. However, Greg Huegel routinely forced touchbacks on kickoffs, and the return game was outstanding for the entire game. There was actually plenty to be encouraged about from the special teams unit.

Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

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