By Gray Gardner.
Time to take a look at Clemson’s victory over North Texas and pass out some grades.
Kyle Parker showed a lot of finesse on a couple of passes that he may not have been able to throw last season. The touchdown to Brandon Clear is a great example of the strides Parker has made in that regard. He also moved well in the pocket and made some good decisions to run the ball. However, he was fairly inconsistent on a couple of drives, throwing passes far behind the receivers. He made one big mistake in forcing a pass on the goal line that resulted in an interception. Tajh Boyd didn’t have much time in the game and did not fare well in the short time he was in. He should have plenty of work in next week’s game against Presbyterian. Overall, the play from quarterback position was above average for the first game.
Running backs: A
Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington proved that the run game will survive in Clemson this fall. Both were excellent in finding holes and accelerating through tackles Saturday. If the backs can provide consistent yardage on every play as well as a couple of big runs a game, this tandem could end up being more effective than that of CJ Spiller and James Davis, considering their different running styles. Harper also proved that he can be used effectively as a receiver out of the backfield. Overall, the backs were excellent in the opener.
Wide receivers: C
With the exception of a couple of big plays, the receivers struggled to get open most of the day, forcing Kyle Parker to run on several pass plays. I think the players at the position showed they can be liable threats when they get the ball in their hands, but they first going have to get open before they can get the ball. This position group performed average at best.
Offensive line: B+
The line did well to open up holes for the running game and gave Kyle Parker plenty of time in the pocket. However, there was not much domination up front like you would hope to see against a team like North Texas. The offensive line did their jobs well, but considering their opponent, they could have been much more impressive.
Defensive line: A-
Unlike the offensive line, the d-line showed streaks of dominance. It seemed like DaQuan Bowers was in the backfield on almost every play and when he wasn’t, someone else was. I was impressed at the amount of pressure the line alone forced on North Texas quarterback Nathan Tune. With the exception of a couple of draw plays, the line did well to stop the run as well. Overall, their performance was very good.
It appears as if the linebacking crew will be the Achilles heel of the defensive again in 2010. Saturday proved that there are athletes at the position, but more often than not they were out of position to make plays. The amount of success North Texas had with the quarterback draw is proof of this. Mid-range passing was fairly easy for the Mean Green as well. It was almost like the linebackers just disappeared at times. This group will have to perform much better in the future in order for the defense to be as good as it can be.
Defensive backs: B
North Texas seemed to have a lot of success completing passes against the Tigers’ soft pass coverage. This could have been caused by what Kevin Steele wanted to do schematically, but still – receivers were not having trouble getting open. There were some great plays from the defensive backs group Saturday including an interception. But they’ll need to tighten up their coverage in order to be successful against pass heavy teams.
Special teams: B+
Any time you don’t lose a game because of special teams, it’s a good day. Chandler Catanzaro did a great job in his first start as the team’s placekicker. Spencer Benton kicked a couple of balls deep into the endzone on kickoffs for touchbacks. And Dawson Zimmerman had an extraordinary 79-yard punt. There were signs from the return game that showed there could be some success there as the season progresses. Overall, every special teams unit did very well.
Coaching Staff: B
I think the coaches were extremely conservative Saturday in what could have been a blow out. They did not attack on either side as much as I would have liked to see. However, the team as a whole seemed prepared to do what they were instructed to do and came away with a victory, which is always a sign of success on the staff’s part.