By Gray Gardner.
Gray Gardner takes a look at how the first four games of the season have gone, overall.
The offense has executed well so far this season. Kyle Parker has completed 58% of his passes for 503 yards and 6 touchdowns. Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper have combined for 427 yards on the ground and 5 touchdowns and have contributed greatly in the passing game.
The Tigers’ receiving crew has shown increased consistency in each of the first three games and tight end Dwayne Allen has proved that he can be a reliable target through the air. The offensive line showed signs of toughness and domination in its first road test against Auburn’s experienced defensive front and appears to be much improved from years past. Offensive coordinator Billy Napier has proved to be a capable play caller and has consistently put the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
The offense has done well in the first three games to show that they are capable of competing against tough defenses. The preseason question marks at wide receiver have been evident at times but have mostly been eradicated with the use of the tight end and running backs in the passing game.
Napier’s balanced play calling and use of misdirection and play action has worked tremendously well so far this season and has fit the athletes’ ability on offense. I look for this group to continue to improve and succeed throughout ACC play.
Highest graded position: Running back (A+)
Lowest graded position: Wide receiver (B-)
The first game of the season was disastrous for a defense that hoped to be one of the best in the country. The Tiger D allowed 462 yards against North Texas in the team’s opener, 193 of which were on the ground. The unit rebounded against an incapable Presbyterian team, although still allowing nearly 300 yards of offense.
Most recently, in a hostile environment against a talented Auburn offense, the Clemson defense decided to show up. (Well, for at least 3 quarters of play.) This was the unit’s best performance to date despite the fact that Auburn racked up over 420 yards of offense.
The return of Brandon Maye at linebacker will only help as the season progresses. The linebacking crew has been the unit’s Achilles heel in 2010, leaving the middle of the field wide open on several occasions. Defensive end DaQuan Bowers has been excellent in three games and safety DeAndre McDaniel is again showing why he is an All-American pick at defensive back. The Tigers have what it takes to be a good defensive team so long as coordinator Kevin Steele continues to make adjustments and challenge his players.
Highest graded position: Defensive line (A)
Lowest graded position: Linebackers (C+)
So far this team has shown that it is better than average. Clemson didn’t show much in the first two games of the season but there were flashes of excellence during the team’s overtime loss at Auburn. If the Tigers can build on the successes from that game, they have potential to be the best team in the ACC in 2010. The coaching staff has continued to improve from week to week. Coming off a bye-week, I expect to see a well executed, physical football game from both the offense and defense against Miami at home.