By Gray Gardner.
Time to pass out the grades for the Tigers 31-7 victory over Maryland.
Kyle Parker played decently for the most part in the Tigers’ victory over the Terrapins Saturday. Although his statistics were not great I thought Parker did a better job of controlling the offense. He only completed 7 of his 20 pass attempts – some of which were poorly thrown balls – others were drops by his receivers, including a drop by Dwayne Allen in the endzone on the first drive. But what Parker lacked in the passing game he made up for on the ground, amassing 44 yards and a couple of runs for first downs. He showed more toughness than he has the previous two weeks and allowed his feet to make up for what his arm was lacking.
RUNNING BACK: B-
Andre Ellington was contained pretty much the whole day on the offensive side of the ball. He only averaged 2.6 yards per carry, almost half of his seasonal average. Jamie Harper’s average was even lower at 1 yard per carry. However, both Ellington and Harper scored touchdowns and kept some drives going with runs in third and short situations. The backs are not completely to blame for their lack of stats – blocking and play calling play a large role in their performance as well.
WIDE RECEIVER: C-
The younger players at the position continued to show their potential Saturday. Bryce McNeal made a couple of clutch plays on third downs, as did Marquan Jones. Arguably the most impressive play came on a 20-yard reception and run by Jaron Brown, who has also been proving himself on special teams. However, this group lacks consistency. Dropped passes continued to plague the offense and wide outs struggled to get open for much of the game, forcing Kyle Parker to flee the pocket and run or throw the ball out of bounds. This will have to get better.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C+
The offense was unable to run the ball for much of the game. This is partly because of the offensive line’s lack of physicality up front. The Tigers only averaged 2.1 yards on the ground as a team. The line will have to get a better push and open up holes for the offensive backs if the run game is to be successful. Maryland was also successful in getting to Kyle Parker, recording 1 sack and 3 quarterback hurries. The line has got to do a better job of dominating opposing defenses and giving Parker and the running backs room to make plays.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
This group – again highlighted by DaQuan Bowers’ play – continues to be the strength of the Tiger defense. Bowers recorded 3 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss. His play has been a spark plug for the defense and has forced offensive coordinators to gameplan around him. The line as a whole still needs to work on containing the run on short yardage plays. But for the most part this group is playing well.
Maryland tight ends Matt Furstenburg and Will Yeatman had a field day against the Tigers’ linebackers. They combined for 8 receptions and 139 yards receiving and were almost always in a one-on-one situation with a Clemson backer. The linebackers were more consistent in helping to stop the run this week although they still allowed a couple of big play runs. This group has to improve, bottom line.
DEFENSIVE BACK: B+
Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien was able to find holes underneath Clemson’s coverage for most of the day. But with the exception of two or three long completions, the Tigers’ secondary did a good job of coverage downfield. The group forced 3 interceptions, one of which went back for a touchdown. If the group can continue to create turnovers and prevent the “big play,” I think this defense can be pretty good.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Clemson’s special teams did everything Saturday. Andre Ellington returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Jaron Brown was one defender away from returning a punt for a score. Dawson Zimmerman punted well, allowing the Tigers’ coverage teams to contain Maryland’s threats in the return game. Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 42-yard field goal to score the game’s first points. Clemson dominated this aspect of the game.
COACHING STAFF: B
Although it wasn’t impressive (by any means) the coaching staff put the players in a position to win big. The Tiger offense will have to be better prepared in the coming weeks. They were ineffective against a Maryland defense that was not particularly great. The play calling will have to improve to show more variability and reliance on the running game, which coordinator Billy Napier strayed from at times Saturday. Clemson does not have the tools to be a passing team. I think you’ll see a lot of offensive improvement if and when the staff realizes this and changes the gameplan accordingly. Defensively the team is continuing to improve. Give credit to Kevin Steele for making adjustments from the first game and getting his players ready. He needs to find a solution for the issues at linebacker. That position seems to be holding the defense back as a whole. It will be interesting to see how the staff prepares this week for a much better team in Georgia Tech.