By Trey McCurry.
Time for TCI to hand out the grades for Saturday’s 16-13 loss to Florida State.
You have to give Kyle Parker the benefit of the doubt in this one. His first interception came off a tipped ball. Yes, the pass was a little forced, but Dwayne Allen – the intended receiver – is capable of making that kind of catch if the defense doesn’t get there first. On the second interception the intended receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, fell down before he could jump to attempt a catch. With those plays standing out, it’s easy to miss the positive. Parker was 28 for 44 passing for 239 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but showed a lot of awareness by using his legs to make plays and find open receivers.
RUNNING BACK: A
There was a huge question marking surrounding the running back position with Andre Ellington out, but Jamie Harper should have removed all questions Saturday. Harper carried the offense, rushing for 143 yards on 27 attempts. He found the endzone on the team’s first scoring drive. Harper showed a lot more toughness than he has in the past, pushing through tackles and running hard to get extra yardage.
WIDE RECEIVER: B-
The one thing I can take away from the loss is this – Clemson’s receiving corps is going to be really good in the next few years. Some of the catches made by Jaron Brown and DeAndre Hopkins were catches you’d expect out of a senior playmaker. This group still is not consistent in making the big play, but that will come with experience. I think they showed Saturday that they can pose a big threat to defensive secondaries. The group does need to improve on outside blocking. Several run plays were busted due to missed blocks by receivers. Their grade was docked a little because of this and for a couple of dropped passes.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
It may not have been the prettiest performance, but the numbers don’t lie. The Tigers racked up 152 yards on the ground and only allowed Kyle Parker to be sacked once – all this against one of the best pass rushing units in the conference, second only to Clemson. I think there needs to be more toughness out of this group. There have been way too many instances on short downs when the line could not get enough push for a single yard or two. There were also several times in the game Saturday when Clemson linemen would miss a block only to stop, turn around, and watch the defender wreak havoc in the backfield. The effort exemplified by the Clemson line has been subpar, in my opinion.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
This group continued to excel at bringing pressure Saturday. DaQuan Bowers surpassed Gaines Adams’ record for sacks in a single season. Brandon Thompson was in the backfield all night and recorded a sack of his own. The group held Florida State running backs to minimal yardage. The Seminoles were only successful running the ball late in the fourth quarter when quarterback E.J. Manuel found space on several outside runs. The yardage does not reflect well upon the defensive line, but the majority of Florida State’s big running plays were due to busted plays in the second and third level of the Clemson defense.
This grade may seem a little hard on a group that seemed to fill the gaps well Saturday. However, the linebackers were completely absent on almost every outside sweep the Seminoles ran. Watching replays, it was clear that the linebackers were being sucked in on every option or outside run. It left lots of running room for quarterback E.J. Manuel, who ran for just under 100 yards. This group is improving and is showing this in their domination of the run game between the tackles. They must improve on their vision and seeing the field as a whole.
DEFENSIVE BACK: B-
It seemed like every completed pass for the Seminoles was a big play. The Clemson secondary has shown a weakness in covering the deep ball and the Florida State offense attacked that from the first play. E.J. Manuel is not known for his skill as a passer, yet still completed over 50% of his passes for 210 yards. The Tiger defensive backs did not allow a touchdown through the air and did record an interception, earning them a decent grade.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
I could copy and paste my synopsis of this group from the Boston College game and it would fit almost seamlessly. The two missed field goals – one of which was blocked – were the difference in the game. The Clemson field goal unit has to be one of the worst in the country, if not the worst.
OFFENSIVE COACHES: D
The offensive moved the ball effectively, yes. But at some point the coaching staff has to find a way to get in the endzone. The latter part of this season has been marked by poor offensive performance in the redzone. You have to start questioning the play calling when the Tigers are inside the 20. For example, Billy Napier’s decision to pass the ball on a second down and six when the Tigers were running the ball down the defense’s throat. The pass was a forced jump ball in the endzone that resulted in an interception. Florida State went on to score the go-ahead touchdown. These types of play calls seem so obviously bad, but nothing has been done to change them. The offensive line has not improved in effort over the season, actually getting worse if anything. The offensive coaches must make adjustments to be successful the rest of the season and into next year.
DEFENSIVE COACHES: B+
The Clemson defensive dominated Saturday. The coaching staff, led by Kevin Steele, was well prepared for everything the Florida State offense threw at them – that is, until the fourth quarter. The only negative that can be accredited to the defensive staff is their inability to make a successful adjustment against E.J. Manuel’s outside run play. Still, only giving up 16 points a single touchdown has to be seen as a good performance. The defense did their job to keep the ball in the offense’s hands. Unfortunately, the offense could not produce.