By Gray Gardner.
The Tigers opened the season with a victory in Death Valley over Troy. After trailing at the half the Tigers outscored the Trojans 30-3 in the second half. How did the Tigers grade out in the game? Time for TCI to grade the performance of the Tigers.
Tajh Boyd helped his grade tremendously with his play the second half. Boyd seemed uncomfortable for most of the game, which hurt his grade, but the fact remains – he led the offense to outscore Troy 30-3 after the half. Many of Boyd’s problems can probably be attributed to the offensive line’s failure to keep Troy out of the backfield. Even so, Boyd finished the game having completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 264 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. He showed some zip on some passes and a lot of confidence standing in the pocket and taking hits on a few occasions. Boyd was sacked 3 times though and will need to learn to get rid of the ball when nothing’s open.
Running Backs: A
You couldn’t have asked any more of Andre Ellington and Mike Bellamy. The two combined for 174 yards on 21 carries – 75 of those coming from Bellamy’s touchdown run in the second half. Ellington did not score a touchdown but averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Wide Receivers: A
Sammy Watkins did not disappoint in his first outing as a Tiger. The freshman caught 7 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, breaking two freshmen records in the process. Watkins already seems to be the go-to guy on offense. Nuke Hopkins, Jaron Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Dwayne Allen each looked impressive on some plays as well. This group should only improve as the season goes on and the players grow more comfortable with the offense.
Offensive Line: C-
Clemson’s troubles up front have apparently carried over from season’s past. The group gave up 3 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries. Tajh Boyd had little time to get comfortable in the passing game. The line created very little surge up front in the run game. If not for Andre Ellington’s ability to shift through holes and make something out of nothing, Clemson’s rushing yards would be minimal. The lone bright spot on the line seemed to be Philip Price’s play at left tackle. The senior proved that he is not just capable of playing, but that he is capable of being a leader on the offensive front.
Defensive Line: C+
It’s hard to get an accurate read on this group after Saturday’s game. Troy ran for 165 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per rush. Clemson’s defensive line did not create a consistent surge up front at any point in the game. The group did not record any sacks although they recorded 5 quarterback hurries. Two young players – Travaris Barnes and DeShawn Williams – received some good playing time and did well – something that will certainly help down the road. Still – Troy’s offensive line seemed to manhandle Clemson’s d-line for most of the game. This group was projected to be a weak spot on Clemson’s defense going into the season and showed why on Saturday against a lesser opponent.
The linebacker corps showed signs of improvement from a season ago. With the exception of a couple of blown coverages – and Troy’s considerable success in the run game – the group played well. Freshman Stephone Anthony highlighted the group’s play with a sack in the first half. Anthony bolted into the backfield with incredible closing speed and delivered a big hit on Troy quarterback Corey Robinson. With the personnel Clemson currently has at the position, it probably won’t be long before Anthony is in the starting lineup.
Defensive Backs: C
The group – as a whole – looked lost on Saturday. Troy’s Corey Robinson sliced up the Clemson secondary for 258 yards and a touchdown, completing over 50% of his passes. There were several times when Clemson’s corners were nowhere to be found on deep passes, and others when the safeties completely misplayed balls. The group tightened down when they needed to, but still gave up a considerable amount of ground. The Clemson secondary will have to improve tremendously if they hope to compete against more talented offenses down the road.
Special Teams: B
Clemson’s special teams looked much improved from last season, though still not great. Freshmen Sammy Watkins and Mike Bellamy appear to be the real deal back on kick returns, and the Hopkins-Watkins pairing on punt returns has potential to be electrifying as well. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro connected on three field goals of over 45 yards in distance, but missed an extra point. It’s hard to say if Clemson’s kicking woes from last season are over, as the jury is still out on Catanzaro.
Coaching Staff: B
At the end of the day, a win is a win. Clemson started the game with a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive scheme, a new quarterback, and the most true freshmen to ever play in a Clemson football game. Given those facts, it’s quite acceptable that there were problems in the first half on offense. What’s important is that the coaching staff regrouped and made adjustments at the half. The second half was a different story offensively as the Tigers outscored Troy 30-3.
Defensively some work needs to be done, but it’s hard to say whether the problem is in the scheme or the personnel. There were question marks heading into the season all throughout the defense, so its no wonder that there were blown assignments Saturday. Even so, much like with Chad Morris, give Kevin Steele and his staff credit for making adjustments at the half. Troy only managed a field goal the remainder of the game.