While Clemson finished up the regular season with a 56-7 victory over rival South Carolina in Death Valley, the Tigers are now focused in on the ACC Championship and Virginia Tech.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said that Virginia Tech will present some particular challenges on defense that Clemson has not seen much of yet.
“First thing is they’ve got veteran guys up there,” Scott said. “Several of those guys are juniors and seniors. They understand leverage, they play with their hands, very well coached. Very few times do they get out of their gap. They do a good job of really holding their gap, and they also do a good job of not allowing you get to the linebacker level and really taking up those blocks, those one-on-one blocks and double-team blocks and making it difficult to get up there to their linebackers. That’s why their linebackers are their two leading tacklers right now.”
Scott noted that Clemson is up to the challenge of seeing something new, and that starts with the leader of the offense.
“Deshaun’s (Watson) already been in early this morning and was down there when I left, just getting some extra film study because it is different than anybody we’ve played this year,” Scott said. “I think to guys like Deshaun, who’s hopefully going to have a long career, he gets excited about that. Being able to see something different and try to see how guys are going to play us, being able to make the right adjustments and know where to go with the football and those type of things.”
Clemson is entering the post season with opportunities to play on championship stages. Scott said that he has seen Watson have some of his best performances under the big lights.
“He’s been incredible all the time, but really in the big game. I don’t know if there’s been anybody better in college football the last two or three years on the big stage. That’s what we’ve come to expect with Deshaun, so I don’t expect anything less Saturday night.”
Watson said that although the Heisman race is nearing its final weeks, he isn’t worried about it because the only aspect he can control is how he plays.
“I’ve experienced it last year. It’s out of my control. The only thing I can do is really influence the other people and worry about my performance on game day. But that’s up to the voters and what they do. I’m just honored and blessed to continue to have my name in the mix and be in that special group.”
On Monday, the ACC announced that Clemson had nine players named first-team All-ACC. Five more players were named to the second-team. The second-team All ACC offense included Watson and running back Wayne Gallman. While Gallman is close to having back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he said he really improved his pass protection skills over the years.
“I think I made the biggest improvement probably in my pass protection and really learned what a defense brings on different downs, blitzes and things of that order. Really just being a better player without the football in my hands,” Gallman said.
Gallman also noted on his ACC Teleconference call that the team knows they need to be dialed in on Virginia Tech.
“We never want to go into a game thinking that we’re just going to win because we can easily lose by anybody, I don’t care who you are. It’s all about execution, preparation, and really coming out to play football, and that’s what we’re going to have to do,” Gallman said.