Travis Sawchik of the Charleston Post and Courier was good enough to dig into a few questions I asked him about the team he covers. You can read his Clemson coverage here. Please read on.
1. What has happened in the past few weeks that’s kicked the offense into high gear?
First-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd really began to look comfortable against Auburn in Week 3 and since that point, only Bud Foster’s defense (Va. Tech) has kept Clemson below 35 points.
Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins has really kicked the offense into a different gear since the first game. Not only does he have an elite 40 time, but NFL folks are more impressed with his acceleration, which produces easy separation. He can also high point the ball and has flypaper hands. He’s the complete package. Watkins has taken the top off of defenses, along with fellow freshman Martavis Bryant, allowing tight end Dwayne Allen – a projected top-50 NFL pick – and sophomore receiver DeAndre Hopkins to operate in space underneath.
Boyd’s combination of arm strength and quick release has allowed him to get away with staring down some receivers and waiting longer for receivers to break open. He has really good physical attributes and combined with the skilled pass catchers has made this offense, at least the passing offense, potent.
2. Under what scenario could you see Tech pulling the upset Saturday night?
If Georgia Tech can sustain drives they could be in position to pull off an upset. Clemson thrives off of extra snaps and extra possessions. The Tigers lead the nation in offensive snaps (626) and wear opponents out in the second half, out-scoring teams 175-77 in the second half this year.
Clemson’s defense really struggled with Paul Johnson’s offense in two games in 2009 and Clemson was tied with an FCS option offense in Wofford at the half in Week 2. Georgia Tech is going to have opportunities against a young defense with six new starters that has yet to master base sets let alone option football. Tech needs to stay on the field and hope Boyd gets off to another slow start like he has in his last two road games, throwing a interception returned for a touchdown at Maryland and being off the mark at Va. Tech.
3. Nose guard Brandon Thompson and end Andre Branch are obvious strengths in Clemson’s defense. Where or what are the weak spots?
North Carolina thought it could attack Clemson’s safeties. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele admits his secondary has been susceptible to double-moves this season and against no team should that be more problematic for Clemson than run-first Georgia Tech. Stephen Hill could have a big night for Tech.
4. Has this season changed your opinion of Dabo Swinney?
We always knew Swinney could recruit – that’s his strength. He has a great personal story and great charisma and that pays off on on the recruiting trail. Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, Clemson’s two most valuable players, were both signed under Swinney.
I was curious to see what changes Swinney would make regarding his coaching staff and he made the a great one in hiring offensive coordinator Chad Morris. I think Swinney has proven he’s more than an ace recruiter and he can be an effective CEO. Perhaps in that Mack Brown mold.
5. What’s the fewest amount of points you could envision Clemson scoring Saturday?
I’ll say 27ish. I think we will see more points than that but Georgia Tech’s best defense is going to be time of possession on offense and it’s certainly plausible Tech will control the clock and shorten the game.
Tech volleyball dad Urban Meyer breaks down the Clemson offense.
Charleston Post and Courier update on the sprained ankle of running back Andre Ellington and a column pointing out Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips hired three of the coaches of the teams in the top five of the BCS – Les Miles and Mike Gundy (when he was AD at Oklahoma State) and Swinney.
A slew of stories available here from the Anderson independent Mail.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog