Our esteemed Clemson beat writer, Aaron Brenner, spoke on Friday with Phil Steele, he of the information-packed preseason college football book.
Aaron will have a story in Tuesday’s print edition on what Steele thinks about Clemson entering this season, Aaron’s first on the beat.
But Steele was comprehensive, as usual, when talking to Aaron, who was kind enough to pass along some things Steele said about South Carolina, which he projects will win 10 or 11 regular season games, compared to nine or 10 for Clemson. Again, these are just predictions, but they make for somewhat interesting talking points as everyone prepares for the start of preseason practices.
Also, as previously mentioned, I will be leaving the beat next weekend to cover the New York Jets for The Star-Ledger in Newark. Starting with next Sunday’s media day, the interim USC beat writer will be Andrew Miller, who did a bang-up job covering the Gamecocks for the first half of 2011, between Travis Haney’s departure and my arrival.
So follow Aaron and Andrew on the Twitter, and you’ll be good to go with your Palmetto State college football information as practices get underway. And yes, The Post and Courier is working toward hiring a new USC beat writer. We hope to have one in place sooner rather than later, even though Andrew will fill in admirably once again.
On with what Steele had to say about USC …
WHICH SOUTH CAROLINA OPPONENT IS BEST EQUIPPED TO CONTAIN JADEVEON CLOWNEY?
“Georgia’s got two solid tackles, one of the better offensive lines out there. They also have a quarterback that can get rid of the ball quickly, and that’s going to be the key.”
“Tennessee’s got two outstanding tackles as well. Last year, against Tennessee, South Carolina had a grand total of one sack (Clowney’s game-winning strip-sack at the end). I’ll go with a dark horse. I’ll go Tennessee. They’ve got my No. 2-rated offensive line, two outstanding tackles, allowed South Carolina one sack last year, that was on the road, now they get them at home.”
WHAT’S YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE 2013 USC OFFENSE?
“I’ve got them projected for 441 yards per game, so that’s a pretty good size jump over last year, about 64 yards per game. I think part of that has to do with a couple of the defenses they’re taking on.”
“I like both quarterbacks, I like (Bruce) Ellington and Shaq Roland at receiver. While (Marcus) Lattimore’s gone, he was only there half the season. I think they’re in better shape than they were the second half of the year there. And the offensive line looks solid as well.”
YOU HAVE USC NO. 14 AND CLEMSON NO. 20 IN YOUR PRESEASON POWER POLL. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THOSE RANKINGS?
“I always factor in schedule. In Clemson’s case, opening up against Georgia, having to travel to face South Carolina, having to face Florida State at home. Those are all extremely difficult tests. They may end up an underdog in two or three of those games. So I think it’s partially due to the schedule, and how strong I am on Florida State, South Carolina and Georgia.”
“With South Carolina, it’s the fact they not only have to play Georgia on the road this year. They’ve got a brutal three-game SEC road trip: at Arkansas, at Tennessee, at Missouri. Very unusual to see a team play three straight on the road like that. All three teams had losing records last year, but all are on my most improved list this year. Then you factor in Florida and Clemson. Can they win both of those games, two out of three weeks? So I was just thinking maybe South Carolina drops a game or two. But I’ll say this about South Carolina: If they beat Georgia on Sept. 7, they’re favored in all the rest of their games. They become a legitimate national title contender.”