CLEMSON — We’ve got the pleasure of hearing from Thomas Grant, who covers South Carolina State for the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, to shed a little light on the Bulldogs for us.
Aaron Brenner, Tiger Tracks: Was losing a tough opening game to Coastal Carolina a good or bad thing entering a massive challenge like Clemson?
Thomas Grant, Times and Democrat: From the standpoint of showing improvement from last season, playing a very competitive game against a nationally-ranked Football Championship Subdivision opponent like Coastal Carolina was a positive. The return of offensive line coach Joe Blackwell has already reaped benefits from how the group held its own against the Chanticleers, particularly in the penalty department where they averaged about 10 infractions through the first half of the season. The team did lose a game head coach Buddy Pough believes they gave away (a blocked field goal returned for a 10, a field goal by Coastal Carolina set up by a muffed punt), but it served as a measuring stick as to where the program stands entering Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.
Brenner: Is athleticism the team’s greatest trait?
Grant: It’s definitely the best trait of the linemen with physically imposing players like tackle Javon Hargrave on defense and 6-7, 315-pound newcomer Javarius Leamon, a former Clemson commitment. Senior linebackers Joe Thomas and Justin Hughes are also athletic, but experienced as well. With several new parts on the field and coaching staff, this is a team still trying to find its identity.
Brenner: Looks like there’s a lot of multiple sets the Bulldogs throw at teams. Have FBS teams had trouble adapting to that at all?
Grant: Given the last two FBS teams S.C. State faced (Arizona and Texas A&M) defeated them by an average of 56 points and it’s managed to score in double digits in three out of 10 of these matchups, the problem is more the opposite.
Brenner: Has last week’s slew of FCS wins over FBS teams been brought up?
Grant: While Pough saw it as a hopeful sign, he also pointed out that none of those FCS teams who were successful last week faced teams as highly-ranked as Clemson. Considering what happened the last time S.C. State went to Death Valley (54-0 loss in 2008) and the Tigers have shown vast improvement, he sees the challenges his team faces as more overwhelming than what the Eastern Washingtons and North Dakota States faced last week.
Brenner: What would constitute a successful Saturday at Death Valley for South Carolina State?
Grant: In such matchups, the Bulldogs would like to at least score 14 points or even play a competitive first half much like it did in 2009 against South Carolina. If S.C. State can come away with positives in slowing down Clemson’s offense or even moving the football, it would serve them well moving forward into conference play.