7 at 7: Mike Williams pushing Martavis Bryant for playing time, Danny Ford reflects on Bill McLellan, and what Syracuse defense does well

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON – Typical Chad Morris: he’s at the point of expecting to be asked what went wrong after a 49-point victory, because elite is never enough.

Quite simply, Morris said in his weekly Monday sitdown with reporters, “There’s plenty to get better. We’re not going to spend the day patting them on the back.”

Among the complaints Clemson’s offensive coordinator had for his No. 16-rated scoring offense: “We’ve got to get cleared up in our run game. We had some snap issues. We gave up two sacks just by being soft, entirely too soft and not playing with technique. Our technique has got to get better on the offensive line. We’re going to keep pressing those guys. We had three drops.”

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Pregame Pep Talk: Clemson should roll over SC State, and Week 2 picks (Gamecocks or Georgia?)

Sammy Watkins

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner | Tiger Tracks on Facebook

CLEMSON – Yo, Dabo, if you’re reading this … stop. Go, uh, go surf YouTube for “Key and Peele” skits or something.

You too, anybody who plays football in a Clemson uniform. NSFW … Not Safe For Watkins. (That means both of you, Sammy and Carlos.)

South Carolina State’s got no chance.

This is a tune-up game, a warmup act, the Hangover, Part I. You know how Swinney (no, seriously, stop reading, Coach) always openly wishes for preseason games? He’s got a post-preseason game here in Death Valley tomorrow.

Somebody make sure Tajh Boyd wakes up on time tomorrow. And that he stays awake from 12:30 p.m. until, oh, at least 1:30 or so. Then he can go curl up in his bed and watch an ‘Austin Powers’ marathon while Cole Stoudt and (unbelievably) Chad Kelly clean up in the second half.

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Back To The Future, Part II: The Good, The Bad, The Noteworthy from Ball State & Furman (plus SC State/NC State previews)

DeAndre Hopkins

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – Alrighty, so games two and three of 2012 were a little less enthralling than the Auburn and Florida State made-for-TV games.

So we’ll smash the Ball State & Furman efforts together, which summarily can be described as Clemson doing what it needed to do to enter the conference slate unscathed … and not much more than that.

Plus, we’ll take a peek at South Carolina State and North Carolina State, the corresponding early-September foes for 2013 coming up in a couple of months.

This is the second installment of our new biweekly feature on PostandCourier.com and the TigerTracks blog this summer. I’ll provide a glimpse to the past – evaluating throwback tape from each 2012 game – as well as one into the future, looking ahead to whichever opponent awaits correlating to that game.

We’ll resume after SEC & Media Days, starting on July 25 and continuing each Monday and Thursday until Aug. 15.

This is a way to utilize what we’ve learned about the returning Tigers and how they’ll fit in with the 2013 team, which is why you won’t read a ton of elaboration on guys who are gone (DeAndre Hopkins, Jonathan Willard, etc.)

One way to differentiate you should know: Clemson players will be listed with shortened positions and will be listed in bold. Opposing players will be preceded by full positions and not in bold.

(So: QB Tajh Boydquarterback Keith Wenning.)

NO. 12 CLEMSON 52, BALL STATE 27 ~ Sept. 8, 2012, ACC Network

Memorial Stadium, Clemson

The Gamer

The Good

The game opens with a pretty rhythmic drive for the Clemson offense: 12 plays, gains on 11 of them (but the longest went only 14 yards), and five first downs plus the touchdown.

RB DJ Howard and RB Roderick McDowell each flaunted their feet. Howard takes a screen pass and nicely tip-toes to the edge, ripping down the sideline for a 33-yard pickup. Later, he motored between the tackles for a tough 4-yard gain; a promising sign. Meanwhile, McDowell navigated his way to a 27-yard touchdown – he’s not quite as explosive as Howard, but what a move he made to shake-and-bake safety Chris Pauling. McDowell actually would lead the Tigers in rushing on this day, with 59 yards on eight carries.

QB Cole Stoudt wasn’t half bad in mop-up duty … although can it really be considered garbage-time if he was inserted before halftime? It’s fairly stunning how early QB Tajh Boyd traded his helmet for a ballcap. Stoudt delivered a nice strike to WR Martavis Bryant for his first career touchdown. Ultimately, Stoudt went 12-for-18 for 123 yards … in fact, Clemson’s three passers (Boyd, Stoudt and QB Morgan Roberts) completed 75 percent of their cumulative attempts, with 8.5 yards per try. Huge.

FS Travis Blanks laid a few big hits. Clemson’ll need that many a time this fall.

A rundown: WR Charone Peake got involved nice and early, including a fantastic catch in tight coverage upon a buttonhook (though it was nullified by an illegal shift) … DT Josh Watson trucked back left guard Kitt O’Brien, and swatted the first throw by quarterback Keith Wenning … pretty good footwork by Bryant on a 17-yard end-around, highlighted by a downfield block by none other than Boyd … speaking of which, Boyd went 19-for-23 for 229 yards and three scores. Ho-hum. … RB Andre Ellington: two short TD runs in the first eight and a half minutes. Ho-hum again. … WR DeAndre Hopkins (three TDs in an 8-minute stretch): Man. Ball State defensive backs: Boys. Period. … LB Stephone Anthony presented nice instincts by stepping back in coverage, watching Wenning all the way and snaring the pass. Anthony’s nine tackles led Clemson … DT DeShawn Williams with a nifty shift to his left to sack Wenning.

The Bad

Hey, defense. Yeah, you guys. Focus, men. All the way through. No reason for discouraged Ball State to rack up 221 yards after halftime, much of which did get charged to the starting unit.

Anthony may have topped the tackle box, but he lost his grip on tailback Jahwan Edwards after pushing him backwards. Anthony was still a work-in-progress with sure tackling.

K Chandler Catanzaro shanked an extra point, his first try of the season at home. That was … weird.

Not much else to nit-pick, besides the late defensive lapses.

The Noteworthy

Ball State attempted a surprise onside kick after a field goal to trail 21-10, thinking it’d like to keep Mr. Boyd on the sideline. Smart thinking. But Lateek Townsend patiently fell on a bouncing ball once it squirted loose from a pack of Cardinals.

A Stoudt interception was wiped out by pass interference. Stoudt responded with a nice loft to WR Adam Humphries.

WR Daniel Rodriguez’s first career catch went for four yards. Let’s just say the ensuing standing ovation wasn’t props for the popcorn vendor. (By the way, look for D-Rod at the ESPYs Wednesday. I’ve been told Rodriguez was invited as a finalist for an award, and while he did not win he’ll get some face time in L.A.)

THREE STARS

3) Charone Peake, WR. Did a nice job taking some of the pressure off Hopkins with a game-high seven catches, albeit for just 44 yards.

2) Tajh Boyd, QB. Nobody did anything too spectacular (save for Hopkins’ quick scoring binge), so Boyd’s here by default. Put up what would be 22 NFL fantasy points without breaking a sweat. No, literally. He didn’t break a sweat in the second half, when he did not appear.

1) DeAndre Hopkins, WR. Six catches, 105 yards, three touchdowns, 18 Ball State defenders in the fetal position in the locker room. (I only made up one of those stats.)

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Sammy Watkins

NO. 11 CLEMSON 41, FURMAN 7 ~ Sept. 15, 2012, Fox Sports Net

Memorial Stadium, Clemson

The Gamer

The Good

Returning from suspension to a warm welcome from the fans, WR Sammy Watkins showed good evasiveness on his first touch, and he was just getting started. OC Chad Morris called a jet sweep, and in about half a second: “Sammy gone.” After a block from LG Kalon Davis – starting in place of David Beasley – Watkins accelerates into daylight. Good gravy, Sammy Watkins is fast.

One more word for Davis, too: at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, he’s fairly well-postured.

Boyd opened 9-for-9. Not bad.

LB Quandon Christian picked up a pick, and it was all due to DT Grady Jarrett, who destroyed right guard Ryan Storms and hit quarterback Reese Hannon upon release. Christian easily gobbled up a 27-yard return. Storms was called for holding, so give Jarrett the “and one.”

Jarrett also wrapped up petite tailback Hank McCloud and easily dispatched him to the ground. Nice game for the big fella.

Great concentration by Bryant on a deep route, catching an eventual touchdown in triple coverage to seal the scoring.

The Bad

Well, the defense picked up where it left off at the end of Ball State. Clemson allowed the Paladins to march on their opening drive … fortunately, the Tigers weren’t fooled on a fake field goal shift to conclude the drive.

Blanks couldn’t stay on receiver Will King, who went for 45 yards on a seam route. In fact, second-string quarterback Reese Hannon, a freshman in his first start, opened 12-for-14 for 160 yards and a touchdown in the first half. DC Brent Venables absolutely got on his guys about that in the locker room.

Overall, it was just a sloppy second quarter: a three-and-out, a poor punt, then allowing two long catches (including a touchdown), a missed tackle by DE Tavaris Barnes on running back Jerodis Williams, and CB Rashard Hall losing receiver Jordan Snellings on busted coverage … blech.

Boyd opened the second half with a fumble, then a poor throw behind TE Brandon Ford. Not his sharpest afternoon.

The Noteworthy

Announcers made a valid point when Boyd barely converted a sneak on 4th-and-inches: the quarterback’s not supposed to turn his body around. It moves the football away from the necessary first-down marker, and risks the defense being able to shove him backwards for a turnover on downs.

The previous week, when Clemson beat Ball State by 25, it wasn’t as close as the score intended. This week, when Clemson beat Furman by 34, it was closer than the score intended. Either way, 3-0 is 3-0, heading into an ACC showdown down south.

THREE STARS

3) Quandon Christian, LB. Six tackles, one behind the line, and the pick with a pass break-up. Nice all-around day.

2) Jaron Brown, WR. Seemed like he honed in even more when he was about to absorb contact. Great poise, no fear.

1) Sammy Watkins, WR. Welcome back, indeed.

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GAME 2: South Carolina State at Clemson, Sept. 7, 2013, Death Valley

A LOOK AT SC STATE

2012 record: 5-6, 4-4 MEAC

2012 highlights: Does allowing a combined 126 points in consecutive weeks to Arizona and Texas A&M count as a highlight? (We’re going to go with, yes.)

Head coach: Buddy Pough, 12th year

Returning starters (o/d): 17 (8/9)

Base formations: Offense – Multiple (Pro, I-Formation) | Defense – Multiple

SC State-Clemson series: Clemson 54, South Carolina State 0. In 2008. The only previous meeting.

Notes: The Bulldogs suffered their first losing season in 12 years … Recall the 126 points stat. In a related narrative, Clemson scores lots of points. Let’s move on.

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GAME 3: Clemson at North Carolina State, Sept. 19, 2013, Carter-Finley Stadium

A LOOK AT NC STATE

2012 record: 7-6, 4-4 ACC

2012 highlights: knocked off No. 3 Florida State 17-16, giving the world one of the all-time great sports GIFs … followed up with a win at Maryland, but then lost to in-state rival UNC and never won consecutive games the rest of the year, losing 38-24 to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl

Head coach: Dave Doeren, 1st year (@StateCoachD)

Returning starters (o/d): 10 (5/5)

Base formations: Offense – Multiple (Pro style / power-I) | Defense – 4-3

NC State-Clemson series: Clemson leads 52-28-1, enjoying a 8-1 stretch over the past decade. The foes have tangled every year going back to 1971, a stretch where Clemson’s advantage is shaved to 24-18 … the Tigers are still on the plus side in Raleigh, with an 18-16 record, but the Wolf Pack won 37-13 in 2011 when Clemson was ranked seventh … the previous two trips to Carter-Finley Stadium, the Tigers triumphed 43-23 when ranked No. 24 in 2009, and 42-20 at No. 15 in 2007… historically, when ranked, Clemson is 12-3 against an unranked NC State squad. The Wolf Pack don’t figure to be in the top 25 when week three rolls around this fall, following non-conference openers with Louisiana Tech and Richmond.

Notes: Since 2003, North Carolina State has spent all of three weeks in the rankings, and never higher than No. 21 … when Clemson won 62-48 last year in Death Valley, it was the most points NC State had ever scored in defeat … the quarterback situation, replacing veteran Mike Glennon, is uncertain. The candidates are Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell, Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas and returning sophomore Manny Stocker … Doeren is in his first major-conference head coaching opportunity, after leading Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl berth after winning a rough-and-tumble MAC championship. He previously was a Wisconsin defensive assistant for five years, and both his coordinators (Matt Canada and Dave Huxtable) are Bret Bielema disciples as well.