Practice report: Clemson plows through the injury bug

Martin Jenkins

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – The injured list continues to shrink and grow by the day for Clemson; while some guys return, others go down with a groin or a hamstring or a buttock. (Yes, you read correctly. Hold your questions for a minute.)

If it’s any consolation – not that pain and suffering should be taken lightly – Georgia’s dealing with more of the same. Literally: more.

Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph – who you’ll hear from frequently the week leading up to Aug. 31 – has an exhaustive report on the nicks and dings ravaging the Bulldogs’ depth chart during fall camp.

Even as the Tigers go through scrimmages with four available cornerbacks, while the wide receivers conduct a conga line through the trainer’s room, head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t about to coddle the Tigers.

“I don’t think you can practice scared,” Swinney said Monday at noon following a morning session, and seven hours before an evening practice.

Two-a-days proceed as scheduled.

“We’ve got a well-thought-out plan of preparation, and we’ve got to execute our plan. There’s no other way to get your team ready, especially if you aren’t opening with a team like Georgia, then maybe you can pace some guys a little bit differently.”

Full story: Targeting, ejections a jarring concern for defenses

Once fall camp transitions into game week, the Tigers will throttle back. But not with 19 days to go before the opener.

“There’s a few guys you can probably hold here and there in some spots,” Swinney said. “But at this point, it’s way too early for that. You’ve got to go through it.”

The latest batch is improving, on the bright side. Cornerback Garry Peters was “full-go” Monday; cornerbacks Darius Robinson (concussion) and Mackensie Alexander (groin) were confidently rehabbing, with hopes of a midweek return; and cornerback Adrian Baker has an MRI for his knee scheduled this afternoon, though there doesn’t appear to have structural damage in any ligaments and can put weight on the leg.

Then there’s cornerback Martin Jenkins, who took a medical redshirt last year with hernia surgery. He’s got an even more unique injury in camp.

“Martin has … I don’t know a better way to say it … but he’s got an arthritic deal in his butt. I don’t know how else to say it,” Swinney said. “It’s genetic. His dad had the same thing. It’s a matter of trying to get the right medication, and trying to get the dosage right to where he can go.”

Jenkins was able to go through team drills and 1-on-1 drills Monday morning.

“(The trainers) feel like they’ve got a good plan in place, and he was able to do more today than he’s been able to do,” Swinney said. “It can be treated and it can get better. It’s just a matter of when.”

Wide receiver T.J. Green, who avoided an ACL scare last week, could return sometime this week. Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries have bolstered the position’s depth by returning.

Maybe if the Tigers were opening against, say, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern, it’d be different.

“There’s no way to prepare our team for what they’re going to face than try to create that type of atmosphere on your practice field every day,” Swinney said. “If you don’t, then you’re not giving them a chance; you’re doing them a disservice.

“Right now is the time to push. We’ll pull back and start working on their legs as we start shifting focusing on Georgia. But right now, it’s all about Clemson. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the deal.”

Practice notes: Robinson tweaks ankle, two leave program

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON — Nothing serious so far, but a few Clemson players are already feeling the effects of training camp injuries.

Add senior cornerback Darius Robinson to the list, who sat out Monday night’s practice after twisting his ankle Saturday. Robinson will battle Martin Jenkins for a starting cornerback position.

Wide receiver Mike Williams and cornerback Mackensie Alexander, both freshmen, each pulled a groin last week, and junior receiver Adam Humphries pulled a hamstring. All three missed Monday’s practice.

The quartet of hobbled players is expected to return to the field before the end of the week. Offensive guard Spencer Region continues to work his way back from hip surgery.

Continue reading

Back To The Future, Part III: The Good, The Bad, The Noteworthy from Florida State (plus Wake Forest preview)

James Wilder Jr., Bashaud Breeland

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – Big game last fall in Tallahassee, and Clemson was closer to winning it than even the 18-point margin late in the fourth quarter would indicate. Yet you can’t ignore the roll Florida State rode in the second half, scoring 28 unanswered points.

Let’s get right to it. Plenty to discuss, both good and bad. Here’s the video if you wanna try to follow along.

This is the third 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 continue each Thursday and Monday 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 abbreviated positions and listed in bold. Opposing players will be preceded by full positions and not in bold.

(So: QB Tajh Boydquarterback EJ Manuel.)

NO. 4 FLORIDA STATE 49, NO. 10 CLEMSON 37 ~ Sept. 22, 2012, ABC

Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

The Gamer

The Good

First drive, on 3rd-and-7, QB Tajh Boyd out of the pistol, takes a five-step drop, and watches WR DeAndre Hopkins race straight through a cover 2 defense. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes doesn’t stick with ‘Nuk’, and safety Terrence Brooks – who was abysmal on this night – can’t time his leap correctly to stop an only slightly underthrown ball, traveling 48 yards in the air by a flick of Boyd’s right arm. The strike came just 86 seconds after kickoff … which wouldn’t be a big deal if Florida State had surrendered more than three points in its first three games in the 2012 season. (Never mind who the Seminoles played. That’s ridiculous.)

What a goofy yet genius trick play on the second drive. Only TE Brandon Ford moved in tandem with a rolling Boyd, while the entire offensive line stayed frozen to deke the Seminoles. It worked; only two FSU defenders got anywhere near Boyd, and they were too late for the reverse screen pass to RB Andre Ellington, who all of a sudden had a bunch of maulers in front of him. It was six vs. four on the makeshift line of scrimmage, and in particular, OG David Beasley in the backfield and C Dalton Freeman upfield had the big blocks to spring Ellington for 39 yards.

Big left paw by DT DeShawn Williams was right there to deflect a pass by quarterback EJ Manuel, despite getting stoned by center Bryan Stork. Good awareness by Williams on defense.

Staying on defense, that was a perfect form hit by CB Bashaud Breeland on receiver Greg Dent to cause a fumble, jumped on quickly by DE Vic Beasley. Now, it was reviewed and the ruling correctly stood; it was inconclusive whether Breeland jarred the ball loose before Dent’s knee hit the ground, and so the ball stayed with Florida State since that was the call on the field. But hey, whaddya know: on the very next play, a first down for FSU, Breeland gets a 10-yard sack on a cornerback blitz.

You had to like the defense’s aggressiveness in the first half. This was the first time under DC Brent Venables it showed some real teeth, in the first major test of the season.

Special teams made a play against Florida State’s top-flight unit. LB Spencer Shuey well-timed his arrival when punt returner Rashad Greene called a fair catch, and when Greene lost focus (followed by the ball), LS Phillip Fajgenbaum was right there to recover. Those are the type of plays that keep you competitive in a tough road assignment.

Zooming ahead to the second half: not every trick up OC Chad Morris’ sleeve worked (see below), but this one early in the third quarter did. 2nd-and-8, a toss behind the line to WR Sammy Watkins, and he leaves his feet upon throwing the idea pass to Ellington across the field for a 52-yard touchdown that gives the Tigers a 2-touchdown lead with under 12 minutes left in the third quarter. The blocking for Watkins was good enough; WR Jaron Brown got a man, and LT Brandon Thomas trucked a guy. Ellington made a sick cut on Brooks to turn a long gain into a score, and broke the game open … momentarily.

K Chandler Catanzaro. 50-yard FG, down main street, with room to spare. Money. Nails. Call him ‘Kickalicious.’ And … don’t miss DABO on the sideline.

The Bad

It did take the Clemson defense at least one drive to dig in. Quite simply, guys got pushed backward at the line of scrimmage, even with a 7-0 lead before stepping on the field. In the red zone, Manuel read the defense like a book, calling for a stretch run to the left and an easy 13-yard TD by fullback Lonnie Pryor.

The trick plays were mentioned. I’m not sure I like the call on 3rd-and-3 on Clemson’s own 42 with 2:17 remaining in the first half … it’s easy to say now, of course. Watkins overthrew it on a jet sweep pass, and WR Adam Humphries struggled to locate it anyway and thus wasn’t in an outright sprint. In short yardage approaching the two-minute offense, holding a 7-point lead on the road and knowing FSU gets the ball after halftime … taking the ball away from Boyd, Ellington and Hopkins seemed odd. Maybe Morris overthought it. Again, hindsight’s 20-20.

So then the Seminoles get another crack at it before the half, and Clemson suddenly gets waaaaaaaay too conservative on defense. How did LB Travis Blanks simply run into S Rashard Hall’s backside? Clemson’s lucky Florida State bumbled the last minute before intermission.

Picking on Blanks here, but early in the third quarter, receiver Kelvin Benjamin roams for 64 yards on a shovel pass. Blanks has got to make a play here.

Then, a false start and holding call push Florida State into a 1st-and-25 situation from the Tigers’ 26. Yet Manuel rolls for 17 yards. Again, somebody’s got to make a play. Looking at you, DE Corey Crawford and CB Darius Robinson. This was step-on-the-throat time, and Clemson didn’t deliver.

The 90-yard kick return by Lamarcus Joyner was obviously a catalyst in the comeback. Gunner Daniel Rodriguez got caught too far up field, Hall got wrong-footed, and Joyner grabbed the momentum for his team.

After FSU gets the easy touchdown, Clemson starts the response drive in the Wildcat – no Boyd on the field. The Tigers couldn’t get set, and called a timeout. Wheels started falling off.

For the second time in the game, the defense suddenly got complacent. Not to be harsh, because this was a rebuilding defense in a really, really tough environment. But that’s how Clemson went from up 14 to down 18 in a 19-minute span.

And this wasn’t all on the defense. Clemson’s offense was shell-shocked getting the ball back down 42-31 with 13:25 to go in the game … plenty of time, right? Well, Ellington’s 15-yard screen catch on the opening play was nullified by Thomas’ holding call. On the Tigers’ next three plays – starting with 1st-and-20 on its own 15 – the Seminoles blitzed a grand total of zero players beyond its front four. Yet the offensive line completely melted down, resulting in a 3-and-out and the de facto nail in the coffin.

Down 18, following a recovered fumble by Clemson’s defense, Boyd started to get too desperate, throwing into double coverage for his first pick of the game. Then S Jonathan Meeks get shoved backwards, tailback Chris Thompson scores to cap a career night, and that’s your ball game.

A rundown: Sorry, FB Darrell Smith, but you needed to run more north-south on that fake field goal try. Florida State was unfooled, and Smith got too cute on his run … When Florida State pulls defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to the right side of the offense, RT Gifford Timothy can’t block two at the same time. Free shot for defensive end Tank Carradine to blow up the first-quarter drive; should’ve given the inexperienced Timothy more help … Clemson used two first-quarter timeouts on special teams alignment problems. No bueno … run defense was shaky at times. The gaps weren’t plugged on Thompson’s 90-degree cut and run for 41 yards, setting up a game-tying TD at 14-all … even though it was taken back by holding, Thompson broke four tackles by LB Quandon Christian, LB Tig Willard, CB Xavier Brewer and Hall on one rush. Even so, wide receiver Rodney Smith drew an “and-one” play on Robinson – who had a rough night – for the touchdown to make it irrelevant.

The Noteworthy

We had a 60-yard TD toss, a 28-yard QB scramble, a 39-yard trick play, a fake field goal attempt and a reviewed touchdown … in the first eight minutes. What a wild game.

We all did our usual chortling thing when Tajh Boyd sang a little country song at media days – reporters eat up stuff like that – but it’s not the first time Boyd’s tried out the pipes with an audience. For a Saturday Night Football promo, Boyd sang a couple lyrics from Eli Young Band.

As mentioned, the Seminoles shot themselves in the foot in the last minute of the second quarter. It’s clear they don’t operate at the same breakneck pace that Chad Morris-led squads do, and yeah, Clemson’s defense was probably more used to it because of practices all spring, summer and fall.

For a head coach that has a sign on his desk about the halftime score being meaningless – coachspeak which is pretty effective – Dabo Swinney had an interesting comment to ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox before the break. “Hey, we got a touchdown lead, and really that just makes it a tie ball game. ‘Cuz when you come into this environment, they got 7 on the board when you show up.” I guess that means Clemson’s already up 7-nil on Florida State on Oct. 19? Look, gambling sites may figure in a touchdown advantage for hosts; doesn’t mean football teams have to look at it that way.

First half for Clemson: zero penalties, zero turnovers. First half for Florida State: four penalties, one turnover, two missed field goals.

Hey, a hypothetical: what if Watkins evades all 11 Florida State men, not just 10, on that kick return? FSU’s Ronald Darby’s shoestring tackle was a key moment.

Tajh Boyd’s final line: 20-for-36, 237 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; 18 rush, 44 yards.

EJ Manuel’s final line: 27-for-35, 380 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT; 12 rush, 102 yards.

By my count, Brent Musberger called this game a ‘dandy’ four times.

THREE STARS

3) Bashaud Breeland, CB. Like the eight tackles, and see above for his nice two-play exchange. Playmakers required this coming year. Maybe Breeland is one.

2) Tajh Boyd, QB. Made some nice throws, stayed poise until desperation time late in the game. Far from perfect, though.

1) Andre Elllington, RB. Aces on two trick plays. Gained 142 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches, and never was taken down for a loss.

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GAME 4: Wake Forest at Clemson, Sept. 28, 2013, Death Valley

A LOOK AT WAKE FOREST

2012 record: 5-7, 3-5 ACC

2012 highlights: It started respectably enough, winning two games by a total of four points (includes rallying to edge North Carolina, which turned out to be decent.) Three games against ranked foes, er, didn’t end well. Had a chance to squeeze into a bowl game, but let Vanderbilt hang 55 on ‘em in Winston-Salem in the finale. So that’s how things are going up there.

Head coach: Jim Grobe, 13th year (73-74) … yeaaaaaaaah, no, he’s not on Twitter. (EDIT: 24 hours later, he is now on Twitter.)

Returning starters (o/d): 15 (7/8)

Base formations: Offense – Option | Defense – 3-4

Clemson-Wake series: Clemson leads 60-17-1, and 35-7 in Death Valley. That home mark is its best against any opponent it will host this fall, other than its 12-1 mark vs. The Citadel. The Tigers haven’t hosted and lost to Wake Forest since 1998, a six-game winning streak. Dabo Swinney is a perfect 4-0 against the Demon Deacons by margins of 35, 20, 3 and 29 points. The last time Wake Forest defeated Clemson – 12-7 on Oct. 9, 2008 – Tommy Bowden resigned four days later and Swinney had coached his final game as a Clemson assistant.

Bonus random note: It only seems like Grobe’s been at Wake since the Stone Age. Truth be told, his predecessor was … Jim Caldwell, the emotionless drone who led the Colts to one AFC championship but was primarily known for turning a 14-2 team into 2-14 in two years when Peyton Manning had that whole ouchy neck deal. Yes, Jim Caldwell led the Demon Deacons for eight years. (Look it up.) And do you know how that went? He went 26-63. He won 29 percent of his games. 29 percent!!! Do you understand how courageously difficult it is to accomplish that feat in today’s day and age? He lasted eight years!!!

Anyway, that struck me as interesting. Carry on.

Back To The Future, Part I: The Good, The Bad and the Noteworthy from Clemson 26, Auburn 19 (plus a Georgia preview!)

Clemson Auburn_mini

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – Today kicks off a new biweekly feature on PostandCourier.com and the TigerTracks blog this summer. Every Thursday and Sunday from now until mid-August (excluding SEC & ACC media days), 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. (So, we’ll start with the 2012 and 2013 openers, and conclude with each season’s final game: the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl and the 2013 South Carolina showdown.)

Obviously, we’ll start Thursday with Clemson’s 26-19 defeat over Auburn, which sparked the Tigers’ terrific season. Plus, we’ll look ahead to what Georgia presents for the 2013 opener, just seven Saturdays from now. (Eek!)

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 (Andre Ellington, Malliciah Goodman, 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 Kiehl Frazier.)

I hope you enjoy. Believe me, I’m eagerly anticipating football season’s arrival as much as you are.

*************************

NO. 14 CLEMSON 26, AUBURN 19 ~ Sept. 1, 2012, ESPN

Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic, Georgia Dome, Atlanta

The Good

Looks like that was a successful trip to Reno, Mr. Morris. Clemson reinstalled the pistol formation leading up to the opener, and as Travis Sawchik wrote the week after the Auburn game, the Tigers were in the pistol 80 percent of their snaps. Indeed, there were some hassles from the get-go – QB Tajh Boyd mishandled a pistol snap off his left shoulder, with no choice but to fall on the loose ball – but Clemson ran the ball relentlessly on Auburn, and RB Andre Ellington earned ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors for his 228 yards. Now if Clemson ever matches up with Nevada in a bowl game, well … this could get awkward.

DT Josh Watson was involved in two big moments. First, to start the second quarter following a couple of long Auburn runs, Watson patiently drops back, reaches his big left arm around to tailback Tre Mason’s left hand and slaps the ball loose. Easy recovery for Clemson. Then to open the fourth, when Auburn started to wear down Clemson’s defense a little bit, Watson draws a holding call by left tackle Greg Robinson, stunting momentum and forcing Auburn to, again, settle for a field goal.

Tremendous, game-changing play when Boyd breaks out of the grasp of linebacker Daren Bates and cornerback Chris Davis, and connects on a rollout with WR Charone Peake. Turned what would have been a 4th-and-16 into a 4th and 1, and after initially bringing out K Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson called time and gave it to Ellington instead. First down converted. Boyd flipped the switch after this point – a little over 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

Boyd doesn’t like to run? Poor Ryan Smith, the Auburn safety, begs to differ. Sprang loose by a zone read, the shifty Boyd cut back and Smith had no chance, crumpling to the ground.

Boyd’s pocket presence. Carries himself like a pro quarterback on dropbacks. Throws darts when he has time. So composed.

CB Bashaud Breeland showed great reaction and closing speed to take down tailback Onterio McCalebb on a screen pass, forcing Auburn to settle for a field goal in the red zone. Later on, Breeland wasn’t fooled on a reverse, shaking off a block from center Tunde Fariyike and gobbling up receiver Quan Bray. Couple of impact plays.

Hey, look, it’s DE Vic Beasley! And just in the nick of time. Color commentator Todd Blackledge exclaimed “it looked like he was shot out of a cannon”, forcing quarterback Kiehl Frazier to throw it away on the first play of Desperation Drive under two minutes to go. And, hey, look, it’s Vic Beasley again! Brutalizes Robinson (who had a terrible debut) and swallows up Frazier. Auburn only gets one more play, which goes incomplete, and that’s the ball game.

A rundown: LB Stephone Anthony makes an impressive leap to his right, tips a ball that would have moved the chains to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen … incredible submarine stop by DT DeShawn Williams, who from the carpet wrapped up Mason’s legs for a 3rd-and-2 stop … RB Roderick McDowell with a tough inside run on short yardage.

The Bad

Far, far too many penalties, dropped balls and unnecessary gaffes. WR DeAndre Hopkins’ illegal motion (he never got set) nullifies a fearless route and terrific diving grab by WR Martavis Bryant in between corner T’Sharvan Bell and safety Jermaine Whitehead. We mentioned the Boyd fumble. On 4th-and-goal from the 1, RG Tyler Shatley rocks his left shoulder – false start on a hard snap count backfires, and Clemson settles for a field goal. That was after a dropped ball by TE Brandon Ford. Then on defense, with nine guys stacked in the box, CB Darius Robinson gets twisted around and completely loses receiver Emory Blake, who ends up with the easiest 54-yard touchdown grab you’ll ever see. 12 men in the offensive huddle on Clemson’s next drive. And we’re still in the first quarter. Yeeeesh. So no, Clemson didn’t play its best ball.

Game stats said six penalties for 30 yards, but it felt like more. And I counted five drops; Bryant and Ford did so on two out of three consecutive plays.

A rundown: Bryant hesitated bringing the angled kick out of the end zone, and got caught behind WR Jaron Brown, before getting knocked out of bounds at the 10. Boyd didn’t look pleased … S Robert Smith gave Lutzenkirchen waaaaaaay too much cushion to end the third quarter, setting up Auburn in the red zone.

The Noteworthy

The overturned Tajh Boyd fumble on a scramble, which was officially ruled that his knee was down upon video review? Yeah, that was a bad overturn. That was a fumble. Clemson got lucky there. Brad Nessler even uttered on the telecast, “Wow. Well, we’ve got our opinion, but the one that counts is the guy’s next to us.” As in, the video review boss man.

Interesting decision: after receiving a punt at the 20, Instead of bleeding clock, Clemson merely cranked the tempo down a tad. They still were snapping the ball with more than 15 seconds left on the play clock. It paid off.

RT Gifford Timothy left the game late with discomfort in his knee, but coming off meniscus surgery, he played all right against Auburn’s defensive end duo of Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford.

Boyd had to exit the game four times: three for a popped-off helmet, and once with an ouchy right thigh.

Boyd went to Ford five times in his first 16 attempts. For the game, Ford was targeted nine times. Yeah, the tight end’s important in this offense.

Three rushing first downs by Boyd – on third down. Even when he’s not the star of the show (Ellington 228 yards, Hopkins 13 catches robbed the spotlight), Boyd impacts games unlike many, many players in the country.

I write this as an Auburn beat writer in 2012, who was obviously on hand for this game: this was Auburn’s best game of the year. In fact, of the nine teams to defeat the 2010 champions last fall, there’s only one who could consider that day a “good” win, and that’s Clemson. The other eight, with the possible exception of the circus that was Arkansas, simply beat a bad team. Clemson beat a good football team on the first night of the 2012 season.

THREE STARS

3) Tajh Boyd, QB. As mentioned above: Boyd’s good even when it’s not blatantly obvious he’s good.

2) DeAndre Hopkins, WR. An eye-popping, “I got this even without Sammy” performance set the tone for his entire season. School record 13 catches, for 119 yards and pay dirt.

1) Andre Ellington, RB. I’m as baffled as you are he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round.

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GAME 1: Georgia at Clemson, Aug. 31, 2013, Death Valley

A LOOK AT GEORGIA

2012 record: 12-2, 7-1 SEC

2012 highlights: lost to Alabama 32-28 in SEC Championship Game; def. Nebraska 45-31 in Capital One Bowl; ranked in the top 13 all season long, finished No. 5

Head coach: Mark Richt, 13th year (@MarkRicht)

Returning starters (o/d): 12 (9/3)

Base formations: Offense – 3-WR pro style | Defense – 3-4

Georgia-Clemson series: Georgia holds a commanding 41-17-4 advantage, including a five-game winning streak that does reach back to 1990. Of course, as we’ll document later this summer, Clemson and Georgia met 11 straight years from 1977-87, which featured five Tigers wins, five Bulldogs wins and a tie. The margin those five years: Georgia 171, Clemson 159 … in the last 110 years, Clemson has opened against Georgia three times, and lost all three (1982, 13-7; 2002, 31-28; 2003, 30-0) … remarkably, this will be only the fourth meeting when both teams are ranked in the top 25. No. 8 Clemson edged No. 18 Georgia 21-20 in 1987, but the Bulldogs triumphed in 1982 and 1984 by a combined nine points. The home team won all three of those meetings … the foes have clashed 20 times in Clemson. Nine wins for Clemson, nine wins for Georgia, and two ties. Think this might be a good game?

Notes: Clemson is 87-22-8 in season openers, with 22 wins in its past 27 years … the Tigers are 4-7 when opening against a ranked opponent … Tigers have seven wins over opponents ranked in either poll over their past 33 games … Clemson has won 32 percent of its games against SEC teams … this game is 51 days away.

Counting down Clemson’s most valuable players in 2013: No. 8 CB Mackensie Alexander

Mackensie Alexander

Photo courtesy of 247Sports.com

BY AARON BRENNER AND DARRYL SLATER
abrenner@postandcourier.com and dslater@postandcourier.com

To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’re counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn. 

CLEMSON’S NO. 8 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
MACKENSIE ALEXANDER, FRESHMAN, CORNERBACK

Clemson’s recruiting class of 2010 featured Bashaud Breeland, Martin Jenkins, Garry Peters and Darius Robinson. Only Breeland was a four-star prospect per Scout.com; the others were three stars. All four are between 5-10 and 6-foot tall; all four are between 175 and 195 pounds.Peters had plenty of opportunities in last year’s repaired defense, in part because Breeland, Jenkins and Robinson all combatted injury.Breeland did have two interceptions for 93 yards total in the 2011 season; other than that, the quartet has a combined four picks for eight return yards, with one fumble recovery and no forced fumbles, in 97 career games. Seven turnovers in 97 games. None are what you would call, based on their collective track record, an impact player at cornerback.

Mackensie AlexanderEnter Alexander in 2013, who very nearly went to defensive back-rich Mississippi State and also flirted with Auburn and Florida State following his decommitment from Tennessee.

It’s completely reasonable Alexander cracks the lineup early in his rookie year, perhaps even from day one. (LSU’s defense does just fine installing young corners.) Not only can Alexander make plays, he’s a gifted cover corner and tackler, which is notable as the Tigers look to boost their 73rd-rated pass defense.

Don’t forget Alexander’s name among special teams contributors, as well.
-Aaron Brenner

Mackensie Alexander
Position: Cornerback
Year: Freshman
Height/weight: 5-11/185
Hometown: Immokalee, Fla.
Last year: The No. 4-rated prospect in the country by ESPN’s recruiting services, the highest rating by a Clemson commit since defensive end Da’Quan Bowers in 2008

Previously: No. 12 Jr. DT Grady Jarrett, No. 11 Jr. LB Stephone Anthony, No. 10 Fr. TE Jordan Leggett, No. 8 Jr. RT Gifford Timothy

COMING MONDAY: No. 7