Special thanks to Figurefour of Shakin the Southland to get some answers about Clemson prior to this weekends game.
1. First off, I think the question, both Tigers and Terps fans are interested in is: What is the status of Tahj Boyd. If he can’t go, what can we expect from backup Cole Stoudt?
Tajh’s injury looked much worse last week than it really was. We were all concerned about the knee but in fact the injury was to the hip and not serious. Tajh missed practice on Monday but is expected to play against Maryland on Saturday night. He said Tuesday that he felt fine and would be ready to go.
Cole Stoudt is the son of a former NFL signal caller (Cliff) and took the backup job in Spring Practice. Cole has impressed the coaches as a freshman with his ability to pick up the offense. He is still a freshman, though, and lacks the in-game experience that Boyd gained earlier this year as a starter. Still, Stoudt played well in relief of Boyd last week and should be capable of managing this offense if need be, though I am leery until I see him react in a tight game. Stoudt was 6-10 for 37 yards through the air last week. I will also point out that Boyd wasn’t necessarily standout good until the second quarter of the Auburn game, so I would also expect Stoudt to take a little time to get further up to speed, particularly with the upbeat tempo this offense utilizes.
2. Andre Ellington has looked pretty good so far this season. However, looking at his stat line, he struggled a little against both Auburn and Virginia Tech. Was it anything in particular they did defensively to slow him down, or was it a case where the Clemson offensive line had its hands full with a more physical defenses?
Andre tells everyone that he has fully recovered from last year’s injury but he still doesn’t look like the Ellington we saw early in the year last season. Ellington tweaked his hamstring against Auburn and is still a little dinged up from that one. Virginia Tech’s defense is always good, so that is an easy to describe. Clemson’s interior line has been less than impressive on the season creating space A-gap to A-gap, which is primarily where offensive coordinator Chad Morris likes to run his tailback. That is clearly an issue here as well. I would venture to say that this combination (lack of interior push on run plays, injury, and a couple decent defensive fronts) have combined to slow down Ellington.
3. True Freshman WR Sammy Watkins has been as advertised (you could argue he has been better than advertised) so far this year with 6TD’s and over 600 yards. Is there anything Maryland can do to try and slow him down? If Maryland elects to double him, who else can hurt the Terps.
I haven’t seen anyone really stop Watkins this year; the young man is absolutely incredible and will play at the next level. Va Tech held him to 3 catches for 38 yards with their 4-4 “G” morphed, aggressive defense that was focused on him. This resulted in Dwayne Allen shining to the tune of 4 grabs for 75 yards and a touchdown. Allen is Clemson’s versatile tight end who creates matchup problems for all opponents due to his size, quickness/speed, and overall athletic ability. He can play the traditional TE position, line up in the backfield at the H-back spot, or flexed/split into more of a traditional receiver spot. Allen has legit NFL talent and many scouts have him pegged as the best draft eligible TE for the 2012 draft.
Clemson also features DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown. Hopkins, nicknamed Nuk(e), was Clemson’s go to guy last season and is a very good receiver. Although I expected Nuk’s numbers to be a little higher—and they probably would if Sammy Watkins wasn’t so dang good—he is a legit threat to really hurt an opponent. Jaron Brown has greatly improved over last season. Brown has some big grabs on the season and has speed. The other guy I have noticed is Martavis Bryant. He is a freshman who spent last season in prep school but has all the tools to be good. He has been used this season to stretch defenses and has drawn quite a few pass interference penalties this season out of necessity for the defense to commit the penalty instead of surrendering a really big play.
4. Outside of Boyd, are there any other injuries Clemson is dealing with that could have an impact in this game?
Clemson has suffered some bumps and bruises up front this season, particularly at the guard position where the Tigers have suffered a couple shoulder injuries. Ellington suffered a hamstring injury against Auburn and is still getting back to 100%. Also, kicker Spencer Benton broke his shoulder blade and this injury severely limits Clemson’s kickoffs, as backup Dawson Zimmerman doesn’t kick the ball quite as deep as Benton which allows for bigger returns.
5. Clemson is usually good for one inexplicable loss each season (for some reason Maryland has been a team that has won some games they shouldn’t have against the Tigers lately). Was Wofford that game, or do you see Maryland or some other lower level ACC team handing them a crushing defeat?
You know, this is what we have all been asking ourselves. I really hope the Wofford scare was that game, but you never know. This team seems to be a little more focused week to week than others we’ve seen over the last decade or so, but I will still hold my breath each week. Every team (no matter the players or coach) is susceptible of a letdown game so you hope that this squad can remain focused during the remainder of the season.
To date, Maryland has beaten a talent rich Miami squad and played GT and West Virginia to close games. North Carolina has a ton of talent brought in under Coach Davis and Wake Forest is looking better and better each week, so Clemson really cannot afford to take any of these games lightly.
6. Lastly, what is your prediction for this game?
Out of superstition, I quit giving full out predictions. I will say that I believe Clemson has more overall talent and is in (full) year three of the Swinney era. Any first year under a new coach is a learning experience for everyone but I do expect Maryland to get better as the season progresses (we are now halfway done with Maryland playing two very good teams to tight losses and earned a win over Miami). Clemson’s defense appears to be getting better as does Maryland’s. Having Tajh Boyd healthy and Sammy Watkins ready to roll helps Clemson’s chances. We’ll get to see how the Tigers play in another road night game against the Terps.
There you go. I am looking forward to this game. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect Maryland to have much fight last week, and yet there they were with C.J. Brown under center driving for a potential game winning touch down. For more on the Clemson side of things before to check in with Shakin the Southland leading up the game.