By Neil Burnett
Clemson opens up defense of their National Title tonight against Georgia Tech at home. Big news; the new ACC Network is showing the game. The ACCN for this week has actually stood for the “All Clemson Channel” Network. The Packer & Durham show has done nothing but gush gush gush over how Clemson rules the ACC and they are expected to take it all again. The part that people are leaving out is the hard work that these players and coaches put in every day to get to this stage. The work started January 8th, 2019, the day after the National Championship game. The players might have taken a few days to celebrate, but count on the coaches to already be looking ahead to spring practice, mat drills, recruiting, defensive replacements, and many more aspects of the program. Tonight is the culmination of the last 8 months.
What to look for? There are several players and aspects on both sides of the ball. Offense: Returning starters, 8. Starters lost: Mitch Hyatt (Jackson Carmen replacement), Milan Richard/Garrett Williams (J.C. Chalk/Jaelyn Lay replacement) and Justin Falcinelli (Sean Pollard replacement). This offense took a few games to get on track, but after the Syracuse game scare, it took off and didn’t look back. Trevor Lawrence is the leader, everyone in the free world knows this already. The wide receivers are arguably the best in college football and got better (believe that?) with the addition of 3 incoming freshmen. Will Clemson show a formation where Higgins, Ross, Ladson and Ngata in the game at the same time? Yeah, that would be great to see, but not likely. Travis Etienne is the threat at running back, and Lyn-J Dixon is electric and will get more reps now that Tavien Feaster transferred to the dark side. It will be interesting to see who comes off the bench after Dixon. Will it be Darien Rencher? Chez Mellusi? Mikey Dukes? Who will fill the tight end spot? Will it be junior J.C. Chalk, or will one of the two new freshmen step in. What quarter will Chase Brice get into the game? Can Georgia Tech and their 5 returning starters on defense slow down this Clemson offense? They couldn’t do it last year with the 11 they had. The spread is up to 38 now. 38!!!!!!!!!
Defense: Returning starters, 4. Everyone knows who Clemson lost on the defensive line but who is next in line. A lot of talent coming back and coming in. Jordan Williams and Nyles Pinckney will more than likely get the start at DTs. Logan Rudolph is an unknown right now. People thought Ben Boulware had a motor. Boulware was 6-0 235. Randolph is 6-2 245. Both are 100% full time, all the time. The one area that everyone wants to see is the defensive line and how the young bucks are doing to step in and take over. Well, tonight is that time. 8pm. Clemson’s young front 7 is going against a Georgia Tech offense we know nothing about. Thankfully, for us, the Clemson secondary is experienced, with a couple of new pieces thrown in for good measure. Andrew Booth and Sheridan Jones leads the new kids on the block and you will see them early and often.
Word of warning; do not be surprised if Clemson goes scoreless for the 1st half of the 1st quarter. Lawrence can not complete every pass. The running backs can not gain 15 yards a carry on every run. The defense can not produce a 3 and out on every possession. Georgia Tech is just the first team THIS year that sees that target on Clemson’s back and are going to give 100% effort.
New Offensive numbers to watch for:
2 – WR – Frank Ladson
10 – WR – Joe Ngata
79 – OT – Jackson Carmen
85 – TE – Jaelyn Lay
New Defensive numbers to watch for:
1 – CB – Derion Kendrick
13 – DT – Tyler Davis
29 – CB – Andrew Booth
54 – DE – Logan Rudolph
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