It's always fun when you can get a little perspective from a former mentor and coach, even if it does regard your most hated rival. Thanks to Coach Craft and the rest of the Shakin' the Southland community, we've got ourselves a special Rivalry Week Thanksgiving edition of our Q&A. So, really, is DeShaun Watson human?
1. A few short years ago Clemson's biggest road block was their own defense, bur ever since Brent Venables took over the ship has been righted. What's been the biggest reason for success on that side of the ball given the Tigers have produced back-to-back great defenses even with such a large turnover? Is it just a matter of great coaching on Venables part?
Recruiting has been a big factor, but a lot of talent was at Kevin Steele's disposal as well. The biggest thing is Venables turned the big weakness at linebacker into a relative strength. Clemson used to struggle mightily against mobile quarterbacks and the zone read system. For the most part, that has been remedied. He has an outstanding staff as well with Mike Reed completing the puzzle last year and tightening up the secondary. Venables is great but it is important to not forget the contributions of Marion Hobby, Dan Brooks, and Reed.
2. Does DeShaun Watson have a weakness? Or is he immortal?
Watson's one issue this year has been interceptions. After throwing just two last year, he has ten this year. Many of these have been from trying to fit balls into tight windows. He has had a couple of bad halves, such as the first half against Boston College and against Florida State. However, he exploded in the second halves of those games. He is in total command of the offense at this stage and very little can slow him down. His ability to run has been a huge factor when teams drop numbers into coverage.
3. Surprisingly enough Clemson has never had a player finish in the top five of Heisman voting. That appears to no longer be true after this season. Is Watson worthy of the Heisman now or does he need an undefeated season and trip to the playoff to deserve it?
He is close now but still likely ranks behind Derrick Henry. He really helped himself with the Florida State game. The ACC title game could also be big because he will likely need to put up huge numbers to help beat an explosive UNC offense. He is the best quarterback in the land for sure with TCU's Boykin turning it over four times versus Oklahoma State and then getting hurt. Mayfield of OU has had a good year but he isn't Watson. Clemson needs to finish ahead of Alabama for Watson to win in my opinion.
4. What kind of game plan should we expect the Tigers to have coming into this game? Clearly they're going to come out punching, but will the focus be on the run or pass? On the flip side, what's the biggest weakness the Tigers have that the Gamecocks will try to exploit?
Clemson will certainly try to establish Wayne Gallman and the run game as they usually do. Last year the Gamecocks elected to play the safeties back and deep so the Tigers attacked with the run and jet sweep game. Clemson showed against Wake and Syracuse that it will take the deep shots early if you bring extra hats into the box. USC has to stop the run or defeat is assured. See the Miami game as an example of what can happen if the Tiger run game gets rolling.
As for weaknesses, Clemson's linebackers have been a little gap unsound at times down the stretch which has led to big plays given up. Goodson and Boulware are not as good in space as Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward were last year. I expect the Gamecocks will use a lot of zone read off jet sweep action in hopes of creasing the Tigers. Clemson was much better last week in terms of staying in position but Wake offered little in the way of a running game to defend.
5. Who do Tiger fans want to face in a potential CFP semifinal? Is anyone in orange taking the Tar Heels seriously given they've played a relatively easy schedule and lost to the lowly Gamecocks?
As for CFP, I would say Iowa would be ideal for the first round. The Hawkeyes would be pretty badly outclassed in speed and athleticism. Many Tiger fans have concern about the Heels, especially after seeing the defense give up some big plays to NCST and Syracuse. Special teams have not been stellar for the Tigers and UNC has the ability to exploit that potentially. However, I feel Clemson is still pretty far superior on defense compared to the Heel defense.
7. Who is your favorite Clemson wide receiver in the NFL? Hopkins, Watkins or Bryant? They're all pretty great.
I would say Nuk who is having an All-Pro season, but Bryant is the most fun to watch. He is the closest thing to Randy Moss these days. He is a bit like Chester McGlockton was in that Tiger fans only saw glimpses of his greatness prior to the NFL. McGlockton made several pro bowls after not ever being first team All ACC. The Tigers have had an incredible run of skill players since Spiller signed in 2006.
6. I've got a few in mind just from this season, but what's the Daboiest thing Dabo has ever Daboed?
Dabo gonna Dab as we all know. I would probably rank the BYOG bit at the top for this year. Of course, his rant against the Clemsoning term was classic as well.