The QB Room: Uiagalelei Controls Clemson’s Destiny
In an admirable display of leadership and humility, quarterback D.J. Uiagelelei took responsibility for Saturday’s loss to Georgia, citing his poor play. It’s clear that Uiagalelei has the right mindset coming into this season. On a more encouraging note, we recently learned that the Clemson coaching staff has complete confidence in Uiagalelei.
Backup QB Taisun Phommachanh remained on the bench despite seemingly unsolvable offensive woes on Saturday; so it seems that D.J. has a secure hold on his starting status.
Another lesson we learned is that the offensive success will depend almost entirely on Uiagalelei. The offensive line will likely continue to struggle, and Uiagelelei does not necessarily have the same type of safety-nets of which Trevor was blessed. This likely means that the offensive staff will explore every potential avenue in hopes of unlocking Uiagelelei’s true potential.
Skalski, Spector lead college football's most feared linebacker group
This season, Clemson’s mighty defense finds its identity in its linebacker room. James Skalski has already been named ACC Linebacker of the week after his stellar performance vs. Georgia. Baylon Spector was responsible for the interception on Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels in Clemson territory. Trenton Simpson, the five-star sophomore, rounds out the linebacking group. I have no doubt in my mind that the Clemson three-headed monster will be appearing in opposing quarterback’s nightmares for the rest of this season.
Booth Jr. looks to carry Clemson’s secondary
It is clear that Clemson’s defensive strengths lie in our front-seven this season. This is less of an indictment of the secondary, but instead commentary on the talent of the other groups. In the absence of safety Nolan Turner, who is currently sidelined with an injury, Andrew Booth Jr. has a chance to step up as the leader of Clemson’s secondary. Mario Goodrich has established himself as Booth Jr.'s cornerback counterpart; but as Booth Jr. appeared for every defensive snap during the Georgia game, he is clearly the top cornerback.
Who will emerge as the premier skill position players?
Judging by the offensive snap counts that were posted on Clemson Football’s website after the recent game, it seems that the coaching staff has yet to figure out their running back situation. Lyn-J Dixon, Travis Etienne’s heir apparent, appeared for fewer offensive snaps than Will Shipley, a true freshman. Dixon and Kobe Pace are once again listed as starters on Clemson’s official depth chart for the upcoming game against SC State, but it is unclear if the snaps will reflect that.
Junior wide receiver Joseph Ngata was the only skill player to create a spark for our offense, tallying over 100 receiving yards on Saturday. There is no doubt that preseason All-American Justyn Ross will come into his own throughout the season, but it is important to consider the mental and physical hurdles that he will have to cross as he continues to push his injury into the past.
Clemson’s defensive line finds strength in depth
Featuring two top-ten recruits from the 2020 class, Clemson’s defensive line will strike fear into every offensive lineman in America. Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy are two athletic freaks of nature who somehow incorporate elements of finesse and agility into their large frames. They are accompanied by the veteran leadership of Xavier Thomas and Justin Foster, seniors who hold significant roles as edge rushers. Clemson’s edge-rushing unit is easily the deepest position group on the roster; including the aforementioned players, Clemson features five upperclassmen in their edge-rushing rotation.
Growing pains: the story of the Tigers’ offensive line
The offensive line has the least amount of experience relative to the rest of the team. Only two starters returned this season, so there are a lot of fresh faces making their first on-field appearances. Marcus Tate became the third true freshman ever to start a season opener on Clemson’s offensive line. Walker Parks is starting in his second year at Clemson. It is undoubtedly going to take a while for the offensive line to find its groove, so be patient.