Clemson Football post-spring: South Carolina and Auburn will be ready for the Tigers

Nov 26, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp watches players warm up prior to the game against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp watches players warm up prior to the game against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson football will have another tough schedule next season. Road games against N.C State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and South Carolina will be tough, and so will home games versus Auburn and Florida State. 

Related Story: Clemson Football 2017 Spring Game - What We Learned

With all spring football games across the country in the books, I thought I would share some info from the games of the Tigers most important non-conference opponents. The games against SEC members South Carolina and Auburn could be pivotal for another playoff run for Clemson football. A win over a talented Auburn team would serve notice to the college football world that the “Clemson” Tigers could contend for a title again and beating the rivals at their place would keep the streak alive.

On Sept. 9, Auburn will come to Death Valley to try to win their second game in the recent five game series. Auburn is expected to be a ranked team with renewed confidence in their offense and talent on defense.

The offense has a new voice in offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey who led the Arizona State offense. Arizona State’s passing offense was ranked 39 while Auburn was 112. Lindsey was brought in to open up that lethargic Auburn passing game, and his efforts will be made easier with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Senior Sean White is the incumbent starter but it appears that Stidham will win the job. The Blue team compiled of first teamers beat the White team 37-13.

Quarterbacks. Stidham was 16 of 20 with 267 yards and a rushing touchdown. He made it look relatively easy against the second team defense, as he lofted deep balls of 50, 46, 33 and 34 yards. He was near perfection as a passer in the game and gave a glimpse of his sub 4.6 speed. White didn’t play in the game, so the youngsters Woody Barrett, Malik Willis, and Devin Adams took all the snaps. Adams threw a 69 yard TD pass and freshman Willis had combined passing stats of 11-18 for 157 yards, as he played for both teams. Willis’s performance was impressive considering he’s an early enrollee. He will likely be penciled in at the third string spot since Barrett will transfer.

Running Backs. With Kamryn Pettway, one of the SEC’s best backs, on the sideline. Kerryon Johnson had a game high 47 yards on seven carries. Kam Martin also had 30 yards. Johnson and Martin will be the two backs battling for snaps behind probable starter Pettway.

Wide Receivers. This is the group that should see a significant rise in production in 2017-18, and they gave every indication of such with their performance in this game. Nate Craig-Myers was one of the best 2016 recruits at any position, and he seems to be ready to put to rest his disappointing freshman season. He finished the game and first half with 5 receptions and 154 yards. With a good combination of size(6’2) and speed to get deep, he torched the second team cornerbacks. Speedsters Marquis MCClain and Darius Slayton also had their moments along with converted quarterback, John Franklin III.

Clemson Tigers Football
Clemson Tigers Football /

Clemson Tigers Football

Coach Will Muschamp and his players will be fired up, when Clemson comes to Columbia on Nov. 25 for the annual showdown. After the 56-7 pummeling, Muschamp and his Gamecocks felt disrespected by the Tigers, so it will be game-on at the season finale.

South Carolina appears to be an improved offensive team with quarterback Jake Bentley leading the Black team to a 27-7 halftime advantage over the White team. He was 13 of 23 with 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. As Bentley did during the season, he found his favorite target, wide receiver Bryan Edwards. Edwards was too much for the White secondary with a game like, four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns at the half. Michael Scarnecchia was 17 of 29 with 203 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the White team. The Black won by the score of 35-24. The game format pinned the first team offense vs the first team defense and likewise with the second teamers.

Running Backs. Rico Dowdle and UNC transfer Ty’Son Williams ran hard and have good initial burst through the line of scrimmage. Williams, a Sumter native led the backs with 83 yards on 11 carries and will challenge Dowdle and A.J. Tyler for the starting job. The backs will be a strength on this team, because they are all good runners and pass catchers.

Wide Receivers

. Again, Edwards was too much for the secondary. Deebo Samuels did not play in the game, and no one else really stood out. Early enrollee Ortre Smith, who is the son of former Clemson volleyball player Tashia Greene, caught a 42-yard touchdown pass and had three catches for 58 yards.

Tight ends

. NFL prospect Hayden Hurst was dressed on the sideline, but did not play and this group was still impressive. What stands out is their versatility and athleticism. K.C. Crosby and Kiel Pollard are both undersized at 6-foot-1 and 230-pounds, and can make people miss and get down the field. They are used on screens, slants and will be a handful out in space for most linebackers. Pollard saw time on both teams and finished with 10 catches for 107 yards. Jacob August and Evan Hinson are bigger and add to the depth and flexibility of this group.

Quarterbacks. Bentley’s complete stats were 19 of 31 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. His only interception was met with the ire of his coaches but otherwise he was relatively sharp on a variety of passes. Michael Scarnecchia is the eventual backup to Bentley now that Brandon McIIwain is going to transfer out of the program. He didn’t hit deep balls like Bentley, but he was able to work slants and hit his backs. Bentley is the man here, and he must stay healthy for this team to stay out of the cellar of the SEC.

I concentrated on the offenses and will refrain from giving a true defensive report. However, I did notice that both teams have work to do on their secondaries. The offenses will be able to score. But will have to score a ton of points, if the pass defenses resemble what was on the field in the spring games.

Defensive notes: For the Gamecocks, hard hitting safety D.J Smith was all over field and linebacker Brison Allen-Williams saw some time at defensive end.

Auburn has recruited well over the years on this side of the ball and especially on the defensive line. The first team line was disruptive at times and deep enough to split tackle Derrick Brown, who is 6-foot-5 and 316-pounds, out to the end position like Clemson did with Christian Wilkins.

Both football teams should be better but can they beat the defending National Champions?

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Be sure to stay tuned to Rubbing The Rock for more news regarding the Clemson football program and the 2017 season.