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2013 Virginia Football Previews: Clemson

The Hoos 3 game home stand ends this weekend with the #9 Clemson Tigers coming to town. They've lost the first two games on the home stand, in somewhat heartbreaking, ridiculous ways. This week, the Hoos are 17 point underdogs, so a more traditional loss looks to be in the cards.

Watford had a big game with his arm last week. Another big game would certainly help this week.
Watford had a big game with his arm last week. Another big game would certainly help this week.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoos, on a 5 game losing streak, now get to face Clemson, the #9 team in the nation. Clemson boasts one of the top offenses in the nation, and an opportunistic defense that feeds off turnovers and big plays.

The Hoos, simply put, are not a good team. The defense, which looked so strong early in the season, is missing its top 2 players. There are too many young players on the defense to consistently stop a good offense. The offense has been playing better, but they are still far too inefficient.

Clemson comes in as 17 point favorites. A win here for the Hoos would be one of the biggest upsets in team history.

Clemson Offense

QB: #10 Tajh Boyd - 6'1" 225 lb, Senior; #18 Cole Stoudt -  6'4" 210 lb, Junior

RB: #25 Roderick McDowell - 5'10" 200 lb, Senior; #24 Zac Brooks - 6'1" 190 lb, Sophomore

WR: #2 Sammy Watkins - 6'1" 205 lb, Junior; #13 Adam Humphries - 5'11" 190 lb, Junior; #1 Martavis Bryant - 6'5" 200 lb, Junior; #82 T.J. Green - 6'3" 195 lb, Freshman; #5 Germone Hopper - 6'0" 180 lb, RS Freshman; #7 Mike Williams - 6'3" 205 lb, Freshman

TE: #81 Stanton Seckinger - 6'4" 230 lb, Sophomore; #86 Sam Cooper - 6'6" 250 lb, Junior; #40 Darrell Smith - 6'1" 240 lb, Senior; #16 Jordan Leggett - 6'5" 240 lb, Freshman

LT: #63 Brandon Thomas - 6'3" 315 lb, Senior; #79 Isaiah Battle - 6'7" 275 lb, Sophomore
LG: #67 Kalon Davis - 6'5" 340 lb, Junior; #68 David Beasley - 6'4" 320 lb, Junior
C: #58 Ryan Norton - 6'3" 280 lb, Sophomore; #57 Jay Guillermo - 6'3" 315 lb, RS Freshman
RG: #62 Tyler Shatley - 6'3" 300 lb, Senior; #77 Reid Webster - 6'3" 300 lb, Junior
RT: Gifford Timothy - 6'6" 315  lb, Junior; #76 Shaq Anthony - 6'4" 280 lb, Sophomore

Clemson's offense is #18 in the nation in total yards and #24 in scoring, and yet has been somewhat disappointing. Almost 500 yards per game and over 37 points, and yet some people think they've haven't played up to their potential. This is probably because Clemson finished last year ranked 9th in total offense and 6th in scoring.

Boyd threw for almost 4000 yards last year, with a 36:13 TD:INT ratio. This year, his pace is down a bit. The loss of Andre Ellington has hurt, as their rushing game hasn't been nearly as productive as it was last year. This has allowed teams to focus on stopping Boyd and his dynamic WRs. Most teams aren't able to do that, but teams like FSU have defenses that are capable of shutting down Clemson's offense.

Replacing Ellington as the primary RB, McDowell has rushed for oevr 600 yards already, but just 2 TDs. McDowell isn't all that different from Ellington, but Ellington had a bit more success. Both are small, quick, dynamic players.

Boyd actually leads the team in rushing TDs with 6. He led the team last year as well, with 10. In the red zone, the Hoos will need to be wary of a QB draw with Boyd. While Boyd is dangerous as a runner, he's most known for his arm. He's 2nd in ACC history with 15 career games of 300+ yards. He's thrown for over 10,000 yards in his career, along with 90 TDs. He's on a number of Award watch lists this season.

Boyd's primary weapon in the passing game is Sammy Watkins. He's in the top 20 in the nation in both yards and receptions. Watkins may not be the fastest kid out there, but he's big and he runs verygood routes for such a young WR. Despite Watkins and a great deal of talent beyond that, Boyd still misses DeAndre Hopkins, who led the team last year with 82 catches and over 1400 yards. Bryant is another big play guy, who has just 24 catches this year, but averages nearly 20 yards per catch. He's one of the fastest guys on the team, but is nowhere near the developed route runner that Watkins is. Humphries often works in the slot, and has 30 receptions on the season. He's not really a big play guy, averaging just 12 yards per reception. That doesn't mean he should be overlooked, because he is certainly capable of making big plays. He's used more as a possession guy. Seckinger is also a reliable target over the middle and could be dangerous in the red zone. He's a pure possession guy, who isn't really going to make plays deep, but is good at finding seams.

Clemson's OL is big and talented, but they haven't been as good as a group as they should be. Boyd has been sacked far too often, almost 3 times per game. And their ground game has averaged under 4 yards per carry.

Clemson's offense is a big play machine. They pick up yards in bunches, but they also allow a lot of big plays to the defense. They are among the worst teams in the nation at preventing sacks and TFLs. They will often dial up long-developing plays, figuring that Boyd can buy time in the backfield for his WRs to get open.

I'd be a lot more confident about the Hoos chances of stopping the Tigers if Brent Urban and Demetrious Nicholson were playing. Watkins is a tough cover for any DB, but Nicholson is one of the top man-to-man cover guys in the ACC and should be able to at least limit Watkin's big plays. Urban's ability to get pressure up the middle would be a huge asset for Jon Tenuta's defense. Tenuta will blitz, probably a lot, in an effort to hit Boyd. If you can get Boyd out of his rhythm, you've got a shot at slowing down this dynamic offense.

Clemson Defense

DE: #93 Corey Crawford - 6'5" 270 lb, Junior; #9 Tavaris Barnes - 6'4" 275 lb, Junior
DT: #50 Grady Jarrett - 6'1" 295 lb, Junior; #48 D.J. Reader - 6'2" 325 lb, Sophomore
DT: Reader; #91 Josh Watson - 6'4" 290 lb, Junior; #99 DeShawn Williams - 6'1" 295 lb, Junior
DE: #3 Vic Beasley - 6'2" 235 lb, Junior; #90 Shaq Lawson - 6'3" 270 lb, Freshman

SLB: #34 Quandon Christian - 6'2" 230 lb, Senior; #41 T.J. Burrell - 5'11" 215 lb, RS Freshman
MLB: #42 Stephone Anthony - 6'2" 245 lb, Junior; #44 B.J. Goodson - 6'1" 235 lb, Sophomore
WLB: #33 Spencer Shuey - 6'3" 240 lb, Senior; #7 Tony Steward - 6'1" 230 lb, Junior

CB: #17 Bashaud Breeland - 6'0" 185 lb, Junior; #14 Martin Jenkins - 5'9" 185 lb, Junior

S: #11 Travis Blanks - 6'0" 200  lb, Sophomore; #20 Jayron Kearse - 6'4" 205 lb, Freshman

S: #27 Robert Smith - 5'11" 210 lb, Junior; #12 Korrin Wiggins - 5'11" 190 lb, Freshman; #18 Jadar Johnson - 6'1" 195 lb, Freshman

CB: #8 Darius Robinson - 5'10" 175 lb, Senior; #36 Jerrodd Williams - 6'0" 195 lb, Senior

Clemson runs a high-pressure defense predicated on generating pressure on opposing QBs and forcing mistakes. They lead the nation in sacks, they are 2nd in sacks and they are 11th in turnovers. They are also 38th in total defense, and 30th in scoring defense. As we know, the Hoos defense had a tendency to turn the ball over a lot early on. Over the past few weeks, that has improved. Against a defense as fast as aggressive as Clemson's, the Hoos will have to be extra careful with the football.

Beasley is tied for the nation's lead in sacks. He's also forced 3 fumbles. He's a pure pass rusher, with tremendous speed for a guy his size. He'll line up in a 2 point stance on some passing downs. He also moves around on the DL a bit. Crawford has just 3 sacks, but he has 7 TFLs. He also has 13 QB pressures, tied for the team lead. He's kind of the Jake Snyder to Beasley's Eli Harold. This is true of the way the two DEs look as well as how they are deployed. We'll see a good deal of Lawson at DE as well, especially on passing downs. He's performed well as a reserve. The interior of the Clemson DL doesn't get the credit that the DEs do, but they are also very good. Jarrett is 4th on the team in tackles and has chipped in 6.5 TFLs plus 13 QB pressures. He's a high-motor guy who uses good leverage against often bigger OLs.

Those LBs are all very fast. Anthony leads the team in tackles, plus is 2nd in sacks and TFLs. He came in as an OLB and still has the cover skills and athleticism for that position. He's a true sideline-to-sideline MLB, and is likely to get very well acquainted with Kevin Parks this week. Christian is a fast, downhill LB who is also a big hitter. He can run and he'll track down ballcarriers from behind. Shuey isn't nearly as fast as the other two LBs, but he's a big kid who is tough to block and he's a sure tackler.

The Clemson DBs are all ball hawks. Robinson and Breeland each have 3 INTs on the season. They aren't the biggest of DBs, so a bigger WR like Keeon Johnson or Canaan Severin could have some success against them. The safeties aren't big either, but they are all fast and capable. Smith is 3rd on the team in tackles and is a good solid cover guy. He'll come up against the run and make a big hit, but he can also cover a TE or RB out of the backfield and hold his own. We'll likely see a lot of Kearse in Blanks' place, especially if we're having any success throwing the ball. He's much bigger and a bit better in zone coverages.

Clemson's defense isn't nearly as good as their offense. While the offense is dominant, the defense can be best described as opportunistic. They put pressure on the offense, and then jump on any mistakes the offense makes. The Hoos offense has made a lot of mistakes this week, so that plays right into what Clemson wants to do.

Clemson Special Teams

K: #39 Chandler Catanzaro - 6'3" 200 lb, Senior

P: #92 Bradley Pinion - 6'6" 230 lb, Sophomore

KR: Watkins; Bryant;

PR: Humphries; Hopper

Humphries is one of the top PR in the nation, and Catanzaro is a very good kicker, with a season-long of 49 yards. The rest of Clemson's special teams have been surprisingly average, for a team with as much talent as Clemson. They are among the worst in the nation on kickoff returns, and their coverage teams are all about average.

This could actually be an area where the Hoos have an advantage. Their coverage teams have been pretty solid overall, and they've looked close to making something happen on their own returns. A big play on special teams could help the Hoos stay in this game.


Last week, the Hoos barely attempted to run the ball, choosing to throw 60 times. If that trend continues, this game could get out of hand early. The Hoos will need to run the ball well, in order to keep Clemson's offense off the field.

Let's face it; Clemson is far too talented a team for the Hoos to pull the upset. Keeping the game reasonably close would be nice. Clemson has broken 50 3 times this year, plus 49 once more. They may get there again.

Prediction: Tigers 52, Hoos 20