For a team with a broader vision than being ranked No. 3 two games into the season, a win against S.C. State in a glorified scrimmage created several teaching opportunities, Clemson coaches said Monday.
After 512 yards in a 52-13 victory, offensive coordinator Chad Morris criticized several aspects of the performance.
“I think they stunk,” Morris said of his starters.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 14 of 23 passes for 169 yards, but, “I don’t think he ever got in the flow of the game.”
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“I think every ball he was looking to throw, he was looking to throw the big ball and wasn’t taking what they gave him, some underneath stuff, check downs,” Morris said. “Those were the things that were wide open. If we hit a couple of those, then the other things open up.”
Running back Rod McDowell totaled 43 yards on eight carries, but, “I don’t think his focus was there either,” Morris said.
Most disturbing was the Tigers’ inability to convert a fourth-and-one at the S.C. State 13-yard line early in the game.
“I think that kind of set the tempo, kind of set the tone,” Morris said. “I think it gave everybody a bad taste. I know it gave me a bad taste in my mouth.”
The chance to further develop depth could not be overstated, said coach Dabo Swinney, particularly on the offensive line. “The gap is a lot closer than what people think in some areas,” Swinney said. “I thought the whole second group sparked us.”
Morris said his message as Clemson prepares for the N.C. State game next Thursday in Raleigh will be fueled by the realization that there may be options blossoming at several positions.
“I’m pretty positive we are going to be able to motivate them this week,” Morris said. To that point, he can look to the backup offensive line, which delivered the first touchdown drive.
“The positive is that there were some younger guys ready to go, and they were ready to play,” he said. “Did I feel like someone competed well enough to earn a starting job? No, not yet. Does it warrant a guy getting in and playing more ... (or) possibly push somebody for a starting job? Absolutely.”
Kalon Davis started for injured right guard Tyler Shatley and delivered an encouraging performance. Morris and Swinney also mentioned backups Isaiah Battle, Patrick DeStefano and Jay Guillermo.
Among those that flashed brightest at the skill positions were backup quarterback Cole Stoudt (19 of 20 and three TD passes), receiver Germone Hopper (six receptions, two touchdowns) and running back C.J. Davidson (63 yards on 12 carries.)
Hopper’s efficiency as a blocker will provide the lesson for the team, Morris said.
“He played physical, and that was really good to see,” Morris said. “We’re leaving so many opportunities and yards on the field because we’re not being physical, we’re not blocking enough on that outside. He came in and gave us some physicalness.”
Swinney and Morris believed the team made fundamental progress by developing its depth, which could become advantageous deeper in the season. Stoudt, cornerback Martin Jenkins and long snapper Michael Sobieski were the team’s players of the week.
The practice schedule this week runs Tuesday through Thursday. After a break Friday, they will begin a “game week” schedule Saturday. Swinney said McDowell may begin the week limited after sustaining a concussion.
Swinney continued to discount the polls’ merit at this stage, although the AP ranking matched the highest by Clemson in 25 years.
“Still don’t pay any attention to that stuff,” Swinney said. “We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just 2-0. All we have is a better starting spot than we’ve had in years past.
“It just means people think we have good potential in our team. There’s so much football to be played.”