Charleston Post & Courier reporter Aaron Brenner was kind of enough to answer these questions ahead of Saturday’s game against Georgia State.
Q: What is wrong with Cole Stoudt?
A: Stoudt was Tajh Boyd’s primary backup for three years, was named the starter coming out of spring practices, was supported as the guy through August, led a touchdown drive on the first possession of the year at Georgia … and it’s been all downhill since. Stoudt has lost all confidence, almost like he’s got the yips out there. He stares down receivers, the very thing he promised he wouldn’t do that Boyd did too much, and his decision-making has been shaky at times. To be fair, he’s playing with a sprained left (non-throwing) shoulder that hurts every time he’s hit, and he’s yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup based on Deshaun Watson’s own injury troubles.
Q: What is your over-under on the passing attempts for Clemson on Saturday?
A: Usually, this would be the type of game to get the running game in gear; see the South Carolina State week 2 matchup, when Clemson went to the ground 55 percent of its plays (a rarity in this offense.) Because the coaching staff has no choice but to regain Stoudt’s confidence, it’s not out of the realm to see them have Stoudt wing it 30-ish times to drive up his stats and get the fans back on their side. Because much of Clemson’s running game involves screen passes and simple taps on jet routes, the team’s passing numbers are often inflated in a deceiving fashion. Throw in the coaches’ desire to get sophomore Nick Schuessler some experience, and honestly, don’t be shocked if Clemson ends up in the 50s in passing attempts.
Q: Is this season a disappointment for the Tigers?
A It is. And that’s the nature of college football at the highest level: to a program like Duke or Marshall, being ranked No. 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings in mid-November would be considered a pleasant surprise. To Clemson, it’s about 21 spots below where it wishes it were. The Tigers suffered a tough loss at Georgia and an absolutely brutal defeat at Florida State – the Georgia Tech loss this last weekend really was the culmination of tap-dancing its way to a six-game winning streak without really playing all that well. Understand, though: Clemson’s Nov. 29 game will make or break its season. A win erases the pain of a long losing streak to South Carolina; a loss exacerbates it.
Q: Other than Vic Beasley, who is the player to watch on defense?
A: There’s a few. Linebacker Stephone Anthony will get a decent shot at the next level as a Day 2 pick, maybe Day 3, as he’s always around the football. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is one of the most underrated players in the ACC, at least on stat sheets and fans’ tongues, though he’s super-appreciated by opposing coaches for how he clogs the interior line. Freshman Mackensie Alexander is already a shutdown corner, and free safety Jayron Kearse is a playmaker. Tavaris Barnes and Shaq Lawson are also adequate pass-rushers; please take note of Barnes’ hair. It’s majestic.
Q: Who is the player to watch on offense?
A: For this Saturday, Mike Williams is your deep threat in the mold of DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant. He’s made some highlight-reel grabs this year. At running back, Wayne Gallman is a violent ball-carrier. And Tyshon Dye is a bowling-ball back who will probably lead Clemson in carries as he returns from injury – that is, if Clemson tucks the game firmly in hand when it hopes to, sometime in the second or third quarter.