Clemson is employing a new offensive coordinator in 2015 after Chad Morris departed to SMU. Morris was replaced by Jeff Scott (WR coach) and Tony Elliott (RB Coach). Jeff Scott has been at Clemson since 2008 as the Wide Receivers coach and this is his first season as an offensive coordinator. Tony Elliott has been coaching Running Backs at Clemson since 2011 and this is also his first season as an offensive coordinator. Elliott & Scott also both played Wider Receiver for the Tigers. The two coordinators will face off versus Todd Grantham, an experienced Defensive Coordinator from both the NFL & College, but whose defense probably just put up its worst effort in Grantham’s 15-game tenure with the Cards.
Deshaun Watson is back as a sophomore and was voted to be the ACC Player of the Year in the Preseason. Watson (6’2, 210) had perhaps his worst outing last year vs. Louisville before leaving with a hand injury that caused him to miss several more games. Watson looked like a freshman last year vs. UofL, but so far this year Watson has completed 77.1% of his passes for 442 yards in two blowout wins vs. over-matched opponents. Watson was terrific last year vs. South Carolina, NC State, North Carolina and Florida State. A year later Watson is supposed to be even better. Thursday Night on ESPN vs. what is supposed to be a good Cardinal defense should provide Deshaun with the stage to jump start his sophomore year.
For the Cards Watson is mobile, but Clemson doesn’t really ask him to do much running for yardage. Deshaun is more mobile in the pocket with passing as a first option. If anything, he’s absolutely nothing like Houston’s Greg Ward, Jr……and that’s good because we established that Louisville can’t tackle Greg Ward, Jr. Louisville is going to have to honor Watson’s threat through the air, but this is at least the style of QB that Todd Grantham has built Louisville’s defense around to stop. Stopping Clemson, however, will be another matter.
Clemson has always scored points under Dabo Swinney. With a QB like Watson that’s unlikely to change. Louisville needs to get back to TACKLING ball carriers and try and duplicate what worked last year vs. Watson and make Deshaun demonstrate that he’s grown in reading defenses and go from there. Fans should expect a lot of pressure from its defense and Clemson will likely counter with throws to the outside.
The Tiger’s biggest threat in the passing game was Mike Williams who suffered a neck injury in the opener vs. Wofford in a scary scene after the WR hit the giant Clemson goal post in the endzone. Williams is out vs. the Cards and in his replacement guys like Artvais Scott (5’11, 190, Soph), Ray-Ray McCloud (5’10, 180 Fr.), Charone Peake (6-3, 215, Sr.) are filling in replacement. Clemson of course has other weapons as spreading the ball around is a Tiger philosophy. Louisville is going to have to be SOUND while maintaining pressure. This isn’t going to be a game where Louisville can afford to have breakdowns in coverage OR where it can have lackluster tackling.
Against the run Louisville hasn’t been great in 2015. Let’s just be honest. Things don’t look to get better against Wayne Gallman (6-1, 215, Soph) who has 29 carries for 171 yards (just 1 negative yard on the season) in two routs thus far in 2015. Gallman was a great back as well in 2014. Clemson’s rushing attack and pace is much more traditional, but if Louisville doesn’t line up and tackle Gallman will have a field day.
Overall, Louisville’s defense is being challenged to play up to its potential. If they do basic things, like tackle, then Todd Grantham might be able to call some of his more exotic blitz packages and get the Cards off the field on 3rd down. Louisville is currently 114th in Defensive 3rd Downs……a year ago the Cards were 10th. That is a HUGE swing. If UofL gets back to playing Cardinal defense then the Cards have a chance to beat the Tigers. If not, get ready for a long night (year).