Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes a ton of money and he typically does a very good job of earning it. Morris is a very well respected offensive coach and quarterback teacher. With the insertion of Deshaun Watson as the starter two weeks ago, Clemson has averaged over 500 yards a game. Morris has struggled to find offensive balance this year and facing the top ranked run defense in the nation probably won't help that.
We are all familiar with the importance of the quarterback position as UofL fans and we really know how exciting it is to have a stud freshman take over as the starter and play well. Watson has done just that for Clemson with six touchdown passes in his first start and ten total touchdown the last two weeks. Watson is a dual threat quarterback but he is far from being a run first player. Outside of designed runs he really only takes off if he can't find the open guy. Louisville did very well keeping Terrel Hunt in the pocket last week, but he did have a few plays where he could find a seam in the pass rush and get down field. That won't work well with a talent like Watson. He isn't a lumberer that will get a few yards and fall forward. He is a quick and speedy guy that's athletic enough to hurdle a defender like he did last week against NC State.
Watson's arm is what really sets him apart from the quarterbacks that Louisville has faced so far. Watson is completing nearly 70% of his passes and looked absolutely great throwing the deep ball last week to Mike Williams. He has great touch down the field and he has a pretty quick release on the shorter routes that Clemson likes to run. He hasn't seemed to be fazed by the big moments he's played in so far or the talented defenses. The big question will be how will he play against a defense that is playing as well as Louisville's. Watson has been sacked five times in the last two weeks and he will likely face much more pressure than he's seen so far. If his line can't protect him, Watson could lose his calm demeanor and make a mistake or two.
The Clemson running game has been very ineffective so far this year. The team wasn't returning a ton of production coming into the year when they lost their top returning rusher just before the season started. With that loss Morris was has been forced to use a committee system instead of being able to utilize one or two backs like they have in the past. Wayne Gallman has been listed as the starter this week but there is really no telling who will get the most carries. The backs as a group are only averaging 122 yards a game and are averaging 4.4 yards a carry. With a wide open offense and so many weapons in the passing game, the rushing attack should have more big plays. The fact that the offense has been so productive while being so one dimensional is really a solid accomplishment.
The Tigers have stockpiled a ridiculous amount of talent at the wide receiver position over the last handful of years and it looks like the loss of Sammy Watkins hasn't hurt them too much. Mike Williams is ranked 16th in the country in receiving yards per game and it looks like he and Watson really have a great connection together. Williams is everything you want in a receiver at 6-4/210 and fast. He, Germone Hopper, and Artavis Scott give Scott a versatile group of receivers that are all viable deep threats as well as quick screen options. Williams is more than capable of taking the top off of the Louisville defense which could really open up the middle of the field on his side. Gerod Holliman and James Sample have done an exceptional job in coverage, but the defense has rarely been tested deep. That will likely change this week with Williams and Watson having such success with the deep ball.
Clemson's offensive line has played about as poorly as Louisville's this year, giving up a ton of negative plays and not being able to protect a mobile quarterback. The line was a question mark coming into the season and they haven't had any success solving their issues. They've given up 5 of their 12 sacks in the last two weeks. Both of those games were relative blowouts against defenses that aren't really very good. With the way Lorenzo Mauldin, Sheldon Rankins, and Keith Kelsey are playing the Tigers have to hope that Morris has a plan that will alleviate some of the pressure on the line.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Mike Williams, WR Artavis Scott, WR Germone Hopper
- Chad Morris has been linked to 5,674 open head coaching jobs over the last three years.
- Deshaun Watson was ranked as the top dual threat quarterback in the 247 composite rankings.
- Every receiver named Mike Williams is at least 6-3/205.