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9/12: Austin Bryant National Player of the Week

For Immediate Release

Football

September 12, 2017

Bryant National Player of the Week by Three Organizations

Clemson, S.C.—Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant has been named the national defensive player of the week by three different organizations over the last three days. The junior from Pavo, Georgia tied a school record for sacks in a game with four in the 14-6 win over 13th ranked Auburn last Saturday.

Bryant is the first Clemson defensive player to win all three awards in the same week.

Bryant had seven tackles overall and helped the Clemson defense hold Auburn to just 117 yards total offense, just 15 in the second half. Auburn had just 38 yards rushing in the game as the Clemson defense had 11 sacks, tied for second in school history. Auburn did not score a touchdown for the first time in 23 games.

Bryant joined Keith Adams (1999 vs. Duke) and Andre Branch (2011 vs. Virginia Tech) as the only Clemson players to register four sacks in a game.

Bryant was named the winner of the Football Writers Associations Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. On Monday he won the Chuck Bednarik Award National Defensive Player of the Week from the Maxwell Award and on Sunday he was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week.

Each Tuesday during the regular season, the FWAA has selected a Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week since 2001. Bryant will be added to the Bronko Nagurski Watch List for the annual award. The FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club will announce five finalists for the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Wed., Nov. 15. The winner will be chosen from those five finalists who are part of the 2017 FWAA All-America Team.

The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet, presented by ACN, will be held on Mon., Dec. 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center. In addition to the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner’s announcement, the banquet will also celebrate the recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by the CTC and Florida East Coast Railway.

 

9/9: Clemson Bests Auburn 14-6 in Defensive Battle

Clemson seized their opportunities and Auburn did not, and this was the theme of Clemson’s 14-6 win over Auburn. Clemson scored two touchdowns and Auburn two field goals in a slugfest marked by both excellent defensive performances and spells of anemic drives by the offenses.

 

As Coach Swinney stated; “I feel like I’m back at Alabama in 1988 after that one. What a tough, gritty game. That’s such a reflection of the heart of our guys. You have to find ways to win games, especially early in the season, and I’m just really proud of our guys, particularly on defense.”

 

Clemson’s defense played a historic game on both an individual and team level. Clemson held Auburn to 117 total yards while sacking Jarrett Stidham eleven times – one shy of the school record (Furman 1996).

 

Austin Bryant tied the Clemson single game sack record with four, joining Keith Adams (1999) and Andre Branch (2011).

 

Dorian O’Daniel had ten tackles in the first 25 minutes of gameplay, ending with 14 total tackles and 1.5 sacks.

 

The heroic efforts were not limited to the starters, as Tre Lamar’s 14-yard sack on fourth down gave Clemson the ball back after CJ Fuller fumbled the ball early in the third quarter. JD Davis also recorded his first career sack.

 

Auburn’s vaunted rushing game and running back combination was nowhere to be found, as Auburn only ran for 38 net yards (111 yards gained) on 42 attempts.

 

The passing game was just as dreadful, as Stidham’s passing line was 13 completions and 21 attempts for 79 yards, while taking the 11 sacks for 72 lost yards.

 

While Jarrett Stidham crumbled, Kelly Bryant rose to the occasion and performed well under pressure. He completed 20 passes on 31 attempts for 185 yards, but his two rushing scores and 59 net yards (88 gained) provided enough juice for Clemson to defeat Auburn.

 

Although this was a big night for some of the younger players by the statistics, Ray Ray McCloud and Mark Fields were two players that Coach Swinney said took great steps of maturation tonight.

 

McCloud fumbled the ball late in the first quarter on a questionable call, and one could have envisioned a game where Clemson collapsed under the pressure.

 

Instead, Clemson’s defense took advantage of Auburn’s horrendous game management and held Auburn to a field goal. Ray Ray then recovered from his mistake to catch six passes for 81 yards and four returns for 17 yards.

 

In classic fashion, big game Hunter Renfrow was Clemson’s leading pass catcher as he caught nine passes for 62 yards, and the third down conversion to win the game.

 

The other important factor was the adjustments (or lack thereof) of the coaching staffs.

 

Coach Swinney mentioned after the game that they “found some things” and finally got in a rhythm as they scored two touchdowns to end the first half and start the second half.

 

Defensively, Clemson cleaned up their solid coverage after misusing their hands and committing pass interference twice in the first quarter.

 

On the other hand, Gus Malzahn’s play calling was brutal and adjustments were minimal. While Auburn started off with the advantage, they couldn’t counter Clemson’s adjustments.

 

Clemson is not perfect: the pass protection was not up to Coach Swinney’s standards, the lack of rhythm was concerning, and there is always room for improvement.

 

But in a clash of two top five defenses, Clemson played relentless football and came away with valuable experience and a home win against a Top 25 team.

 

 

9/9: Clemson Leads Auburn 7-6 in a Defensive Battle

Clemson leads Auburn 7-6 on a beautiful day marred by anemic offenses that come alive in spurts.

 

Auburn wasted two time outs five minutes into the first half on a slow opening drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock. The second time out happened when Auburn changed their mind about kicking a field goal and converted a 4th and 1 in the red zone. Fortunately for Clemson, the defense forced Auburn into a 4th and 1 on the one-yard line. The crowd then assisted the Tigers by causing a delay of game that forced Auburn to settle for a short field goal. For the second time in eighteen games Clemson allowed a score on the opening drive.

 

Auburn’s second drive was stalled on a trademark Gus Malzahn reverse flea flicker pass that resulted in an intentional grounding call.

 

The Clemson secondary drew two pass interference penalties in the first quarter, but they later adjusted to running with the receivers and playing the ball as opposed to playing the receiver.

 

The Ray Ray McCloud fumble on the 11 was a close call, but because it was called a fumble on the field there was not indisputable video evidence to overturn the call.

 

Clemson’s red zone defense stepped up once again to force Carlson to kick his second short field goal of the night. Auburn led the game 6-0 a minute into the second quarter.

 

After trading punts, Kelly Bryant exited the game with an unknown injury and was evaluated under the medical tent. Zerrick Cooper took over with 8:29 left in the half, but he couldn’t get the offense a spark either.

 

Huegel missed a 46-yard field goal to the left and the score remained 6-0 Auburn with 6:47 left in the second.

 

Kelly Bryant came back in the game the next series and lofted up a catch to Deon Cain that he made despite the pass interference from Carlton Davis.

 

With Bryant’s confidence rising, Clemson marched down the field as Hunter Renfrow caught three quick strikes, and Ray Ray McCloud caught a 29-yard ball on a deep route.

 

The twelve play, 88-yard drive was capped off by a three yard run by Kelly Bryant, giving Clemson a 7-6 lead with less than a minute until halftime.

 

Both teams looked inept offensively for much of the half, but Clemson got in a rhythm offensively to end the half with the lead and the momentum.

 

Clemson needs to go into the second half on attack mode while Auburn needs to improve their game management and offensive play calling.

 

9/7: Clemson Auburn Preview

The Auburn quarterback Wheel of Fortune has been solved, and the lucky winner is Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. While he didn’t play in last year’s matchup, he will be ready to help Auburn avenge last year’s game that Clemson won 19 to 13.

 

Stidham was a good freshman quarterback in 2015 and he looked the part in last week’s 34-10 win over Georgia Southern, but he has not been tested yet in his career.

 

With the exception of a shootout versus Oklahoma, all of his 2015 FBS games were against defenses ranked 83rd or worse in the nation. While some of this is due to the Big XII’s style, this does indicate that he could struggle more than one would think.

 

Last year Auburn played three quarterbacks against Clemson, with none of them settling into a rhythm. They also rolled out some Wing-T material with Last Chance U star John Franklin (who transferred to FAU).

 

Kam Pettway led the SEC in average yards per game (122.4) and plays his first game this week because he was suspended for the opener. His backup and co-starter Kerryon Johnson has not practiced all week, so it is unclear if he will play.

 

On Clemson’s side, safety Van Smith is day to day and safety Denzel Johnson is probable. If Smith cannot play, sophomore K’Von Wallace will be the starter.

 

Auburn’s 41-7 win against Georgia Southern looked impressive, there are underlying causes for concern. Auburn’s rushed for 351 yards on 53 carries, but 194 yards came on 4 carries – meaning that it took 49 carries to get 157 yards (3.2 yards per carry) against a Georgia Southern team that struggled in the Sun Belt last year.

 

As Clemson found out last year, all it takes is one mistake for a struggling Auburn offense to move down the field off of play action or a great run.

 

Clemson has won 23 out of the last 25 at home (0.734 all time), and the crowd noise has caused numerous offenses to struggle. Lamar Jackson’s Louisville offense was penalized early and often due to the raucous crowd in Death Valley. If Clemson fans can bring the heat, it could give the defense momentum early in the game and help Clemson get off to a fast start.

 

While Auburn’s offensive performance against Clemson last year was atrocious (one rushing yard at halftime), their defense (and Clemson’s offensive mistakes) kept them in the game.

 

While Auburn lost talent on defense, their replacements are four and five star recruits – Auburn is reloading with talent like Clemson does.

 

They held Georgia Southern to 78 total yards and eight passing yards, while holding them to 0-15 on third down.

 

Both defenses lost talented players and both defenses are reloading. Both defenses are predicated on dominant defensive lines that make teams one dimensional, and former Clemson (now Auburn) defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is a great coach.

 

Neither team’s opponent last week seriously threatened the secondaries through the air, so the biggest defensive question marks how each secondary can hold up against the pass.

 

The one area Clemson has a distinct advantage is Auburn’s offensive line against Clemson’s defensive line. They allowed eight tackles for loss last week against a lesser opponent, and Clemson has arguably the best defensive line in the nation.

 

If Clemson can stop the run by dominating their offensive line, Malzahn’s offense stalls and Clemson wins the defensive side of the ball.

 

Auburn will try to take away Kelly Bryant’s first read and try to contain him in the pocket, because he has 4.4 to 4.5 speed that can be the spark Clemson needs to keep drives alive.

 

Barring any crazy special teams or turnover fiascos like FSU had against Alabama, whichever offensive line plays better should win the game for their team. Given Clemson’s improvement on the line in the past few years and Auburn’s struggles, Clemson is the favorite to win at home.

 

Prediction: 21 Clemson 17 Auburn

9/2: Clemson Dominates Hapless Kent State 56-3 in Kelly Bryant’s First Start

“We tell them it’s not about the who, its about the how.” – Jeff Scott and the coaching staff preaches the motto of consistency and focus that carried Clemson to a 56-3 thrashing over the Kent State Golden Flashes.

 

As the Tigers celebrated the national championship with festivities, Clemson showed that they did not rest on last year’s laurels in the offseason. The offseason stories centered around who Clemson lost, but their replacements seized the moment and embraced their new roles in front of 80,121 Tiger faithful.

 

CJ Fuller was named the starting running back last week and started the season off with a 26 -yard touchdown run through the heart of the Kent State defense just a minute into the game.

 

Kelly Bryant faced doubts all offseason long about his throwing and ability to replace Deshaun Watson. Bryant started off hot, finding Deon Cain on a go route over the top for a 61-yard score early in the first quarter to make the score 14-0.

 

He showcased his athleticism on the ground as he evaded tacklers, ran through creases, and displayed his burst on a 47-yard scramble.

 

Bryant finished the day completing 16 out of 22 passes for 236 yards, throwing a score and an interception that was a bad break.

 

Bryant had an excellent opening game and he appeared to solidify his place as the starter.

 

Tight end Milan Richard made two impressive catch and runs of 26 and 44 yards that highlighted his powerful build and athleticism.

 

Some returning veterans made their impacts too, with Ray Ray McCloud fielding a nine-yard punt return in an athletic display that demonstrated his improved confidence from last year.

 

Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice didn’t disappoint either as they took their opportunities and made the most of them. Feaster rushed six times for 69 yards and one 47-yard touchdown, while Choice rushed four times for 20 yards and a three yard score.

 

Travis Etienne was the Tigers leading rusher of the day, rushing eight times for 81 yards and a score. His 54-yard rush showed his balance and running ability that players and coaches have raved about since the Louisiana native arrived on campus.

Zerrick Cooper completed four of six passes for 37 yards and one score; while Hunter Johnson completed five of six passes for 39 yards.

This defense was more of a team effort and less of a group effort, as no one had an impressive statistical game.

 

Clemson’s defense was impressive, holding Kent State to 112 yards – 111 rushing and 1 passing yard. This is not a typo: Kent State completed one of four passes for one yard.

 

Coaches echoed the sentiment an opener is full of unknowns and that teams have to adjust as the game goes on.

 

Kent State looked a lot like Georgia Tech at times, but Clemson’s experience defending Georgia Tech helped the Tigers adjust on the fly.

 

The run defense was disciplined and disruptive, but nothing can be gleaned about how Clemson defends the pass.

 

Young safeties Tanner Muse and Isaiah Simmons were fast and looking for someone to hit, they should be excellent players as they mature.

 

Tanner Muse said that Kent State running the ball was not frustrating because “we always think run first, pass second … I enjoy the run fit. I get to make tackles being there in the box, and that’s a lot of fun.”

 

One of the most impressive things about Clemson’s performance is the lack of mistakes. Clemson only had four penalties for 45 yards and one turnover.

 

Swinney stated: “I’ve been around football for a long time, but I can’t remember a cleaner performance in an opening game than the one I saw today … It was a complete performance.”

 

Clemson had 665 total yards with 353 yards on the ground and 312 passing yards – the first ACC team since 2013 to go 300/300 on a team not named Syracuse (courtesy of David Hale).

 

Harkening back to Coach Scott’s words, Clemson couldn’t control the struggles of Kent State. What Clemson could control is their performance, and Clemson did everything you could ask for in the opener.

Clemson scored the most points in the first quarter since 2000, with three touchdowns against an overmatched Kent State team in fifteen minutes. Any talk of a talent drop-off or a championship hangover fueled the Tigers to prove that they reload instead of rebuild.

 

Kent State struggled from the start, with two three and outs. The second three and out was a penalty fest, with five penalties and four third downs before being forced to punt from their end zone.

 

Kent State ran a type of spread option game, but the Tigers keyed in on the run. Kent State had arguably the worst passing offense last year, and the offseason didn’t change it: Kent State did not throw a pass in the first half.

 

The Golden Flashes the methodically drove 55 yards down the field in just over six minutes before settling for a 37-yard field goal to make the score 21-3 early in the second quarter.

 

Clemson’s skill players looked as good as ever, and new quarterback Kelly Bryant has taken command of the offense.

 

He was electric on the ground, showing the second gear and elite agility that Watson lacked on a 47 yard run.

 

Bryant threw a beautiful 61-yard score in stride to Deon Cain, who beat the lone safety over the top.

 

Unfortunately, he missed a couple of throws, including an interception in the end zone to a double covered receiver on a slant route.

 

More time will tell if he is the definitive answer, but he showed flashes of excellence this half and should give him the confidence necessary to face Auburn’s defense.

 

As expected, Clemson’s defense looked as strong as ever. Don’t put too much stock into it though, Kent State’s offense is nonexistent.

9/2: Jabril Robinson to Serve One-Game Suspension

Clemson reserve defensive tackle Jabril Robinson will serve a one-game suspension today for a violation of team rules.

9/1: Kent State Preview

Clemson is a new team with the same dream – hoisting the national championship trophy in Atlanta. The departure of the best player in Clemson history (Deshaun Watson) along with other star players may lead some to believe that the Tigers can’t repeat, but Clemson has both the talent and the schedule to make it back to the playoffs.

 

The way Clemson won it all was by focusing only on themselves and the game ahead – so who are the Kent State Golden Flashes?

 

Kent State:

 

Kent State went 3-9 last year, going 12-35 in four years under alumni Head Coach Paul Haynes. Haynes is on a leave of absence due to a medical condition. The three wins were over FCS Monmouth (27-7) and MAC opponents Buffalo (44-20) and Central Michigan (27-24). The lowlights included losing to FCS team NC A&T (39-36 in 4 overtimes), Alabama 48-0, and going 1-4 in games decided by four points or less.

 

Kent State had a decent defense combined with a horrific offense that somehow managed to be better than its 2015 version. Kent State was the worst offense in the country in passing and efficiency, but at least Kent State was creatively awful.

 

After losing their starting quarterback against Alabama, they started a quarterback carousel of non-quarterbacks until current starter and former backup of all trades Nick Holley took the job.

 

Holley is a running quarterback that ran for 920 yards, passed for 868 yards, and had 135 receiving yards last year as an athlete and quarterback. Coach Haynes said that multiple quarterbacks will appear in nonconference play, so quarterbacks Bollas (a former starter) or freshman Dustin Crum could face the Tigers.

 

Speaking of versatile players, the now sophomore running back Justin Rankins was the second leading rusher (511 yards) and leading pass catcher (334 yards).

 

In straight up misery, now-starter wide receiver Johnny Woods caught six passes on 23 targets for 2.1 yards per target – one of the worst statistics I have ever heard of.

 

Kent State can’t stay healthy and has no wide receivers to speak of, so their passing game is nonexistent. Their offensive skill players are smaller than ideal and the offensive line is also undersized. but their rushing game based out of the spread is not as painful as their passing game.

 

Kent State runs a 4-2-5 style defense that is below average. The pass rush is nonexistent and the secondary has lost most of their impact players. 2016 2nd team MAC cornerback Jerrell Foster, 2016 3rd team nose tackle Jon Cunningham, and 2015 1st team MAC cornerback Demetrius Monday lead the defense into 2017.

 

Clemson:

The most important part of this year will be the quarterback position. If Kelly Bryant can take hold of the starting job and never look back (which he certainly can), Clemson could make a serious run for the ACC Championship and playoffs. If he struggles and Cooper or Johnson cannot right the ship, then Clemson could fight for ten or eleven wins.

 

The coaches have indicated that all three quarterbacks will play and that the competition will be continual throughout the year. Chase Brice will redshirt and Tucker Israel has stomach problems preventing him from playing.

 

Despite losing 10 starters, Clemson has players to fill the new starting positions that have either significant game experience, were highly recruited, or both. The new starters (not counting Anchrum because he is a co-starter) averaged 218 snaps last year.

 

Deon Cain being the best backup wide receiver in the nation and a projected early draft pick had 449 snaps; while Kelly Bryant played just 39 snaps last year.

 

The offensive line is only breaking in one new starter, center Justin Falcinelli whom is described as extremely intelligent. He struggled with snaps in the spring game, but if that problem is fixed the offensive line should look even better than last year.

 

The wide receiver position is loaded, and coaches say that the nine scholarship players could all play on Sundays. Clemson is not called “WR U” for nothing.

 

The defensive line is extremely talented with two possible future top ten picks anchoring the defensive tackle positon in Wilkins and Lawrence. Ferrell and Bryant are excellent defensive ends, but the depth behind them is scarily thin.

 

The Clemson secondary is faster than ever before, with Muse and Simmons posting sub 4.35 40 times that would translate to 4.40 – 4.45 seconds in the combine setting.

 

While Clemson is extremely talented, there is only so much we know from past tape, recruiting stars, statistics, and analytics. We will have more information about this team in a couple of games, because games are won and lost on the gridiron. Clemson is talented enough to compete for the national championship (at least 50% blue chip recruits), the coaching staff is incredible, and they should easily defeat Kent State.

 

Regardless of what happens this year, Clemson has both the total program and players to compete for years to come. This is a golden era in college football, with only twelve guaranteed games to watch the beloved Tigers play.

 

Prediction: Clemson 45 Kent State 10

Clemson and Head Coach Dabo Swinney Agree to New 8 Year Contract

Clemson, S.C. – Clemson University and Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney have agreed to a new eight-year contract through 2024, the athletic department announced today. The terms of the contract were approved by the Clemson University Board of Trustees Compensation Committee.

“Dabo’s impact on our football program, our university and our community is immeasurable and goes well beyond the on-field successes and national championship,” said Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich. “This new agreement demonstrates our strong commitment to Dabo and our confidence in his leadership now—and in the future—and his long-term commitment to Clemson.  We are thrilled that he and his family will be a part of the Clemson Family for years to come.”

Swinney has compiled an 89-28 record over his first nine seasons (eight full seasons) in Clemson, earning the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award in 2015 and 2016 and the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2009 and 2015. The Tigers have posted a 54-15 record in Atlantic Coast Conference games since Swinney took over, and advanced to postseason bowls every year.  The Tigers captured the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship after playing in the title game in 2015, and have recorded an impressive 70-13 record over the past six seasons.

During Swinney’s nine seasons, 157 of 162 senior lettermen have earned their degrees, including eight current members of the football team.  His teams have finished among the nation’s Top 10 in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report five of the past six years, and a school-record 58 football student-athletes posted a grade point average of 3.0 or above during the 2017 spring semester.

“I want to thank President Clements, Dan Radakovich and his team, the Board of Trustees, and the entire Clemson family,” Swinney said. “My family and I have been extremely blessed to be part of such an incredible university and community for the past 14 years. This contract makes a strong statement.  It is a mutual commitment reflective of the program we have built and continue to build at Clemson.   The Clemson family does so much to support our program and I couldn’t be more proud to be your head coach.”

 

8/21: Kelly Bryant Named Clemson Starting Quarterback

For Immediate Release

Clemson, S.C.—Kelly Bryant will be Clemson’s starting quarterback in the season opener against Kent State on September 2. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney made the announcement after practice on Monday. Bryant had been listed as the first-team quarterback since the beginning of spring practice.

“Kelly Bryant is the starter,” said Swinney. “He has earned it and I am proud of him. It has been a great competition, but this part is over. Zerrick Cooper is the number-two quarterback, but Hunter Johnson is right there. We hope to get all three quarterbacks experience in the first part of the season.” The plan at this time is to red-shirt freshman Chase Brice.

Bryant is a junior from Calhoun Falls, S.C. and Wren High School. He has played 12 games and an even 100 snaps so far in his career. He has completed 13-18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He has 35 rushes for 178 yards and three scores, giving him 253 yards of total offense on 53 plays for his career. His first two years he served as a reserve behind Deshaun Watson and Nick Schuessler, who were both seniors on Clemson’s 2016 National Championship team.

Bryant played well in the two most recent scrimmages. He was 10-17 for 186 yards and a score in the August 16 scrimmage, then connected on 14 of 20 for 177 yards and a score this past Saturday.


William Corbin’s Take: Kelly Bryant has significantly improved throughout summer and fall camp and he has the skills to lead Clemson to continued success. Even though Bryant is “the guy”, it doesn’t mean that the competiton is over – it sounds like multiple quarterbacks will play early and be given opportunities to shine.