Although the Clemson Tigers are by no means considered a huge underdog in their August 31, season-opening contest against the Georgia Bulldogs, not many actually expect them to win the game. Hang with the ‘Dawgs? Yes. Beat them? No.
However, this week the Tigers were bestowed upon them a gift, via the off-season misfortunes of their opponent on that night.
Sophomore safety, and one of the expected leaders on the defensive side of the ball, Josh Harvey-Clemons was suspended for the much-anticipated game following a marijuana arrest. The absence of the Bulldogs’ spring defensive MVP can open up a small window of opportunity for Clemson to take one away in their Death Valley home and continue their march towards a BCS Title, while destroying Georgia’s in the process.
If there were ever a time for Tigers’ offensive coordinator Chad Morris to show that he is worth his hype, it will be on this night.
With this being such a pivotal game to begin the season, one would have to assume that Mark Richt may have planned a lot of his defensive schemes around the attributes his sophomore safety brought to the table. Who knows how many blitz packages and disguised coverages were centered around his prized safety. With the suspension, that’s all absent now as well along with Clemons.
Now, Morris can take his very talented and experienced QB, Tajh Boyd, and open up the playbook a little bit. Clemson has the array of offensive weapons around Boyd to get this done. It’s all about utilization of those weapons. As I said, I’m sure that Richt may have planned on using Clemons in various ways so as to confuse the Clemson offense and throw them off their rhythm. Now, it’s time to turn the tables.
With the likes of WRs Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, TEs Jordan Leggett and Stanton Steckinger, and RB Rod McDowell, each one of these dangerous pieces can be utilized in some sort to attack that gap down the field that Clemons’ absence leaves–especially the tight ends and McDowell out of the backfield. While it’s obvious that there will be eyes on Watkins and Bryant dutifully at all times, the others can’t be held down.
I also understand that, yes, Georgia is an SEC squad and there will be another top-notch athlete to step in and fill the void at safety. But like I said, this isn’t matter of absent athleticism–it’s about absent scheming utilizing that particular attribute.
Basically, what Morris has to do is turn this into a chess game, utilizing a complex passing attack that can be used to eventually proclaim–checkmate.