Clemson Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

Zach GillilandFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Clemson Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Clemson Tigers weren’t able to come away victorious against the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday, but how did the new starters perform in that contest? For a team that had question marks going into the season, the contributions of these new starters are very important.

    *Tavaris Barnes and Reid Webster, who started for suspended players Corey Crawford and David Beasley, weren't included because those two guys should claim their starting roles again moving forward.

Joe Gore

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    Breaking Down His Performance

    Per Robert Thorne MacRae of The Clemson Insider, head coach Dabo Swinney thought Gore struggled a bit in the second half, saying, “He really, really cares. He played real well in the first half. He had some struggles in the second half. He is going to get better because he cares.”

    As a unit, the offensive line needs to improve moving forward, and Gore is one of the key pieces that will need to play better.


    Grade: C-

Ammon Lakip

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: 0-of-1 on field-goal attempts


    Breaking Down His Performance

    Ammon Lakip missed badly on a 34-yard attempt Saturday, but that was his only kick. He connected on his extra points, but making the big kicks will be something that needs to be addressed.

    Chandler Catanzaro was one of the most underrated college kickers the last few seasons, and Clemson is going to miss his leg if Lakip isn’t able to improve going forward. On the road in a hostile environment, I will give Lakip a pass on the first attempt of the season, but it’s hard to grade well when the miss was not even close.


    Grade: D-

Mackensie Alexander

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 1 Stats: Three total tackles (one solo)


    Breaking Down His Performance

    We didn’t hear Mackensie Alexander’s name much Saturday, but Georgia also didn’t have to throw the ball much. He had three tackles and looked comfortable out there. We will get a better feel for how much he can contribute in the coming weeks, but for now, not too bad.

    It’s hard to grade a corner low when the opposing team doesn’t throw the ball much.


    Grade: B-

D.J. Howard

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Week 1 Stats: 11 carries, 28 yards, 1 touchdown


    Breaking Down His Performance

    D.J. Howard started the game, but C.J. Davidson performed the best of the running backs on Saturday. Howard carried the ball 11 times but was only able to come away with 28 yards. It should be obvious to Tigers fans at this point that Howard is the starter because of his experience and his contributions in pass protection.

    He is not the best runner out of this group, and as the other guys gain experience, we could see a change at the position. Howard looked good in pass protection and scored a touchdown, so overall not a bad day.


    Grade: C-

Jordan Leggett

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    RAINIER EHRHARDT/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: None


    Breaking Down His Performance

    Some Tigers fans may be wondering if Jordan Leggett even played on Saturday. Well, he did, and he even started the game. At the end of the day, Leggett didn’t come away with a catch, and I don’t remember him even being targeted.

    It’s unclear if his lack of involvement was just the way the game went, or if it was something the coaches saw. Either way, there’s no way to grade a guy that didn’t get the ball thrown his way. For a guy that we have heard so much positive on this offseason, it will be important that Leggett becomes a factor in the receiving game moving forward.


    Grade: Push

Tony Steward

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: Eight total tackles (five solo)


    Breaking Down His Performance

    I was impressed overall with what I saw from Tony Steward, but he did take a couple of questionable angles on Georgia running backs. He was involved, though, with five solo tackles, so all in all that’s a pretty good day.

    He and Stephone Anthony will play a major role in the Tigers defense moving forward, and I think we will see Steward improve each week.


    Grade: B-

B.J. Goodson

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: Two total tackles


    Breaking Down His Performance

    B.J. Goodson got the start at outside linebacker, but it’s unclear if that will be the case for the entirety of the season. He and Korrin Wiggins were listed as both having the opportunity to start against South Carolina State on the team’s depth chart.

    For a linebacker, you generally would like to see more involvement, and Goodson did not record a solo tackle in Saturday’s matchup.


    Grade: D

Cole Stoudt

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Week 1 Stats: 15-of-28 passing, 130 yards, 0 touchdowns


    Breaking Down His Performance

    While there have been mixed reviews about Cole Stoudt’s performance Saturday, he played well in my book. He missed a couple of throws early, but he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers early on, either.

    Mike Williams wasn’t able to hold on to a couple of passes, and you would like to see Charone Peake haul in the deep ball that could have gone for a long touchdown. Stoudt looked calm and poised in the first half—just what you would expect from a guy that has been in the system so long.

    In the second half, the Georgia defense was able to get pressure on Stoudt, leaving him with fewer options to get rid of the ball. The play-calling was very aggressive in the first half, and Stoudt looked ready to go.

    After halftime, field position led to a more conservative game from offensive coordinator Chad Morris, and Stoudt wasn’t able to get the ball down the field. It can’t be overlooked that Clemson’s offense looked awful in the second half, but I was impressed with what I saw out of both quarterbacks in a hostile environment.


    Grade: B-