In week two of our Thursday night primer, the National Football Post highlights some of the keys to tonight’s Georgia Tech-Clemson game, including top players and matchups that NFL scouts will be watching.
Prospects worth keeping an eye on:
Morgan Burnett: No. 1, FS, 6-1, 210
Exhibits an impressive blend of athleticism, ball skills and instincts when playing the center field-type role. Is one of the nation’s best.
Jonathan Dwyer: No. 21, RB, 5-11, 235
A big, physical back who showcases good lateral quickness and speed for a guy his size. Is an absolute bear to tackle in the open field and looks like an instant impact player at the next level.
Derrick Morgan: No. 91, DE, 6-4, 272
Possesses a nice-sized frame and plays both the run and pass game well. Has the ability to mature into one of the nation’s top defensive end prospects this season.
Demaryius Thomas: No. 8, WR, 6-3, 229
A kind-sized wideout who exhibits an impressive combination of short-area quickness and body control for his size. Isn’t a burner but looks like an ideal west coast-style receiver at the next level.
Lucas Cox: No. 36, FB, 6-0, 235
Averaged over seven yards per carry last season and displays good power as a blocker. Does a lot of the dirty work in the Georgia Tech triple-option offense and does it very well.
Others worth noting
Cord Howard: No. 71, OG, 6-4, 308
Dominique Reese: No. 26, SS, 5-11, 198
C.J. Spiller: No. 28, RB, 5-11, 195
A dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands who has the ability to hurt you in both the run and pass game. Needs to be accounted for on every play.
Ricky Sapp: No. 7, DE/OLB, 6-4, 248
Plays a lot stronger than his frame indicates and possesses the explosion to consistently threaten the edge. One of the nation’s top pure pass rushers.
Jacoby Ford: No. 6, WR, 5-9, 185
An undersized wideout who possesses an outstanding first step and blazing vertical speed down the field. Is still learning the nuances of the position, but has the athleticism to consistently create separation vs. man coverage.
Thomas Austin: No. 65, OG, 6-3, 310
Is a bit overrated because of his intriguing size/speed numbers, but does enough things well on the offensive line to earn an NFL roster spot.
Others worth noting
DeAndre McDaniel: No. 2, SS, 6-1, 210
Jarvis Jenkins: No. 99, DT, 6-4, 310
Kavell Conner: No. 33, OLB, 6-1, 235
Marcus Gilchrist: No. 12, DB, 5-11, 190
Crezdon Butler: No. 18, DB, 6-0, 185
Chris Chancellor: No. 38, DB, 5-10, 172
Scouts’ key matchup
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer vs. Clemson OLB Kavell Conner
Conner is considered a mid-round prospect in many scouting circles around the country, but after watching Clemson tape this summer, I simply don’t see it. He does possess good natural athletic ability and range when asked to close on a play in pursuit, but he doesn’t make as many plays on the ball as he should because he’s slow to decipher information and doesn’t consistently break down well as a tackler.
Consequently, the matchup with Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer isn’t a good one for Conner. Dwyer is very physical when asked to attack the line of scrimmage and is nearly impossible for one man to bring down in the open field. So Georgia Tech should be able to expose two of Conner’s biggest weaknesses in this one:
1. His lack of power as a tackler.
2. His lack of natural instincts at the line of scrimmage.
Dwyer is a very tough matchup for just about any linebacker to bring down in the hole, or in space for that matter, and I think this game could end up exposing Conner as the free-agent type of prospect he really is.
Key to the game
The Clemson front four definitely has the advantage if they can force the Yellow Jackets’ offense into third-and-long situations. The defensive end duo of Ricky Sapp and DaQuan Bowers gives the Tigers the ability to consistently only bring four and get significant pressure on the quarterback. However, the question is, can Clemson do enough to win on first and second downs?
In order to slow down the Georgia Tech triple-option offense, Clemson needs its interior defenders, particularly DT Jarvis Jenkins, to be stout inside and their linebackers to quickly diagnose plays and find the football. Jenkins possesses a good overall skill set and has the power to win initial battles on contact. However, he’s still raw with his hands, and asking him to keep himself clean from the consistent cut blocks of opposing linemen Sean Bedford and Cord Howard is going to be tough. And I simply don’t see the instincts from the Clemson linebacking corps as a group to be on the same page throughout this one. On top of all that, Clemson had a short week to prepare for the GT triple option. I can’t imagine all the Tigers’ defenders having a strong grasp on the game plan