After trouncing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 38-3 over the weekend, the Clemson Tigers will be entering the second half of the season with some much needed confidence.
The win did not help their midseason report card.
The offensive line returned all starters from 2008, but their improvement has been barely visible. The return of Chris Hairston from injury, and some adjustments by line coach Brad Scott, had an immediate impact against Wake Forest, but I am not sure it solved the line's woes.
Offensive line Midseason Grade: D
Jacoby Ford leads the receivers with 26 catches for 358 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, there have been few other bright spots. The receivers have been inconsistent at best, dropping passes and rarely getting separation.
In my opinion, tight end Michael Palmer has been the best option for quarterback Kyle Parker, but doesn't get as many opportunities as the others.
Wide Receivers Midseason Grade: C-
C.J. Spiller leads the team in rushing with 466 yards on 94 carries and 3 touchdowns. Although those are decent numbers, they would be better if the coaching staff would stick to the run. The lack of passing game also allows teams to put eight in-the-box, which is probably why offensive coordinator Billy Napier seems to shy away from the run when he should be pounding it.
Running Backs Midseason Grade: B
Parker started off well against Georgia Tech, but has regressed since. He has passed for 1027 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, with a 49.7 percent completion percentage. Those numbers are to be expected from a red-shirt freshman behind a so-so offensive line and receivers who constantly drop catchable balls.
Parker stares down his receivers and back pedals for dear life when the pocket collapses. He does show great elusiveness, and when given time, throws a fairly accurate ball with his rocket arm.
He is head and shoulders above his backup, Willy Korn, and should remain every game until it is out of reach.
Quarterback Midseason Grade: C
The coaching staff is where most of the offensive woes come from.
In short, they are not getting the most out of the talent that the team has, which has been a problem at Clemson for over a decade.
Napier's playcalling has been absolutely horrible. There is no sugar-coating it.
With bubble screens galore, it as if Rob Spence was still the offensive coordinator. The only thing I can give Napier is that he genuinely tries to get the ball to Spiller as much as possible.
Even with giving the ball to Spiller, the Tigers break down when it counts most—in the red zone.
With only seven touchdowns in 16 tries (four of those came against Wake), the Tigers are at the bottom of the ACC in red-zone efficiency. Settling for field goals has cost this team many games this season.
Another troubling stat is that the Tiger's longest drive this season has been a little over three minutes. You aren't going to beat the big boys doing that.
Offensive Coaches Midseason Grade: D-
The offense is the reason the Tigers are 3-3, instead of 5-1, or possibly 6-0.
Overall Offense Midseason Grade: D
Ricky Sapp, Da'Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins, Malliciah Goodman, Jamie Cumbie and Brandon Thompson have been superb.
The Tigers already have 17 sacks, which is three more than the entire 2008 season. Sapp and Bowers are tied for the lead with three sacks, and have also combined for 16 tackles-for-loss.
Defensive line Midseason Grade: A-
Kavell Conner and Brandon Maye lead the linebackers with 39 and 38 tackles a piece, respectively.
Linebackers Midseason Grade: B+
The Tigers have the nation's seventh ranked pass defense, and a big part of that is great play of the secondary.
Deandre McDaniel leads the team with 5 interceptions and 50 tackles (29 solo).
Secondary Midseason Grade: A-
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was a steal from Alabama. He actually makes halftime adjustments, which is something that hasn't been done in a very long time.
Defensive Coaches Midseason Grade: A
The nation's 11th ranked defense has kept the Tigers in every game this season, and they seem to keep getting better every week. The only problem I see is that they still seem to give up that one play that crushes the hopes of Tiger fans everywhere. That said, the offense seems to put them in that situation all too often.
Overall Defense Midseason Grade: A-
Richard Jackson has a great leg, already kicking a few field goals over 50 yards. That said, he has missed some crucial field goals that may have cost the Tigers a couple games.
Kicker Midseason Grade: B-
Ranked last in the ACC and 112th in the nation in net punting, Dawson Zimmerman and the punt return team need to get it together. The numbers may be skewed because the Tigers do stall at midfield a lot, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
Punter Midseason Grade: C-
Spiller and Ford have been electric, returning two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Now teams kick away from them, which almost always means great field position for the Tigers.
Returners Midseason Grade: A+
Overal Speacial Teams Midseason Grade: B
Coach Dabo Swinney
The only reason it is this high is because of the hiring of Steele. It has to be awkward in coaches meetings when the most qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable guy isn't the head coach.
Coach Dabo Swinney's Midseason Grade: C -
The Tigers showed promise with an inferior Wake team. Let's hope it continues.
Overall Team Grade: C