With Saturday's 35-10 win over North Texas, Clemson has achieved one of its five goals in winning the opening game. The first game has shown obvious rust on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. Players made their first collegiate debuts on Saturday, and had their first day jitters with the spotlight shining down.
While all questions weren't necessarily answered in game one, Saturday's victory has introduced the status of all players that received playing time in Saturday's game. The player's status are either rising, falling, or neutral,which mean that they stay at the same level.
After the victory over North Texas, the status of players are as follows:
- Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper-The dynamic duo already had good stock to begin with, but now this game has become a game to further build upon for these backs to become one of the most touted backs in the ACC. With both exceeding the century mark on Saturday, teams are going to begin keying in on the running game, forcing the Tigers to use the pass to open up the run. having a bruising full back like Chad Diehl doesn't help their case, either.
- Jaron Brown-The redshirt sophomore has been one of the subjects of camp this year, and has made great progress since coming from the Wing-T system he ran in high school. Brown made a reception on Saturday setting up a Harper touchdown, and showed good speed on an end around. While Brown is listed as a co-starter with Terrence Ashe, look for Brown to receive plenty of opportunities the next few weeks.
- Bryce McNeal-The redshirt freshman made his collegiate debut on Saturday, making two good receptions late in the game. When he was first targeted, he was unaware of the football coming his way. After that blunder he made two more receptions; one of which would set up for a touchdown. McNeal showed good hands during the game, especially for his long reception in which he turned around to catch it. While he is listed as Marquan Jones's backup, he showed enough in the first game to raise his status and merit more snaps and opportunities as a receiver.
- Brandon Clear-One possible breakout candidate at wide receiver this year is redshirt junior Brandon Clear. Clear is a big target at 6'5", and is listed as a co-starter with Xavier Dye. Clear had a productive Saturday, recording a 70 yard touchdown reception and making a key block in the running game during Harper's 50 yard run from inside Clemson's own 10 yard line. Clear has great upside and ability, and the time for him to produce and create separation from Dye has finally come. More opportunities galore for Brandon Clear.
- Deandre Hopkins-The local product from Daniel High School made his collegiate debut as a Clemson Tiger. Swinney was sure to ease him into the game once the first game jitters eventually passed. While he was not a prime target, he showed some of what everyone has been talking about: great athleticism and hands. He managed two receptions, one of which he turned into a 15 yard reception, showing a little of his potential. Hopkins has tremendous upside, and will look to become a target in the passing game, and with the possible decline of Dye, may be able to do so in his freshman year.
- Marcus Gilchrist-The senior cornerback surely surprised some this Saturday with his admirable kick and punt returns. Gilchrist looked close to breaking some of those punts all the way to the end zone. With the loss of Spiller and Ford, the field position battle on special teams will be an important factor.
- Xavier Dye - The fifth year senior did nothing to improve his status on Saturday. Dye was targeted twice, and both times he was running the opposite direction. He was seen very little after the beginning of the game, once the other receivers stepped up their production. This may signal Dye's downward descent down the depth chart, being outperformed by Clear in several aspects of Saturday's game. The production of the young receivers on Saturday didn't help to ease Dye's falling status.
- Linebacker Core - The linebackers again showed flashes of brilliance, but struggled when it came to draw plays. Corico Hawkins started at 'Mike' middle linebacker, and Jonathan Willard at 'Will' weak-side linebacker. Hawkins showed potential when he changed a play on defense and it produced good results, and Willard was able to hold up the weak-side at times. However, this group remains neutral due to their constant struggles with draw and misdirection plays of any kind. This can also be attributed to the way North Texas ran their scheme: everything they did was dependent upon the movement of the 'Mike' linebacker. Everything was constantly away from Hawkins, and they made sure to exploit this unit's coverage ability, despite staying in a nickel scheme most of the game. The improvement of this group will be critical to the improvement of the run defense.
Now, heading into week two, the status of all will be further challenged against Presbyterian College, and hopefully look to improve their status by Saturday's game.
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