On the beat: Clemson embraces decided underdog status; Florida State to bring press coverage
CLEMSON – Clemson won the ACC last season. Last season, the Tigers defeated Florida State, 35-30. No. 10 Clemson returns a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver from that team.
Yet the line for the Tigers opened at 13 points for their upcoming game against No. 4 Florida State and that line increased to 14 ˝ points Monday afternoon.
Maybe the Orange Bowl performance is too fresh in the public’s mind, maybe it’s the Clemson defense that is cause for concern. Whatever the reason, public opinion heavily favors Florida State and Clemson welcomes the underdog role, says Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
“No one outside of this building (The Memorial Stadium West Zone) is going to pick us to win so that’s great,” Morris said. “We’ve been in ballgames before where no one picks us to win.”
Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas said he was shocked by the line.
“The public puts (Florida State) on a pedestal,” Thomas said.
Star receiver Sammy Watkins was told by receivers coach Jeff Scott on Sunday that the team was a two-touchdown underdog.
“I lot of people talk about bad about Clemson,” Watkins said. “We just always seem to show everyone they are wrong about us, like last year.”
Morris said Florida State has played more press coverage this year – meaning cornerbacks come nearer the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of receivers’ routes. Most teams have given Clemson’s speedy receivers a cushion.
Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes is being talked about as a potential first-round NFL pick and at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds has the size to be an effective press corner.
“They are pressing a little more on the edge,” Morris said. “They are trying to see if you can get off press coverage but we saw that a little bit last year. They are not going to change what they do for us.”
Watkins said he welcomes the press coverage. If he can beat the one-on-one matchup at the line of scrimmage, big plays could be available in the passing game.
“They get great pressure with their defensive line,” Watkins said. “So they are going to try to press us a lot and try to throw Tajh off a bit.”
Because of injuries, Clemson’s starting offensive line has not played together since the Auburn game. The starting lineup should return Saturday including a key match up of Clemson right tackle Gifford Timothy against Florida State defensive end Bjoren Werner.
“We really have to challenge those guys in being physical,” Morris said. “I think that’s something we lost a little of last week. I don’t think we were quite as physical as I wanted to be…(Timothy’s) knee is 100 percent now, from a mental mindset he has to get back to the tough edge he had.”
Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox will call the 8 p.m. game for ABC … Clemson is 3-10 all-time at Florida State. The Seminoles lead the overall series, 17-8. …Morris said freshman Shaq Anthony graded out as the best lineman in the Furman game.