CLEMSON – The day after Clemson whipped Wofford, here are seven wrap-up notes and quotes from the locker room as the 12th-ranked Tigers set up for FBS opponents:
1) Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson took the field for five drives Saturday. Those five drives included 40 snaps. Those 40 snaps took a total time of possession of 12 minutes even – or, 2 minutes, 24 seconds per drive, all ending in touchdowns.
I did the math. That’s an average of 18 seconds per play. Eighteen seconds from the snap, through the actual play, the setting of the ball, the winding of the clock and the next snap. That’s Mario Kart bullet fast.
“I thought we played at our pace and our speed and our standard,” Watson said, matter-of-factly. “We didn’t want to play at Wofford’s pace, because that can let them in the game.
“We can be faster, and that’s what we’re going to work on.”
Tailback Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Artavis Scott agreed the offense can go faster. Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott went so far to suggest the officials unwittingly pumped the brakes on the Tigers.
“There were some times I thought the refs might have stood over the ball, when we weren’t subbing. I’ve got to look at it, I’m not sure if that was the case, I couldn’t tell,” Elliott said. “They got a new rule, too: if a guy goes out of bounds, they automatically have to step over the ball to give the defense a chance to sub.
“But we were ready to snap it as soon as the referee got off the ball, so that’s an indicator of good tempo.”
2) As one might imagine, offensive players were quite concerned for receiver Mike Williams after he was injured flying into the goalpost uprights after catching a first-quarter touchdown. Williams was carted off and immobilized with a neck brace as a precaution, and was officially diagnosed with a neck sprain, per the team.
“Hopefully he’s going to be alright,” Watson said. “Sending prayers his way, and hopefully nothing terrible has happened.”
If Williams is out a week, or if Williams is out a while, the Tigers’ depth at wide receiver should come into play. Williams plays the ‘9’ receiver position in Clemson’s offense, dictating the long-ball routes, and fellow starter Charone Peake is capable of manning that position, which he did the drive after Williams went down.
“He’s just as talented as anybody we’ve had around here,” Elliott said. “Throughout the course of camp, we had cross-trained (Charone) because obviously Mike can’t play 80 plays there, and he’s probably the next best guy to go in there, so we’re able to move him to the boundary.”
Williams’ primary backups are redshirt rookie Trevion Thompson – who has “a crazy good fall camp,” per Watson – and true freshman Deon Cain.
3) Thirteen true freshmen played in their first college game, a modern-era record for Clemson.
“A lot of the guys who are playing are mature, for the most part,” said teenaged defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who’s built like a full-grown man. “The coaches wouldn’t put us out there if we weren’t in a good position for it.”
4) Interesting strategy by the Clemson coaches, with a boatload of reserves looking for playing time; instead of slowly inserting individuals to mesh with first-teamers, much like basketball players off the bench coexisting with the starters, the Tigers pulled a full line change, letting the entire second unit have drives to themselves in the first half.
There was mixed success. The second team, led by Nick Schuessler, went 32 yards in eight plays before Schuessler fumbled on the first drive, but recovered to score a touchdown on seven plays and 65 yards, capped by Zac Brooks’ 25-yard run sprung by a lead block from walk-on center Zach Riggs.
“I like the look in the eye of our offensive linemen,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I wanted to get the second group early. Execution of the guys up front was exactly what I wanted to see. That’s something we can grow from.”
5) It’s early. But Clemson’s defense has to feel good about itself coming out of Week 1, holding a team accustomed to 300 rushing yards a game to 123 of those – on 45 carries.
“We feel as though we can be just as good as last year’s defense. Why not us?” Wilkins said. “Although we lost a lot of household names, we’ve got a lot of talent on defense, and there’s no reason we can’t be just as good.”
6) One of those reinforcements who’ll be counted upon to keep the defense near last year’s lofty standards was busy before his first major postgame interviews.
With a few reporters eagerly waiting to talk to one of the Tigers’ game one stars, Scott Pagano was busy giggling at a few SnapChat videos friends sent him of his dominant interior line play.
Then Pagano, a third-year sophomore who’s Clemson’s first Hawaiian native signee since the mid-1980s, made an assessment.
“First start, had some jitters and nerves,” Pagano said. “Got some things to clean up, obviously. Overall, I think I stepped up pretty good.”
Pagano said he roomed on the road with former Tigers defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, a fifth-round draft selection of the Atlanta Falcons this spring, and stays in touch with Jarrett, Deshawn Williams and Josh Watson.
“I think Grady really helped me out to be the type of player I am right now for this season,” Pagano said. “Also DeShawn and Josh, we stay in contact in our group message. Those guys really helped me out when I first got here, and I’m really blessed to have three guys in the NFL that help me out.”
7) The Tim Bourret Stat of the Day: Clemson’s 13 true freshmen playing in a game was the most for the program since 1943, a year when the United States government drafted Frank Howard’s entire junior and senior classes to battle in World War II.