Ahead of our game against Clemson this Saturday, we chatted with Brian Lewis of our SBNation Clemson blog, Shakin the Southland. Read below for updates on Kelly Bryant’s health, the people we should be afraid of on Clemson’s stellar defense, and where you should eat and drink when attending the game as a visitor this weekend. You can find my answers to their questions over at STS here.
1. I know Kelly Bryant is cleared after his horrifying looking concussion, but is he totally healed from his ankle injury? He's generally a run-first QB, do you think the ankle will limit him this game?
As of Monday Bryant is supposedly 80-85% on his ankle. Which normally would be fine. But I'm skeptical given the general issues we say early against Syracuse. Bryant wasn't running the ball and had trouble throwing before reinjuring it in the 2nd quarter. I think he'll be limited in some way the rest of the season just because ankle injuries like that never fully heal until you get several months of rest.
2. If Bryant is limited this game and struggles early, do you think we'll see any other QB's replace him? And if so, how do his backups change the offensive scheme?
I think the only way Clemson will play another QB is if Bryant is visibly unable to move or reinjures his ankle. But if he does expect to see backup Zerrick Cooper. The coaching staff has been stubborn here and that likely means Bryant will play when he shouldn't and that Cooper playing will be at the expense of Hunter Johnson, who could be the best QB on Clemson's roster.
3. Syracuse's offense is basically the antithesis to Paul Johnson's flexbone, but is there anything that Dino Babers did against Clemson's defense that the Yellow Jackets can also exploit?
The big thing is tempo. Babers did well to go at a high speed which prevented Venables from getting his defensive calls in quickly. You could see the Clemson defense spending more time reacting than being proactive and attacking the Syracuse offense. Since Paul Johnson doesn't run a similar offense to Syracuse that is probably the one thing y'all can copy.
4. Are there any matchups against Georgia Tech on either side of the ball that should concern this Clemson team?
I'm really curious to see what happens with our front 4 against your OL. One of the big problems Clemson had against Syracuse was a lack of discipline on defense. Players were overruning the QB, not containing, and committing some dumb penalties.All of these things are a recipe for losing to Georgia Tech. Also add in your OL doing well and it makes for an interesting matchup. And possibly the key to the game.
5. Clemson's defensive looks as formidable as ever. What names will will be hearing the most of when it comes to stopping the flexbone?
Our good friend Dorian O'Daniel is back. You probably remember him from the last 2 years as the LB Brent Venables would trot out against Georgia Tech to do bad things to y'alls offense. This year he's earned a starting role in the defense and he's been fantastic. Expect him to continue to be a nuisance this year against y'all. He's also done well when he's been required to go out into pass coverage. So if you see an RB or TE flex out on a route he'll be more than able to help cover him.
Outside of DOD you'll likely hear a lot about Austin Bryant who has been having a great year at DE> If Bryant is able to consistently set the edge, without overpursuing, it'll make life a lot easier on this defense.
6. Has anyone ever been injured during Clemson's entrance running / jumping down that hill? I think it's a super cool tradition... it just seems like it could go wrong sometimes.
I believe 15ish years ago someone sprained an ankle. And it is a lot steeper than it looks on TV. But one thing Dabo does before each season is a day of "gameday prep" It consists of going through everything the players would experience on gameday. Team meetings, travel to the stadium, warmups, heading to the locker room, and running down the Hill. So players at least have an idea of what they are doing before hand.
The only thing I don't understand is the guys that leap when they get to the flat point halfway down. I'm pretty sure I'd jump and start screaming.
7. For those of us making the short trip to Clemson this weekend, where should we eat and drink before the game? Our main fight song is entirely about booze, so we're generally a very thirsty fanbase.
If you've never been I always recommend Esso Club for the meat 'n 3. But I recommend eating an early lunch to avoid the really crazy crowds you get at a night game. If you want a true breakfast then a little ways outside of downtown is Pot Belly Deli. They've got a lot of bagel type sandwiches for breakfast.
Other options for lunch would be TD's if you want to brave the crowds, or Pepino's or Groucho's. The latter two will likely have fewer people around. And for those that want to drink a bit, Tiger Town Tavern is a Clemson tradition, as is TDs. But I always suggest Nick's for those that want more of a beer bar. Just remember no open containers are allowed in the downtown part of Clemson. Drink away at your tailgate, but if you start wandering downtown you'll be asked to pour your drink out by the cops rather quickly.
8. And finally, how do you see this game going? What's the final score?
I think this one is a bit closer than previous years because Clemson's offense isn't as explosive and high scoring. But because of the job Brent Venables has done the past few years against Georgia Tech it is hard for me to see Clemson losing this one. Especially at night at home after a bit of a shocking loss. I think 10ish points is the margin of victory this time, maybe in the 24-14 realm.
Thanks again to Brian for chatting with us this week. Be sure to head over to STS to check out my responses to his questions, as well as say hello to one of the friendliest fanbases we see every year.