NCAAF Team Report - Clemson - INSIDE SLANT
Clemson's primary concern heading into its final two regular-season games is the health of quarterback Tajh Boyd, who took a jarring hit against Georgia Tech in the Tigers' most recent game and missed the final quarter.
X-rays revealed no broken bones, but a bruised Sternoclavicular joint. Boyd has taken treatments, curtailed his practice time and plans to be ready to go for the final home game of his career on Saturday against in-state FCS rival The Citadel.
"It's still a little sore, but that's just the nature of it," Boyd said. "We've taken some measures to make sure that I'm as healthy as possible. The coaches and the training staff do a great job with that.
"We're doing everything in our power to make sure I'm healthy. I can practice, but it's up to the coaches and how they feel about it. I'm feeling pretty good right now."
Despite rushing the ball 443 times over the past three seasons, Boyd has proven to be quite durable. Fittingly, Boyd will break the Clemson record for consecutive games started at quarterback on Saturday; it will be Boyd's 38th consecutive start, breaking the record held by Charlie Whitehurst.
"Tajh is a battler," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "He's a warrior, and that's what you respect about him."
Boyd says it would've taken more than a bruised joint to keep him out of his final home game, especially when he's the leader of a small senior class that will be bidding farewell to Memorial Stadium.
"It's going to be special," Boyd said. "It has been a good ride. We feel like a big part of what's been done here at Clemson the last few years."
And there's plenty of opportunity remaining. The Tigers are 9-1, ranked seventh in the latest BCS standings and are in line for a BCS bowl. Clemson also is attempting to post a third straight 10-win season for just the second time in school history.
Coach Dabo Swinney points to Boyd as the catalyst.
"Our vision was taking this program back to the top and making Clemson nationally relevant," Swinney said. "Being able to recruit the best of the best is important, and guys want to come and be around a player like Tajh Boyd. I told him when we were recruiting him that he could come to Clemson and help me build a program at a place where it hadn't been done for a long time. He believed in it."
NCAAF Team Report - Clemson - NOTES, QUOTES
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--QB Tajh Boyd, who already is the ACC's career leader in touchdown passes with 97, could hit triple-digits against The Citadel. Boyd, who will be making the school-record 38th consecutive start of his career, would like nothing more than to go out with a bang in what will be his final home game. Boyd enters the game as the holder of 52 school records and could match an ACC record on Saturday -- he's one shy of Philip Rivers' league-record 18 300-yard passing games.
--WR Martavis Bryant is coming off a career-best game that included five receptions for 176 yards and a touchdown. "What a tremendous job he did," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. Bryant was named ACC Receiver of the Week for his efforts, which came in front of 22 NFL scouts. But the junior receiver's primary issue throughout his career has been consistency, so it'll be interesting to see how he follows up his big-time performance.
--LB Quandon Christian apparently has figured out how to defend the triple option. He had eight tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage, and was named Defensive Player of the Game by Clemson's coaches against Georgia Tech. Now he gets a chance at another triple-option team when the Tigers play host to The Citadel in what will be the senior's final home game. "We've got to be ready to go," Christian said. "We got a couple of three-and-outs at the beginning of the Georgia Tech game, and that really helped us with momentum for the rest of the game. We've got to do that again Saturday."
--Clemson had 10 tackles for loss against Georgia Tech on Nov. 14, and the Tigers continue to lead the nation in that category with 95 tackles for loss in 10 games. The Clemson record for tackles for loss in a season is 119 by the 1991 Clemson team that featured future NFL standouts Chester McGlockton and Levon Kirkland. Leading the way this season is junior DE Vic Beasley, who has 17 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks.
SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series 30-5-1; Clemson has won 15 straight in the series, with The Citadel's last victory coming in 1931.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody's 100 percent, right now. Our kicker's not 100 percent. Everybody's got bumps and bruises." -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on the health of his team after 10 games
NCAAF Team Report - Clemson - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: Roderick "Hot Rod" McDowell will continue to carry the bulk of the load for Clemson, what with his backups at less than 100 percent. Zac Brooks, D.J. Howard and C.J. Davidson all are nursing nagging injuries. "Hot Rod is our every-down back right now," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "Zac has been banged up, and D.J. with his ankle has been limited in what he can do." As long as McDowell stays healthy, the Tigers are in good hands. "He gets better the more carries he gets," Morris said of McDowell, who has a team-best 737 yards this season.
Scouting the passing game: The Citadel boasts a veteran secondary, but that will likely prove to be of little hindrance to Tajh Boyd and company. Boyd is blessed with a wide array of weapons, so it's a pick-your-poison proposition when attempting to cover the Tigers' plethora of pass catchers. Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Sammy Watkins leads the way with his 71 receptions and 1,086 yards, but he has plenty of help in Martavis Bryant, who's coming off a career-best 176-yard outing, and Adam Humphries, who has 34 catches for 413 yards. The receiving corps is healthy and happy, as Boyd has been adept at spreading the ball around -- a school-record 12 different Tigers have at least one touchdown catch this season.
Scouting the run defense: Clemson limited Georgia Tech's triple-option attack to nearly 70 yards below its average last week, so The Citadel's triple option sizes up as not so intimidating. The Bulldogs have a quarterback (Ben Dupree) and running back (Darien Robinson) who could both go over 1,000 yards on the season -- or not. The front seven of the Tigers' defense has emerged as a team strength, with plenty of interchangeable parts. And facing an option attack for a second straight week could play into Clemson's hands. "It beats seeing it for the first time all year," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "There's carryover. I'd be surprised if we'd forgotten everything we'd learned up to this point."
Scouting the pass defense: Clemson should hold an overwhelming upper hand here. The Citadel has attempted just 76 passes this season, and the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to suddenly unleash an aerial assault against a Tigers secondary that is experienced and deep. Clemson's defense has intercepted at least one pass in 13 consecutive games -- the longest such streak in the nation -- and appears to be getting better by the game. The Citadel's leading receiver has 15 receptions, so unless the Bulldogs have a secret weapon or two, Clemson should give up yardage begrudgingly through the air and perhaps keep its interception streak going.
Scouting the special teams: Freshman T.J. Green flashed his athleticism last week, making two bone-jarring tackles on kickoffs and earning the Tigers' Special Teams Player of the Week award. But there has been plenty more to Clemson in the kicking game, led by senior Chandler Catanzaro, who has made 36 of his last 38 field goals and booted a career-best 51-yarder against Georgia Tech on Nov. 14. An added bonus? PR Adam Humphries is averaging 10.9 yards per return.
--RB C.J. Davidson is questionable after suffering a knee injury at Virginia on Nov. 2.