Getting to know Clemson Football with Dan Kelley


Before the Tar Heels and Tigers kick off tonight in Death Valley, let’s get to know Clemson Football a little bit more with Dan Kelley of RTR covers Clemson Football for the FanSided network. Kelley was nice enough to join us before the season and he is back again with new answers before this week’s game between the Tar Heels and Tigers!

Keeping It Heel: Clemson is 1-2 so far this season, with two losses coming against highly ranked opponents Georgia and Florida State. The Tigers are obviously much better than a 1-2 team, but how have the looked overall so far?

Dan Kelley: Aside from one or two quarters against Georgia, I would say that Clemson has looked pretty good. People forget that for the first half of that game it looked like it was going to be another instant classic between the two teams. But I think the FSU game demonstrated that this team is pretty close to what we were expecting in the preseason. The defense looks very, very good and the offense may have taken a step back.

But I also think that Clemson can kind of hit the reset button on their season this week, now that Georgia and FSU are out of the way and Deshaun Watson has been named Clemson’s starting QB. Watson looks like he is going to be very, very good and it’s going to be very interesting to see how he does against the rest of the ACC. He certainly won’t see a defense as good as FSU’s for the rest of the season.

KIH: Quarterback Deshaun Watson has been named the starting quarterback over senior Cole Stoudt. How has each quarterback looked so far this season? Do you think naming Watson as the starter is a good choice?

DK: I do think it was a good choice to name Watson the starter this week. I wasn’t nearly as quick to hop on that bandwagon as many Clemson fans, mostly because I trust that Dabo Swinney knows his players and team better than the fans and I do. Swinney wouldn’t have continued starting Stoudt without a reason and, in all fairness to Stoudt, he wasn’t playing poorly.

Watson just looks like a special talent. I think the thing that kept him from starting to this point was the fact that he is a true freshman and maybe there were some lingering concerns about whether he could run the offense for a prolonged period of time. But I think the FSU game proved that he is ready to lead the team and it’s time to move forward with Watson as the starter.

KIH: The Clemson defense has allowed 25 points per game this season, good for 68th in the country. How have they played so far this season?

DK: As excited as I was to watch Watson’s game against FSU, the defense’s performance was even more exciting. The front-seven simply dominated the vaunted FSU offensive line for much of the game. The secondary gave up a couple big plays but, other than that, they did a really nice job in coverage. I’m certain that FSU would have scored more with Winston on the field but I’m also positive that he would have had a tough game. Just like Maguire, he would have been under pressure all night.

And that 25 ppg average is going to come down as the season goes on. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UNC’s offense top 25 points against Clemson but most ACC teams won’t.

KIH: How big a role does home field advantage play in this game, especially considering the Tar Heels have a young offensive line and relatively inexperienced quarterback?

DK: I think it will be big, particularly because of what you said about the QB and offensive line situations. Even taking the crowd out of it, I think there is a good chance that Clemson can rattle Williams and Trubisky, just with the pressure they are going to bring. And if you watched what Clemson did against FSU’s veteran offensive line, you probably know that UNC’s offensive line is going to have a very tough challenge on their hands.

But take all of that and add the home-field advantage that Clemson gets in Death Valley on top of it and I would be shocked if UNC didn’t get a bit rattled.

KIH: What is your amended score prediction for this game? And chance of a let down game from Clemson?

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DK: If Clemson had won last week, I would say that a letdown was a possibility. But because of how Clemson lost–giving up the lead in the fourth quarter and getting beat in overtime–I expect to see the Tigers come out focused this week. The Tigers also know that if they want to get back to the Orange Bowl (or, on a serious longshot, the College Football Playoff) they probably can’t afford to lose another game.

Despite Clemson’s 1-2 record, I actually feel more confident about this game than I did in the preseason. UNC was my favorite to win the Coastal in the preseason but, after that ECU game, I don’t think that is the case anymore.

This week, I expect Deshaun Watson will have a huge game and the Tigers win by a few touchdowns. UNC’s offense should score some points but I can’t see UNC keeping up with the Tigers, the way their defense is playing right now.

Thanks to Dan, and don’t forget to follow Keeping It Heel and Rubbing the Rock on Twitter for coverage of UNC vs. Clemson!