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3 Things That Worry Me About Clemson

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Georgia opens the season against the #3 team in the country, a team that wears orange, a team that is like another school but with a lake, a team with a front seven as good or better than our own, a team that has won 3 national championships since we last won ours, away from home in yet another state with good but misplaced judgments on barbecue sauce, in the most anticipated game of the week, and all in front of some of the best recruits in the nation. What, me worry?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 ACC Championship Game Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday’s first game against the Country Gentlemen:

1) BofA. I mean, Thomas Davis did alright in that stadium, didn’t he? The Carolina Panthers franchise all-time leader in tackles stat kinda backs that up. And I think John Kasay put up a few points there too. Only if you think the all-time franchise scoring leader equates to points. Then there’s this: if Brice Ramsey can spell Hutson Mason and beat an ACC team in that stadium, surely JT Daniels can do the same. Not to mention Brent Venables did his best Todd Grantham impersonation in the Tigers last outing.

2) Hustle and Flow. Much is made of the Clemson defensive front, but the case has been made these guys can be run against and they don’t always get home to the QB. So JT Daniels should be able to keep them honest with some handoffs and some play action. Plus, having watched Daniels’ magnificent ‘stache and head of hair get pounded into the Mercedes Benz turf by Cincinnati a scant 9 months ago, I know this guy can take a hit. Seriously, he was constantly getting knocked around by that Bearcat rush. He’s no threat to run for 20 yards downfield, but he can evade a rush just enough to deliver a ball. He’s got the flow, and he’s got the hustle.

3) Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Arik, John, and Darnell walk into a bar…
I’m glad you stopped me. Here’s where we stand: Arik Gilbert is dealing with personal issues and we all wish him well; Darnell Washington has a foot injury that required surgery; and apparently John Fitzpatrick also has a nagging foot injury. However, is any UGA fan of the last decade really concerned we don’t have depth at tight end?

In likely the most successful UGA season in the last generation, the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs tight ends averaged just over 16 yards receiving… a game. We can make up all of that production in a single James Skalski targeting call. Which he is wont to do. Throw another of the Sam Pittman legacy/Matt Luke products out there, go three wide, you still have Zeus and the rest of Mount Olympus in the backfield – you get the picture. Things will be just fine.

Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio. So here’s what I AM worried about versus the Sons of Clem:

1) I don’t like the math. These national spotlight games have been not exactly kind to the Red and Black. I think I heard UGA is 3-9 all time in AP top 5 matchups. (I’m still not over the 1983 Sugar Bowl. Seriously. And yes, I’m that old.) If we had Pickens, and Tykee Smith (see below), and Arik Gilbert, and Warren Ericson, and all the others, I think our depth and that elite talent makes me comfortable.

But we don’t have those players. We still have great talent, and we still have depth (which is a refreshing change). But so does Clemson. The QB battle can easily be a push. The OL’s both lost a lot, both are shuffling players, and that could be a push. I think Clemson has a better defense overall at least on paper, mostly because of their secondary. And just because Clemson can’t run on us doesn’t mean squat. I would not say Clemson had an elite rushing attack in 2020, and they still won the conference and made the playoffs having to rely on a passing game. They are not one dimensional, they can exploit any given weakness. Speaking of…

2) DBRU not afraid?? If you’ve listened to any analysis of the Georgia Bulldog football team during the off-season, it’s that the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs check off every box… except one. The secondary. And as we now know, 2020 opponents pretty much gave up trying to run consistently on Dan Lanning’s defense and just tried to throw their way to a victory.

Losing Richard LeCounte last season to a freak off-field injury, and then to something called the Cleveland Browns, hurts the defensive backfield. Somehow that pesky NFL took Eric Stokes away too. Now Tykee Smith, the 2020 All-American and All-Big 12 slot cornerback, has been sidelined thanks to a training camp foot injury and is listed as questionable.

We know Lewis Cine will bring the lumber, but he’s not known as a shut down corner. And Clemson’s top 3 receivers are skilled to say the least, not to mention all at least 6’3”. Latavious Brini and Ameer Speed are upper classmen who have bided their time and now earned starting and/or significant roles. Will that wisdom and perseverance show up on the field? Or will newcomer Jahmile Addae move other newcomers into the rotation? The Tigers aren’t going to wait until we figure things out.

3) The center of attention. With Head Whiner Dabo Swinney updating the depth chart just this week with “we’ll probably play multiple centers throughout the game… we’ll roll somebody out there…and go from there”, it does make one wonder his intentions. Surely he’s aware that particular position will be going up against All-American Bulldog Jordan Davis and all his awesomeness, right? It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, certainly against Georgia’s probably greatest single strength.

Then it must be a trick. Dabo is no dummy. I mean, you have to be smart to have a couple of generational-talent college quarterbacks, a no-called pick play, a fluky penalty on UNC in the ACC Championship, and a depressed conference to gift earn you two national championships. So the man knows what he’s doing, and he’s obviously keeping it close to the OAN vest.** With UGA trotting out it’s own mostly untested starter at center, Sedrik Van Pran, this is going to be a position to watch. Especially opening against a stout Clemson front 4. And as good as Trey Hill was, he didn’t exactly have a great opener against Arkansas last fall – let’s hope that is one more thing from 2020 we don’t see again.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about our season opener between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Tigers of Clemson.

**Editor’s Note: Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy was the one wearing the OAN shirt, and not Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. Management would like to apologize for the error, while completely forgiving the author for confusing the two, which is completely understandable.