In this this week's blog, Marty Coleman says while the spotlight is deserved for Clemson's stars - the Georgia game also demonstrated where the program is overall...
As impressive as Clemson’s well known stars like Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Rod McDowell were in the season opening win over Georgia, I was struck by the contributions of lesser known players, at least one that had never played a down of college football, who stepped up in situation after situation under the bright lights and national audience.
If you watched the game (or replay) on TV you see redshirt freshman offensive lineman Patrick DeStefano grinning widely like a kid with a secret at the top of the hill. That’s because DeStefano did have a secret. The secret was he was wearing number 43 and was going to play 13 snaps at tight end.
DeStefano threw a huge block on Boyd’s first touchdown run, keeping his man to the outside easily as Boyd ran through the hole and into the end zone.
There was sophomore Bradley Pinion, inconsistent as a freshman, who drilled all 7 kickoffs for touchbacks. There would be no kickoff returns for Georgia on this night, no opportunity for the Bulldogs to steal momentum via kickoff return like Florida State did last season.
Pinion also punted 7 times, with 3 of those being downed inside the Georgia 20, including one at the 3.
Senior walk on C.J. Jones thought quickly on his feet when Ben Boulware was pushed into a punt, taking the bouncing ball out of the end zone and avoiding disaster while giving the Tigers an opportunity to establish field position. There’s some debate about what would have been the ultimate outcome if Jones hadn’t made the play, but the point is Jones was prepared when his time came.
DeStefano relishing playing time
Senior Darrell Smith and sophomore Stanton Seckinger, both lightly recruited players, caught 4 passes between them from the tight end position with Seckinger tight roping the sideline and scoring what proved to be the deciding touchdown on a third and goal.
Lost in the spectacular throw and catch on the Boyd to Zac Brooks touchdown pass was that the ball was snapped by Reid Webster, not Ryan Norton. Webster’s snap was so perfect that Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger mentioned it. It was Webster’s only snap of the evening.
Elite teams have playmakers and Clemson has its share with Boyd and Watkins leading the way. But the truly special teams have role players who step up when called on and can be the difference in winning and losing.
Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined that Clemson would have role players so well prepared for their moment in the spotlight, but each and every one of the players mentioned here, and others that went unnoticed by me, performed when called upon Saturday night in Clemson.
That’s one sign of a well-coached team. Everyone from the biggest star to the senior walk-on was prepared to play from the opening kick.
ESPN will show the Boyd to Watkins and Boyd to Brooks touchdowns repeatedly. That’s what they do and there’s nothing wrong with that. There will be Heisman talk around Boyd and perhaps even Watkins for the next several weeks, deservedly so, as they too performed in a big way on Saturday.
But Saturday’s game was also won by a collection of well-prepared role players who seized their opportunity and shined when the spotlight was on.