Charleston Southern at No. 25 Clemson: 5 Things to Watch For

The No. 25 Clemson Tigers will make their season debut in the friendly confines of Death Valley on Saturday as Charleston Southern comes to town. This will be the Buccaneers’ first ever trip to Memorial Stadium.

Gabe Giardina is in his first full season as head coach at Charleston Southern and having been a walk-on at Alabama at the same time as Dabo Swinney, the two have a connection that goes way back.

5 Things to Watch For

Can This Clemson Team Rebound: After the disappointing performance in the devastating loss to Duke, how this team responds will be something worth watching. Not necessarily whether or not Clemson beats this Charleston Southern team, but more so how the Tigers look against the undermanned Buccaneers. Monday night was sloppy. On the defensive side, it was one missed tackle after another. Linebackers were taking bad angles. Linebackers that are supposed to be two of the best in the country. The ends struggled mightily to set the edge.

On the other side of the ball, what was seen vastly resembled the past two seasons, despite the new scheme. An offense that absolutely has no ability to push the ball down the field. 36 of Cade Klubnik’s 43 pass attempts traveled 10 yards of less. 17 were behind the line of scrimmage. That won’t get it done. This group has to be able to pick up those chunk plays. It’s also an offense that continues to turn the ball over. Ball security has been a serious issue going back to the end of last season. Blocking on the perimeter was not very good. Route running was sloppy at times.

All things that can be corrected, but a lot of that starts with attitude. This team needs to come out and show they want it, and from the opening whistle. Again, attitude.

Like Jalyn Phillips said earlier in the week, this team is fixing to find out who the real “dogs” are.

“Going through adversity helps,” Phillips said. “It helps build this team, it helps build chemistry, it helps show who the real leaders are. Who the real dogs are on the team.”

Continued Development At QB: While it wasn’t all bad, Klubnik also contributed to the offensive woes on Monday night. The pocket awareness still needs to improve. He still has happy feet. Again, things that can be improved upon. It is easy to forget that Klubnik is still rather green. He doesn’t have very much experience and the more he gets, the more comfortable he should be. Saturday should be an opportunity for the young signal caller to take a big next step.

Where is Adam Randall: After all the hype, Randall has yet to make the impact that was expected after joining the program as a member of the 2022 class. The sophomore wideout played just 29 snaps on Monday, compared to the 52 Cole Turner played. Randall looks nothing like the player that shined on the field at Myrtle Beach. After tearing his ACL last spring, Randall had another procedure on the opposite knee after last season and missed all of spring. Maybe that is impacting him on the field.

Front Four Pressure: Clemson’s defensive front was able to get some penetration against the Blue Devils, but not to the level that was expected. The Tigers have some dudes up front, particularly along the interior, but failed to register the first sack against Duke. When they were able to get to the quarterback, they weren’t able to finish. Multiple times Riley Leonard was able to escape the pocket and hurt the Tigers with his legs. With all the talk about the offense needing to be better when it comes to finishing, the same can be said of this group.

Who’s Kicking: Redshirt freshman Robert Gunn’s debut as the Tigers’ placekicker went about as bad as it could have. Both of his field goal attempts were kicked far too low and blocked. The second one might not have been good regardless. He did make his only extra point attempt. It is a major area of concern heading into week two.

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