Clemson pulled out a 14-6 victory against Auburn at home Saturday night in Death Valley in what was a back-and-forth, defensive-heavy matchup. Clemson proved their status as the most stacked defense in the country and looked superb, shutting down many analysts Heisman pick in Jarrett Stidham. The Auburn offense was smothered all night. Several prospects flashed and for my weekly scouting notes I chose to tune into this matchup while much of the country watched Oklahoma vs. Ohio State.

Clemson

CLEMSON TIGERS

Quarterback Kelly Bryant (Junior)

Bryant had an impressive performance in his debut against Kent State and while Bryant surely is a significant step down from former star Deshaun Watson. However, he is stylistically similar as a player who is best off of play action and on the run with dual threat ability.

After suffering what was described as a head injury in second quarter on a big hit, Bryant returned on the following drive and was lights out for the rest of the second half and much of the third quarter. When the running game was as inconsistent as it was for the Tigers, there was a stretch in the third and fourth quarter where they had four straight punts and could not generate offense. On a specific play by play note, in the run game I was supremely impressed with Bryant. In the second quarter, he had two specific instances, one where he broke a cornerback’s ankles on a scramble where he directed multiple teammates to help blocks and got a first down.

On the other he scored the first touchdown of the game on a read option where he did a great job of navigating through traffic and getting over and away from defenders. On the opening drive of the third quarter, he scored a second rushing touchdown to cap off an eight play drive on another read option where he cut upfield, maintained balance, made a defender miss with a spin move and broke away for six.

On a big stage, Bryant maintained poise in the pocket and showed off some nice traits overall.

Running Back C.J. Fuller (Redshirt Junior)
Running Back Adam Choice (Junior)

As a whole the running game outside of Kelly Bryant disappointed. Neither Fuller or Choice flashed the dynamicity or consistency that Wayne Gallman had for the team over the past few seasons and was often taken for granted. Fuller made a rough mistake in the third quarter after being stopped in the backfield where safety Tray Matthews was able to strip it out and give Stidham and the offense great field position.

Wide Receiver Deon Cain (Junior)

Cain is largely known for his ability to stretch the field, and even if it didn’t show up in the box score like it did for his teammates Renfrow and McCloud, there were several questionable non-calls throughout the game. It’s clear Auburn gameplanned to shut his big play ability down. He most notably had a sick 50/50 ball catch in the second quarter despite pass interference where he positioned himself and boxed out the defender for the football.

Wide Receiver Hunter Renfrow (Redshirt Junior)

Renfrow fits the mold of an elite route runner and versatile player who finds ways to get open and makes strong hands catches. I continue to think that his NFL projection is a late Day 2 or early Day 3 slot receiver who can be a contributor on special teams right away and provide consistency for the quarterback.

He showed off his hands on a key third down grab on a play where he was motioned to the right side of the formation and was freed up for the pass and hauled it in despite the contest from the defender. He continued to show an all-around game and an especially good ability to create separation on in-breaking routes and finding soft spots in coverage from the defense.

Wide Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (Junior)

McCloud will have an expanded role this year with the departure of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott to the NFL, and he showed well tonight and was the best of Clemson’s weapons in my opinion.

Early on, he had a drive-ending fumble on a screen pass that he bobbled, sparking criticism from many people watching the game. But he made up for it throughout the rest of the game.

In the second quarter he made a nice over-the-shoulder grab on an absolute dime from Bryant on a long drive to set up the offense in the redzone. Later on McCloud had a very nice sideline grab that he turned into some yards after the catch after turning upfield on the Tigers’ first drive of the third quarter.

As a whole I still don’t think McCloud should declare this year, but this was the best showing of his collegiate career so far in my opinion.

Offensive Tackle Mitch Hyatt (Junior)
Offensive Guard Tyrone Crowder (Redshirt Senior)

The Tigers offensive line helped give Kelly Bryant a clean pocket tonight and was overall consistent and showed off more of what I liked from them in the preseason. I don’t have much else to comment on it besides that. While their running game was ineffective to say the least, that was more on the ballcarrier than anything else and I wouldn’t put that shortcoming on them.

Edge Defender Clelin Ferrell (Redshirt Sophomore)

Ferrell has been talked about as one of the top pass rushing prospects in this class so far this season and proved he was more than worthy of it on Saturday night. Many analysts said their main concern with Ferrell would be his refinement as a pass rusher and ability to win on a rep-to-rep basis and not just in flashes and have his motor going constantly – he has shown improvement in both areas in the first two games of the season.

I think Ferrell is arguably the best player on the most loaded defensive line in the nation currently and will garner more and more hype as the season goes on. He created disruption all game and made life hard for Jarrett Stidham and Co. His most impressive snap of the day was a great strip-sack in the third quarter where he won off the snap with quickness and hand usage and bended and turned around the corner where Stidham never saw him coming.

Interior Defensive Lineman Christian Wilkins (Junior)

Wilkins continued his dominant performance so far this season as he flexes inside from five-technique to three-technique and forms one of the most terrifying defensive fronts in the nation with top 2019 Draft prospect Dexter Lawrence (nose tackle). Consistently created disruption at the point of attack and showed of the situational awareness that has him as a top five prospect for this year’s class for some analysts.

Wilkins’ motor is simply ridiculous and it was on display for all the fans to see in Saturday night’s performance. For a 310-pound defensive lineman it is truly impressive and he really turned it on in the fourth quarter to close out the victory for the Tigers.

Linebacker Kendall Joseph (Junior)

Clemson certainly likes to bring Joseph on the blitz and he did offer pressure there for much of the night in that regard. I tend to think I will start to regard him as more of a “rush backer” in the mold of someone like Anthony Barr than someone who will play as a strong or weak-side linebacker in the NFL.

Early on Clemson sent Joseph in on a blitz and he missed Jarrett Stidham, who proceeded to pick up a first down. On another rep, Joseph teamed up with Austin Bryant to get a sack on the blitz in the fourth quarter that completely shifted the tone of the drive.

I wasn’t bullish on Joseph entering the year and this game didn’t move the needle in either direction for me on him as a potential pro prospect.

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (Redshirt Senior)

O’Daniel had one of the best performances of any player on the field Saturday night, consistently being around the ball and showing off sideline to sideline speed. He racked up 10 tackles – 7 solo – in the first half alone and stepping in to a full time role after being largely a special teams ace during his career so far, it’s good to see him having success so far.

In the second half he teamed up on a sack with Austin Bryant, who is an underclassman who is not eligible this year who flashed a ton this year, and continued to be productive and all over the field. Bryant is the player who I would say improved his stock the most of anybody based off his performance tonight.

Cornerback Ryan Carter (Redshirt Senior)

Carter was one of the more underrated players in the nation last year playing opposite Cordrea Tankersley for the Tigers. According to Pro Football Focus he had an 18.1 pass rating when targeted in 2016 – and now steps into the #1 cornerback spot this season.

You didn’t hear Carter’s name much throughout the game tonight – which is a good thing to have at the cornerback position. He had a very nice pass breakup in coverage in the second quarter, out-leveraging the receiver to get a hand in and break up the football.

On another rep soon after, Auburn ran a screen to Carter’s side of the field and unsuccessfully tried to get past him, as he forced the receiver inside and another Clemson defender made the tackle – something that won’t show up in the box score but is certainly worthy of note.

Carter made a tremendous tackle in run support on one of the bigger backs in the nation in Kam Pettway. He diagnosed the play and came flying into the box to make the stop and continued to set the tone in the run game.

Overall, Carter solidified his status as a Day 2 prospect and looks like he will continue to do so throughout the season.

AUBURN TIGERS

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham (Redshirt Sophomore)

In what was a great opportunity for Stidham to accumulate some positive tape against elite competition, I thought he looked frantic and scared in the pocket for much of the game. I will acknowledge that his offensive line did him no favors in this game against one the best pass-rushing groups many of them will ever face, he still needs to improve and it doesn’t offer up a total excuse for his errors.

Outside of a dime to stud sophomore receiver Nate Craig-Myers early on, Stidham struggled to maintain consistency throughout a drive in the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter he seemed to at least settle in a little bit but the monstrous Clemson defensive line never allowed him to do so for very long. While he still has plenty of chances playing in the SEC, I was disappointed in what I saw from him.

Running Back Kamryn Pettway (Redshirt Junior)

Pettway had a great opportunity to solidify himself as the starter, getting the lion’s share of carries on Saturday night with co-starter Kerryon Johnson out with a hamstring injury. The opportunity didn’t change my perception from what I saw in the preseason.

While reports have said that Pettway is around 250 pounds and he moves well for his size, I find that he plays “small” too often and doesn’t utilize his large frame to his advantage. He doesn’t possess great change of direction skills or vision and came off as a straight-line guy from 2016 tape and doesn’t look to have changed much entering this year.

Offensive Tackle/Guard Braden Smith (Senior)

In what might be the biggest test of the season for Braden Smith, he was manhandled at the point of attack against the loaded Clemson defensive front. Smith struggled to get to the second level in the run game and was pushed around and out-leveraged by the interior defensive linemen.

While I still view Smith as a Day 2 prospect, this will certainly be a game that NFL scouts use to point out weaknesses in his game when debating whether or not to draft him.

Interior Defensive Lineman Byron Cowart (Junior)

Cowart is a former five-star recruit and was regarded as a future stud coming out of high school, but is now a bench player for Auburn and hardly has a role. The team tried to help him out by moving him inside to three-technique this offseason but it didn’t insinuate any response or development from him.

Cowart most definitely should not declare as he has not even logged a sack in his college career so far – a disappointment to say the least. Linebacker

Deshaun Davis (Redshirt Junior)

Deshaun Davis started every game in 2016 for the Tigers defense, totaling 63 tackles and a beastly performance against Alabama with four tackles for loss. Davis may come off as undersized on first look, listed at 5’11” and 246 pounds per Auburn’s team site, but he plays big and it doesn’t affect his tape. 

In this game, Davis flashed in the first half, making a big play to fill a gap and stop a run on 3rd and 2 for no gain. He left the game in the second half with a knee injury but certainly did a good job of putting positive tape out there against top competition.

Cornerback Carlton Davis (Junior)

While the box score may impress from Davis with 11 tackles, this was largely because he was getting beat by the Clemson receivers and was having to recover and make tackles.

In what may have been a litmus test to see if he was ready for NFL competition, Davis affirmed his Day 3 status for me. I still think he should return to school to work on his ability to mirror receivers and maintain coverage when the quarterback has a longer than normal amount of time in the pocket, where he struggled mightily in this game.

Free Safety Tray Matthews (Senior)

Matthews was a bright spot for the Auburn secondary against Clemson. Flying around in the backfield and forcing a fumble on Clemson tailback C.J. Fuller and being a millisecond away from making a tackle that would have given the offense one last chance to tie the game.

Three Stars of the Game

Clemson iDL Christian Wilkins
Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell
Clemson LB Dorian O’Daniel

Non-Draft Eligible Prospects who Flashed

Clemson iDL Dexter Lawrence
Clemson EDGE Austin Bryant
Clemson EDGE Tre Lamar
Auburn WR Nate Craig-Myers

About The Author Riley Auman

Riley is a geographically challenged Astros, Suns and Bucs fan. He's a high school student and soccer player who's been following the draft closely since 2012.