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Clemson VS. Virginia Tech: Interview With The Enemy

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Gobbler Country spends time with Shakin’ The Southland and learns about the Clemson Tigers straight from the source.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

GC: What grade would you give Clemson on the season so far? The expectations were incredibly high, and do you feel they have lived up to them?

Overall I have to give them an A, maybe an A-. We've probably executed at a B level, but some luck and a weaker than expected schedule have put us in an excellent position for another run at an ACC title and national championship. The exepctations were frankly ridiculous and unrealistic. Everyone seemed to forget Clemson was replacing 2 members of a surprisingly talented OL this year and things just haven't worked out. Our running game is not as effective as 2015 though the last two games have been encouraging. Many folks seemed to expect Deshaun Watson to be perfect this year and despite passing statistics that are extremely similar to 2015 they are disapointed. But for me being in this position is much better than expected. I didn't think we'd win the Atlantic because of FSU so I think the team has lived up to what they are this year, and maybe even exceeded it.

GC: Do you think Dabo will go to Alabama after Saban retires/leaves?

I think he gets the offer barring something drastic. He's the "easy" pick for Alabama and the safest choice, especially if he gets a national title before Saban retires. Last year's national title game really opened up a lot of Bama fan's minds. Before the game a lot of them were dismissive of Clemson and thought the Crimson Tide would roll Clemson. Instead Dabo and company gave Alabama their closest game in the national championship under Nick Saban. Now if he accepts? I'm not sure. He definitely loves Clemson and with one son getting ready to graduate soon and the others approaching high school he's made a life here. He's only coached in two places so his family doesn't have that expectation of constantly moving and recreating their lives at each stop. But it is Alabama. It is where he won a national title as a player and he would be the native son that came good and decided to come home. They say you don't want to be the guy that follows the guy, but coaches have a big enough ego to think they can overcome that and I think ultimately he would take the job.

GC: How would you gameplan against Clemson?

On defense I'd just pray you can stop Clemson enough. Really the offense has only been stopped by their own poor play and untimely turnovers. Clemson's 9-1 or 8-2 in their last 10 games when losing the turnover battle by 2 so even then you might be in trouble. The biggest thing is to limit the big plays. Watson has been a bit hit or miss on the deep ball early this season and you almost have to play the run, the short pass, and hope he's off. For your offense it is a different story. Clemson's weaknesses are the LBs in pass coverage and the DBs can get a little handsy. Brent Venables mitigates this by calling a very aggressive game. I'd gameplan with a lot of check downs into the flats and running plays designed to slant the defense in one direction and the RB bounces it in the opposite direction. FSU did a great job of this in the second half during their comeback and Pitt did an excellent job all game long to keep it close and ultimately win. If you can do that and succeed on offense you' will be in the game.

GC: What scares you the most about Virginia Tech?

The TE Bucky Hodges scares me the most. A TE is perfect to take advantage of Clemson's weakness in LB pass coverage and if you guys can hit him early and often y'all can really get some momentum going. Jerod Evans has obviously played well, but with Clemson's DL I think he's going to be forced to run a little bit and that could prevent VT from really utilizing those receivers on the outside. Special teams will also always scare me, even though Clemson is marketly better this year I still have visions of last year against Alabama and getting burned. Add in VT's emphasis on special teams and I'll be holding my breath each time we kick.

GC: If Clemson wins would you rather face Ohio State or Bama in the first round?

Ohio State, only because giving Saban a month to prepare is a fool's errand. I think Clemson actually matches up well against both teams but I'd rather take the first game against Ohio State, they seem to be similar to us with some key flaws, the difference is I think we'll do a better job at exposing those flaws if we make the playoff than we would against Alabama.

GC: Is there more or less excitement for the game since it was moved to Orlando?

A lot of our fans are pretty bummed out. I went to the first Charlotte game back in 2011 and it was a fantastic atmosphere with both fanbases so close to the city. I know a lot of Clemson fans elected to take refunds on tickets rather than buy the Orlando tickets and I imagine it is the same for y'all. Politics aside I don't think this is a situation that is going to benefit the ACC in the long run.

GC:What is the score going to be Saturday night?

Ya know I'm scared to death of this game. Unlike most teams on our schedule VT really seems to have the potential for an upset, a lot like Pitt. Y'all have been inconsistent but when you put a game together you can beat anyone. Because of that I think this gets into a bit of a shootout but Clemson is able to eke out a close win in the 38-35 range.