My bold prediction: the Hokies will score on their first drive.
Not bold enough for you? Well, let me detail the exact play they will score with.
Cam Phillips has been running out routes for a long time. So long, in fact, that he has become quite effective at them. This season, Phillips has torched defenses with the out route. It has become Jackson’s primary read if the corner gives a cushion. That route has become synonymous with an automatic seven-plus yard gain.
Which is precisely why the Hokies are going to burn Clemson for a deep play.
The Tigers’ defensive backs are probably sick of watching the Hokies move the ball so easily in the passing game because of the out route. Sooner or later, aggressive DBs with ball skills will break on the ball and try to come up with an interception.
Let’s flashback to the nightmarish ECU game from 2014, where the No. 17 ranked Hokies fell to Shane Carden and the Pirates. Yes, it’s a game that should not be in your memory bank. But there was a sequence of plays on the Hokies’ second to last offensive possession that might be a sign of what could happen Saturday night.
On this drive, the Hokies are looking to score to tie the game up at 21. Michael Brewer drops back and finds Cam Phillips (back when he wore #18) on, you guessed it, an out route. Phillips shows outstanding body control to get both feet in while simultaneously making a catch with a defender draped all over him.
Notice how hard the cornerback breaks on the route, and the Hokies’ offensive staff say this too. The very next play, the Hokies call for Phillips to run an out-and-up to counter the cornerback’s aggressiveness.
Same alignment, same inside leverage technique played by the corner, and Brewer, while giving a pump fake for good measure, knows he has Phillips the whole way for six.
From another angle:
Phillips really understands the nuances of body fakes in route running, which is why he absolutely toasts the cornerback. He also reads the coverage well, choosing to attack the seam against Cover 3 instead of the sideline when he makes his upfield cut.
So here’s my (true) bold prediction: Fuente will call the out-and-up not only at some point in the game, but on the first drive. I get the feeling he has overshown this look where Phillips runs the out to a point where Clemson’s cornerbacks will be extremely susceptible to a double move. Phillips has the speed and ability to get behind the defense. All it will boil down to is the protection holding up and Jackson making an accurate throw.
And that’s how the Hokies will go up 7-0 early.