ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1 Clemson Tigers (11-1) vs. #7 Miami Hurricanes (10-1)
Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, North Carolina
Clemson (38), Miami (3)
Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins stars
There have been mixed reviews regarding Wilkins’ performance this season but that isn’t the case for his showing against Miami – he completely dominated the football game.
Expectations were high entering the season for Wilkins and Saturday night was a good reminder as to why. Tallying seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, .5 sack and two pass breakups, Wilkins controlled the line of scrimmage and was a disruptive force. The most impressive component of how he played was the quickness he demonstrated combined with his power and lateral movement skills. Wilkins made plays in every direction and his motor was relentless throughout the contest.
Perhaps he has been guilty of not playing up to his physical talent this year, but he undoubtedly has the best overall traits of any defensive tackle that will be available for the 2018 NFL Draft. He set the tone early in the contest and proved to be more than the Hurricanes offensive line could handle.
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell is the complete package
A redshirt sophomore, Ferrell is a gifted football player with top of the first round traits. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Ferrell has a long and lean frame with on-field ability that has me excited.
I’ve done extensive work on Ferrell’s pass rushing ability so my focus in this game was how he played the run and I was not disappointed. The same length, flexibility and strength that enables him to be such a dominant pass rusher also shows up when defending the run. Ferrell consistently set a firm edge, maintained outside leverage and was able to disengage from blocks. He also showed terrific lateral mobility to work towards the sideline and defend boundary runs.
Ferrell is oozing with upside and will carry a high grade should he declare.
There is value to what Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow brings to the table
No, I am not pounding the table for Renfrow as even a mid-round draft pick but there is value to what he offers.
While he lacks desirable physical traits, Renfrow is the model of consistency in terms of route-running and catching the football. For three years now, Renfrow has been Mr. Reliable for the Tigers to keep the chains moving in key situations. Getting open and catching the ball consistently is WR 101 and Renfrow does it well.
He has also demonstrated the ability to cleanly field punts which again adds value to his skill set.
He may never stick in the NFL but he deserves a chance. As a player the consistently comes through for his team, I wouldn’t be the one to bet against him.
Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt is interesting
Hyatt has essentially nearly every game since he walked on campus and has been stalwart for three seasons on Clemson’s offensive line. He has received numerous accolades for his play including being named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Year this season.
There is no question that Hyatt gets the job done for Clemson but I am not sure he is a high ceiling NFL Draft prospect that projects as a franchise left tackle. While he has some fans in the scouting community, I don’t see a smooth blocker with great body control.
I am anxious to take a deep-dive if/when he declares for the draft but live viewings of Hyatt often leave me underwhelmed. That was again the case against Miami.
Miami’s young talent on defense is exciting
Miami was undermanned and over-matched against Clemson as indicated by the results. With that said, this roster is loaded with young talent – especially on defense.
I continue to be impressed by sophomore defensive end Joseph Jackson who looks NFL-ready right now. He is a long, powerful and twitched-up edge defender with the ability to play the run and pressure the quarterback. He has top of the first round traits.
The sophomore trio of linebackers in Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud are a fast and physical group with few limitations. Quarterman and Pinckney in particular look like capable Sunday playmakers.
With the returning talent, look for Miami to continue to compete in the ACC and field a stout defense next season.