Clemson-Auburn grades: Deshaun Watson rebounds from early struggles
Clemson Tigers 19, Auburn Tigers 13
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest graded players from the Clemson Tigers 19-13 victory over the Auburn Tigers:
Quarterback grade: Deshaun Watson, 69.1
Deshaun Watson rebounds from early struggles to flash Heisman potential
QB Deshaun Watson struggled early in this game, particularly in the first quarter. After he settled down and got into a rhythm, however, he was once again the Heisman candidate we were familiar with. He threw for 255 yard and a touchdown, but his completion percentage was hurt a bit with three drops from his pass-catchers. Watson especially shined when the pocket was clean with no pressure, as he went 16 for 27 and 211 yards on pressure-free dropbacks. (See Watson’s numbers without pressure and when under pressure below.) Easily the most notable thing on the night was Watson quickly developing a connection with WR Mike Williams, who missed last year due to injury. The two of them peppered Auburn with back-shoulder throws that seemed unstoppable at certain points in the game.
Top offensive grades:
WR Mike Williams, 78.5
OG Tyrone Crowder, 72.6
OG Taylor Hearn, 72.4
QB Deshaun Watson, 69.1
WR Hunter Renfrow, 65.9
WR Mike Williams stars in his return
After suffering an injury to his neck in 2015, Mike Williams was determined to make sure everyone knew he was back and ready for the 2016 season. He had nine catches for 178 yards and a TD, along with 32 yards after the catch and two forced missed tackles. It was an impressive night by Williams that was marred only by a dropped touchdown pass. Guards Tyrone Crowder and Taylor Hean kept a clean sheet in pass protection on the night, allowing zero pressures and helping to aid the Watson and Williams connections. Hunter Renfrow was mostly quiet throughout the game until the Clemson offense truly needed him. Looking to further cement their lead after Auburn began bouncing back, the Tigers saw Renfrow made a great catch in the corner of the end zone that wound up giving Clemson their margin of victory.
Top defensive grades:
CB Cordrea Tankersley, 81.5
LB Ben Boulware, 78.6
OLB Christian Wilkins, 76.6
ILB Kendall Joseph, 71.7
OLB Tre Lamar, 71.7
Clemson defensive line causes havoc for Auburn
DT Dexter Lawrence had a great night, showing up throughout the game involved in plays. He had one sack, one batted pass, six tackles and seven total stops, and was a force that could not be missed. He played a huge part in helping slow down the Auburn run game and uptempo offense. OLB Christian Wilkins was a pleasant surprise as well, as he finished the night with one sack, three hits, two hurries, one batted pass and three total stops. LB Kendall Joseph was another player who was hard to miss while watching the Clemson defense. He finished with seven tackles along with two assists and a total of six stops. He was also disruptive in the passing game, with one sack, one hit, and three hurries.
Quarterback grades: Sean White, 64.5; John Franklin, 60.0; Jeremy Johnson, 57.7
QB rotation leaves Tigers with questions
The Auburn offense spent the night rotating their quarterbacks as well as mixing in some “wildcat” formations (in which the running back lines up as a QB) to show a lot of different looks. When all was said and done, Sean White came out of the game with the best grade and also displayed his ability as the best thrower out of the group. White was far from perfect, however, as he made some poor decisions and had accuracy issues through the game, which is shown by his 40 percent completion percentage. Even worse, the Auburn receivers did not have any drops on the night. All that said, he threw some balls that no other QB on the team has shown the ability to throw, and some of those passes helped get the Tigers back into the game. John Franklin had very limited action and Jeremy Johnson did not have a very impressive night, with an interception on few attempts.
Top offensive grades:
OT Robert Leff, 73.6
OG Alex Kozan, 66.4
WR Stanton Truitt, 66.4
RB Kerryon Johnson, 65.3
QB Sean White, 64.5
Few bright spots for the Tigers’ offense
OT Robert Leff and OG Alex Kozan were much better off than their position mates at the end of this game. Leff had a mediocre performance in pass protection, giving up two sacks, but redeemed himself in the run game as he earned the only positive run-block grade for the Auburn offensive line. Kozan only surrendered two hurries in pass protection, but was also less impactful than Leff in the run game. RB Kerryon Johnson stood out when the ball was in his hands, with smooth movements and some bursts when in the open field. Johnson had 94 yards on the night, with an impressive 85 of those coming after contact.
Top defensive grades:
DE Carl Lawson, 86.9
LB Darrell Williams, 85.9
LB Deshaun Davis, 85.2
LB Tre Williams, 80.6
S Nick Ruffin, 77.7
DE Carl Lawson displays pass-rush prowess
Entering the game, Carl Lawson had a lot of buzz around him, and he delivered against Clemson even though it may not all show in the stat sheet. Lawson finished the game with one hit, three hurries, and four run stops. That is a solid stat line, but Lawson actually had a much larger impact in the passing game, where he won his rushes but the ball was gone already. Lawson controlled the things he was able to control and showed the ability that has fans talking about him. CB Joshua Hosley graded very in coverage on his 22 coverage snaps, and the linebacker trio of Darrell Williams, Deshaun Davis, and Tre Williams all made big impacts as well. In particular, Davis had one hurry, four tackles, one assist, and three stops, along with grading very well in run defense and pass coverage.