I came out of last night's game between Clemson and Georgia Tech with mixed feelings. Let's start with the positives. Yellow Jackets defensive end Derrick Morgan was very impressive in the first half. He recorded three sacks in the first quarter alone (taking his season tally to five) and he consistently caused problems for the Clemson offensive line. Great speed on the edge, good spin move. He was visibly exhausted at the end but that's understandable considering the amount of time he was on the field. Morgan never gave up though and was still causing problems late in the game.
As a junior he could declare for the 2010 draft. It's already looking like a loaded class on the defensive line, but if Morgan continues to generate sacks it'll be very tempting to throw his name into the hat too. He gets a glowing review from NFL Draft Scout.
Another junior, safety DeAndre McDaniels, also caught my eye. He recorded two interceptions (he has three this season already). Better known as a guy who delivers big hits, he's shown at the start of the season an a ball hawking ability and both picks were highlight reel quality. Unfortunately, he was arrested in June 2008 for an alleged assault on his girl friend. That might rule out any potential Seahawks interest, knowing Tim Ruskell's strict character policies.
On to the running backs and I was impressed with C.J. Spiller, particularly as a possible target for the Seahawks. Greg Knapp has emphasised the need for balance on offense and keeping teams guessing. One of the reasons they replaced T.J. Duckett for Edgerrin James in my opinion is the predictability of Duckett's game as a short yardage specialist. James is a more all round back with great blocking abilities.
Spiller really showed against GT that he can do it all. He took the bulk of the load as a rusher, carrying 20 times for 87 yards . He put in a real shift but never seemed to tire even when running deep routes late in the fourth quarter. One of the question marks I have about Spiller is whether he can carry the load on his own in the NFL. I'm still not entirely convinced, but he certainly showed last night that in certain circumstances he can be relied upon.
But it was the other things he did that impressed me most. He was spread out wide to play some wide receiver, he did some nice wheel routes and moved around in motion. He was a legitimate pass catching threat and his route running for a running back was very sound. He scored on a 63 yard deep route from QB Kyle Parker.
His pass blocking was also exceptional. A number of times he managed to block out the impressive Derrick Morgan (seemingly the only guy who could for Clemson). He looked very willing to make blocks and put his body on the line. As a complete package, I can see Spiller being the kind of guy Knapp would want on his offense. You could be creative with a guy like Spiller, he'll keep teams guessing. Keep an eye on him.
Unfortunately I wasn't anywhere near as impressed with Jonathan Dwyer, raising concerns that maybe the funky Georgia Tech triple option offense has inflated his production. He looked heavy to me and lacked any kind of explosion. He laboured to 66 yards on 18 carries and didn't register in a woeful passing performance from GT.
No doubt when he's given a clear running lane, he can accelerate into it and break away. But I'm not sure he has that initial burst from the line to blow through a gap. It's only one performance and I'll wait to see how he does over the next few weeks, but he didn't look like a top 15 draft pick like some people have been predicting. If Spiller vs Dwyer was a boxing match, this one was a 6th round stoppage in favor of the Clemson runner.