Mike Williams

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VIDEO: Another questionable missed targeting on Alabama knocks Mike Williams out (briefly)

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Clemson had a bit of an injury scare in the firsts quarter when wide receiver Mike Williams was knocked out of the game following a helmet-to-helmet hit, but a sideline report from ESPN’s broadcast says he has been cleared to return to the game.

Williams was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit with Alabama’s Tony Brown, who came in late on a tackle effort. There was no foul called on the play for the hit, which was arguably a missed targeting call.

The hit occurred in the first quarter of the game, and was the second questionable targeting incident of the quarter by Alabama. Reuben Foster was flagged for a late hit on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson on an earlier Tigers possession, but was not called for targeting. No review was called from the booth for targeting either.

Alabama’s keys to national championship game include trying to solve Deshaun Watson (good luck!)

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The rematch is on in the College Football Playoff national championship game with Alabama and Clemson set to battle for the national championship for a second straight season. Both teams will have the benefit of having gone through this experience against each other last year, so there is a certain familiarity with what the other team is capable of doing. For Alabama, knowing just how dangerous Deshaun Watson can be leading the Tigers offense going in will lead Alabama to look for new ways to scheme against him.

In last year’s championship game, Watson put on a performance that drew comparisons to Vince Young in the Rose Bowl against USC, although Watson came up on the short end of the winning tally. In the epic 45-40 loss to the Tide, Watson scorched Alabama for 405 passing yards and four touchdowns and added 73 rushing yards. It was Watson’s best performance of the year, and it came against the best defense in the country. Guess what. Alabama once again has the best defense in the country, and Watson is fully capable of going off for a big game once again. You can make him make a mistake, as evidenced at times this season. Watson has been picked off 17 times this year, including twice last week by Ohio State. The key for Alabama will be converting points off turnovers. Ohio State, obviously, was unable to do that, but the only team to beat them this year managed to do that. Watson was intercepted three times against Pittsburgh in Clemson’s only loss of the season. The Panthers took advantage of two of those picks by scoring touchdowns on the ensuing possession (Pitt was forced to punt on the first, scored two touchdowns on the next two).

Disrupting Clemson’s momentum on offense will not be easy, even for a talented and stacked defense like Alabama’s, because Clemson does like to move the ball quickly. It’s not just the no-huddle style either. It is also how quickly Clemson releases the ball and gets it in movement. Take a look at how quickly Watson gets the play rolling after taking the snap. Unless he is looking to go downfield and has to wait for a man to get open, he is pulling a quick trigger on a screen pass or tossing to the running back and then Clemson is on the go. That caught up to Ohio State and wore down the defense. Wearing down Alabama’s defense should not be as easy, and if the Tide can get in the backfield on the snap to cause chaos before Clemson can get things rolling consistently, then it will apply pressure on Watson and Clemson to do something else.

When Watson does get rid of the ball, Alabama will have to find ways to cover wide receiver Mike Williams (1,297 receiving yards, 10 TDs) and tight end Jordan Leggett, who could be a wild card factor in this matchup. But Alabama’s biggest concern in this game (other than Watson) will be Clemson’s defensive line. The Tigers just pitched a shutout against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, allowing just 215 yards of offense to the Buckeyes and forcing three turnovers (including two interceptions of J.T. Barrett). Clemson’s defensive effort put everybody on notice that they are on a mission and primed to give Alabama all they can handle. The good news for Alabama is their offensive line is much better than Ohio State’s, so fending off the pressure should be more successful to the point where Jalen Hurts will get some time to think more often than not.

The biggest mystery for Alabama is what happens on offense. Giving the bizarre circumstances this week of showing Lane Kiffin on the door on his way to FAU and promoting Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator, where he will call plays for the first time in years, there is a bit of a question as to how much of Alabama’s offense may look different compared to under Kiffin. Will Sarkisian stick to what has been working or will he throw in some new wrinkles? That could be good or bad for Alabama, could catch Clemson off guard or completely blow up in Alabama’s face. Sarkisian is taking on a huge role in this championship game, and it will responsibility to find whatever cracks he can in Clemson’s defense and open them up.

Clemson WR Mike Williams cleared, but Deon Cain still out of action

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers stepped back on the football practice field Monday afternoon ready to dig deep and put in the work needed to take the final step toward winning a national championship. The Tigers fell just shy of topping Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game last month and began putting in a year’s worth of work toward getting back to that national stage. They opened spring practice with some encouraging news regarding wide receiver Mike Williams, who was cleared to practice with the team.

He is going to do everything,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, per TigerNet.com. “We are just not going to tackle him to the ground. He is going to do all the 1 on 1’s, all the skelly, all the team pass. He is going to do everything we do. We are just not going to tackle him so we when we go scrimmage he will not scrimmage.”

Williams is coming off a small fracture in his neck that was suffered in Clemson’s 2015 season-opener against Wofford. He crashed into a goal post as he was making a touchdown grab and the injury put him on the sideline for the remainder of the regular season. A return for Clemson’s College Football Playoff run was under consideration, but Williams made the decision it was best to hold off a comeback until the following season. Swinney and the Clemson staff will continue to proceed with caution with Williams, but Swinney is clearly optimistic about the status of Clemson’s leading receiver from 2014 for the upcoming season.

“If we were playing this spring he could play, but really we just want to kind of get his confidence back where it needs to be and when we get back in camp he will be full go.”

Swinney also provided an update on the status of another wide receiver. Deon Cain, who was suspended by the program after a failed drug test last December, will not go through spring football practices. He will, however, join in team meetings and workouts. He will attend practices, but not compete in a physical fashion.

“I really don’t need to see him run a comeback, to be honest with you,” Swinney said, again per TigerNet.com. “I am not worried about the football side of Deon Cain. The football side of Deon Cain is going to be special if I can get him dialed in on other things that really are more important.”

Clemson opens the 2016 season on the road at Auburn on September 3. Clemson’s spring game is scheduled for April 9.

Clemson WR Mike Williams out for playoffs but will return in 2016

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The Clemson Tigers were awarded the top seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff. That playoff run will have to be done without wide receiver Mike Williams. On Sunday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Williams will not play in Clemson’s postseason games but does intend on returning to the team in 2016.

“I think that’s a great decision by him,” Swinney said, according to TigerNet.com. “He will be back next year.”

Williams suffered a small fracture in his neck area in Clemson’s season-opening victory over Wofford when he crashed into the goal post trying to make a touchdown catch in the back of the endzone. That injury brought a quick and premature end to the junior’s 2015 season. In 2014, as a sophomore, Williams was Clemson’s leading receiver with 1,030 yards and six touchdowns (second on the team).

Clearly, Clemson has found a way to survive without Williams on the field. The Tigers completed an undefeated season with a victory over North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game Saturday night, and Clemson has been named the number one team in the College Football Playoff. That said, having Williams healthy and ready to return to action in 2016 should be a great addition to Clemson’s offense. Had he not been injured this season, Williams could have made the jump into the NFL Draft in the spring.

Clemson paces All-ACC preseason team; Miami shut out

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Clemson was tapped by the media as the preseason favorite to win the ACC title, so it’s not surprising that the Tigers have fared well individually as well.

The ACC released its preseason all-conference team Thursday morning, with Clemson leading the way with five players landing on the first and only team.  Deshaun Watson was voted as the preseason Player of the Year, and received the expected All-ACC nod as well as 100 of the 163 voters selected the true sophomore as their first-team quarterback.  The next quarterback, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas, was named on 33 ballots.

Watson wasn’t the leading vote-getter, though, as that nod belongs to Pittsburgh running back James Connor, who received 148 of a possible 163 votes.  Others receiving the most votes at their position include one of Connor’s teammates, wide receiver Tyler Boyd (141), and one of the top placekickers in the history of the game, Florida State’s Robert Aguayo (141).

After Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech were next up with four players each selected.  Three of the 14 ACC teams went without representation: Boston College, Miami and Syracuse.  The interesting school in the latter group is, of course, The U.

Not only did the Hurricanes get shut out of the first team, the closest they got to landing a player on the squad was Deon Bush, whose 20 votes left him fourth amongst the safeties.  Other than Bush, Stacey Coley (21 votes, eight amongst wide receivers) Rafael Kirby (19, eighth amongst linebackers) Danny Isidora (18, ninth amongst offensive guards) KC McDermott (12, seventh amongst offensive tackles) and Brad Kaaya (10, fourth amongst quarterbacks) were the Hurricanes receiving double-digit votes.

It’s that lack of talent, or perception thereof, that will have Al Golden heading into the 2015 season on one of the hottest coaching seats in America.

2015 All-ACC Preseason Football Team

Offense
WR – Tyler Boyd, Jr., Pitt
WR – Mike Williams, Jr., Clemson
WR – Artavis Scott, So. Clemson
TE – Bucky Hodges, r-So., Virginia Tech
OT – Roderick Johnson, So., Florida State
OT – Adam Bisnowaty, r-Jr., Pitt
OG – Landon Turner, r-Sr., North Carolina
OG – Eric Mac Lain, Gr., Clemson
C – Matt Skura, r-Sr., Duke
QB – Deshaun Watson, So., Clemson
RB – James Conner, Jr., Pitt
RB – Shadrach Thornton, Sr., NC State

Defense
DE – Dadi Lhomme Nicolas. r-Sr., Virginia Tech
DE – Shaq Lawson, Jr., Clemson
DE – Sheldon Rankins, Sr., Louisville
DT – Adam Gotsis, Sr., Georgia Tech
DT – Luther Maddy, r-Sr., Virginia Tech
LB – Terrance Smith, r-Sr., Florida State
LB – Brandon Chubb, r-Sr., Wake Forest
LB – James Burgess, Sr., Louisville
CB – Jalen Ramsey, Jr., Florida State
CB – Kendall Fuller, Jr., Virginia Tech
S – Jeremy Cash, r-Sr., Duke
S – Quin Blanding, So., Virginia

Special Teams
PK – Roberto Aguayo, r-Jr., Florida State
P – Alex Kinal, r-Sr., Wake Forest
KR – Ryan Switzer, So., North Carolina