This was the game of the week for me, well on paper at least, as the two top dogs in the ACC, both top ten ranked, duked it out in a night game. The reality was that Clemson should have won by more than the ten points they did, and are now favourites to sweep conference play and get a good shot at the College Football Play-off.
We’ll start the notes with the winning Tigers…
I got a decent look at Clemson last week against Wake Forest, and the offense in that game looked so much better than it did for much of last season. This game was a bit of a mixed bag, but this was also the best defense that the Tigers had faced so far this season, so a regression from last week’s big output was expected.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei looked a different beast last week against the Demon Deacons throwing for 371 yards and five touchdowns, but he was back to a more conservative game plan against the Wolfpack, where the emphasis was on ball control rather than splash plays.
He did go deep a couple of times but he overthrew both passes and his overall accuracy is still a bit of a worry for me. Clemson have used him more to run the ball this year, and he does a nice job of getting what he can on the ground, but as a pure passer there are still many questions for me that need answering.
Obviously he is playing much better than last year, but I think he’s quite a way down the quarterback draft list still, although with that size and arm strength there will be plenty of intrigue if he does throw his name into the 2023 draft.
Clemson have churned out some exceptional wide receivers over the last decade, but this current bunch are not living up to that standard. The Tigers have instead turned to a more run based attack, utilising the tight ends in the passing game, and they have a guy who may make it to the next level.
Davis Allen is a big target (6’6 250) with decent hands who looked good last week snaring two touchdowns and was a valuable outlet for his quarterback in this game too.
He has functional strength as a blocker, but he certainly won’t wow anyone in that department, although he does enough to survive. If Allen tests well he should certainly find himself in that mid day three range, and should make an NFL roster.
Defensively, Clemson have three stud players, all of whom could be first round picks, but one of them Defensive Tackle Bryan Bresee was out of this game, so all eyes were on the other two…
I really like EDGE Myles Murphy – Who was highly rated in our summer scouting series.
He is bigger than most of the EDGE’s in this potential draft class, so he doesn’t possess the bend and dip of those smaller guys, but he does win with strength and quick hands consistently. This was an odd game for him, as statistically he had 1.5 sacks and a couple of pressures, but he was nullified for stretches of the game which doesn’t happen very often.
There was one pressure he went straight through the left tackle with power, and although not the level of athlete of some of the top guys, he can still win around the edge on the outside shoulder of the tackles. He is the same size (6’5 275) as last year’s number one pick Travon Walker but won’t test as well as he did, but he should be a first round lock, and possibly as high as the top ten.
There is plenty of hype surrounding linebacker Trenton Simpson, but I’m not quite as high on him as the consensus seems to be.
There is no doubting his athletic ability as he glides around the field effortlessly, but for me there seems to be questions with instincts and that’s a concern for someone in the middle of the defense.
He has moved into a more traditional off-ball Linebacker position this season, as he was more out in the slot in 2021, so perhaps that explains some instinctual issues, but this will be his NFL position, so he needs to look better than this for the rest of the season to maintain first round status.
The old position Simpson moved from has been taken by true sophomore Barrett Carter, and this game was very much a coming out party for him. He has all the athletic ability that Simpson does, and although he doesn’t have the same size, he is a fearless player who understands his role perfectly. We could be talking about Carter in the same way we did about Simpson next season when he’ll be draft eligible.
This Wolfpack offense struggled to move the ball against Clemson, especially in the second half, as the offensive line couldn’t control the line of scrimmage. I like quarterback Devin Leary, but this game showcased his limitations.
When he has time, as he did in the first half, he can move this offense down the field nicely. What he has trouble with is coming off script and producing under pressure, which is how the second half went. I’m not sure there’s a lot of upside to him, but you can see him carving out a nice NFL career in a back-up capacity.
Leary’s most reliable target, wide receiver Thayer Thomas certainly appears to have an NFL future. Everyone needs one of these crafty slot receivers that can always get open and have safe hands, and Thomas is an excellent example of one. Not the biggest or the fastest, but he drops virtually nothing and is a consistent chain-mover. Call him a poor man’s Hunter Renfrow, who has an outside chance of going late in the draft.
Defensively NC State were very impressive at times, despite giving up 30 points. The three man defensive line has a thankless task at times, just occupying spaces and eating blockers, but these guys are excellent at doing it.
I’ve been a big defensive tackle Cory Durden fan for a long time, even back to his Florida State days he stood out to me. Now he is used exclusively as a nose tackle in their odd front, so he sees plenty of double teams and has to fight on every snap to keep lineman off him and keep in on the play.
Durden has a great get off and arm over move, which when timed right will split the double teams and get him into the backfield. His role will never offer him the chance to be statistically productive, but his value can’t be overlooked, and some NFL odd front teams should spend a day three pick on him for sure.
The benefactors of the big guys up front are the linebackers, who can exploit the chaos and make the plays.
NC State has three good ones, all of whom could end up being drafted, but for me the highlight performer from this group against Clemson was Isaiah Moore.
He is a fifth year player who really burst onto the scene as a Freshman in 2018, but has never really kicked on. Injuries have played their part, and he missed half of last season with one, so he needed a good final year to get him back on the NFL radar, and this game tape should do that.
In this game, Moore was always around the ball and quick to react to plays developing in front of him. He is a good form tackler who wraps up nicely making sure the ball carrier gets down. Now I doubt he’ll test that well, and with the injury history to consider too he’ll be a late round pick at best, but these types of guys are always hanging around on NFL rosters.
I do love a hard hitting, play making safety, and Tanner Ingle certainly fits that bill. He flies around the field hitting anything that moves and will sacrifice his body to get in on a tackle. He is undersized for this role (5’10 185) and you’d expect that his body wouldn’t hold up in this role in the NFL, but I’m not backing against this guy as he has a bit of Tyrann Mathieu about him, and he turned out alright didn’t he?
By Keith Lucken – Follow Keith on Twitter @lordlucken
Catch the rest of Keith’s scouting notes HERE.