Wake’s sigh of relief finally came last week. They went up against the Rice Owls, who has not been able to produce any intimidation on the defensive end so far this year. That helped the team overcome its two games losing streak and beat the Conference USA team a whopping 56-24.
In that game, I highlighted Rice’s running back Austin Walter and safety Houston Robert.
Here’s how those players panned out last Saturday;
Walter: 18 carries, 165 yards, 1 TD. 5 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD.
Robert: 5 tot, 1 sack.
It was clear that Walter was going to be a major contributor for the Owls’ offense, and shine he did.
He was able to be effective in the inside and outside, as he received touches in all sectors of the field.
As for Robert, it was a typical performance for him as well. His box score numbers aren’t eye-popping, but his impact on the field is massive.
After this cakewalk of a win, however, the Deacons have its biggest challenge of the season in the form of No. 4 Clemson. Following the shocking news regarding the transfer of quarterback Kelly Bryant, the Tigers had a very entertaining game last week. That, of course, was because their former backup and now starting quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, was injured in the second half.
This put redshirt freshman Chase Brice behind center against a Syracuse Orange defense that was able to completely shut down the semi-productive Florida State offensive earlier this season. Brice didn’t fold under pressure though. He was able to maintain the pressure and came out with under two minutes to make an impressive comeback to thwart the upset of the Orange.
For this week’s matchup, here are the players that Wake should circle down as players who could surprise them both offensively and defensively.
Tavien Feaster has been the forgotten star of the Clemson offense. That’s because his teammate, Travis Etienne, has been one of the better running backs in the nation over the past two seasons. In the game against Syracuse, he rushed for a career-high 203 yards on the ground amounting to three touchdowns. His role was a pivotal factor in the team’s comeback victory against Syracuse. He’s also been a sleeper in the Heisman conversation, although the season is still not even a fifth way through.
But people forget to realize the impact that Feaster has for the Tigers. The former track star in high school uses that initial burst of speed to his advantage out of the backfield. Often from the shotgun or pistol set he has been proven to be a menace on halfback counters and draws on the inside.
As a result, he has been able to have breakout runs like the 89-yarder against NC State last year. This elusive skill set in the backfield has made the Clemson offense run smoothly, as the combination between Feaster and Etienne is a deadly one-two punch on offense.
Feaster isn’t just a one-dimensional back either. Similar to Austin Walter last week, he has the ability to catch the ball in the open space. Often by the flat, he has shown to be an excellent receiver in terms of yards after the catch. This, combined with his explosion, make his a dual-threat running back that is very troublesome for all defenses.
Feaster reminds me of former Tiger and current NFL free agent CJ Spiller. Both players have proven to be electric in the open field. Through handoffs to quick pitches outside, the two possess the ability to break away and gain substantial yards after catch/run on any given play.
Expect the Wake defense to be up for some serious competition come Saturday. They not only have to deal with the emerging Trevor Lawrence, assuming he plays, but they also have to maintain a running back duo that is arguably one of the best in the country.
Ferrell is one of the mainstays in the Tigers’ historical defensive line this season. His edge rushing duo, Austin Bryant, has proven a phenomenal player for the team’s edge containment. You combine that with proven interior linemen in Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, and you can potentially see all four players selected in the early stages of next year’s NFL Draft. That would go down as one of the best defensive lines to ever grace college football.
If we look at Ferrell more specifically, you can see the sheer impact that he brings to the table.
Although his weight is considered average amongst his peers at 260 pounds, he has proven to be one of the best when it comes to pure athleticism. His great first step allows him to initiate contact at such a quick rate that offensive lineman have to reconsider their positioning when going up against him.
This initial drive then leads to his playstyle, where his IQ allows him to be uniquely versatile.
He can be a screening edge rusher as he has eclipsed a very impressive twenty sacks in just three years. Mind you, this is against some the best competition in the nation.
If you don’t want him to be the one who creates the QB pressure, then he can beat you in other ways. Whether that’s containing the outside edge to make sure there are no chunk plays outside, or wreaking havoc in the short pass attempts, Ferrell has one of the more unique attribute repertoires in the nation.
He is undoubtedly a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and he should be a problem for Sam Hartman and the Wake offense come Saturday. He, combined with the best defensive line in the nation put the team at risk offensively.
Will Wake continue to rely more upon the shotgun to risk potential sacks in the single back?
Will they add more blockers in their schemes to help stop the imposing pressure up front?
Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: Clelin Ferrell will have a serious impact on the Wake offense.