The Winner of The Main Event: Jordan Leggett
In a game where the difference in score was only 7 points last night, one could argue a large reason for Clemson winning the ACC Championship last night, was the ability for Tigers to make their big, athletic, mismatch-TE effective in the game while VT simply could not. Jordan Leggett was involved early tallying 4 catches, 49 yards, and 2 TDs in a winning effort Saturday night. Bucky Hodges? Bucky recorded just 1 catch for 41 yards.
Bucky Hodges has shown the ability to line up all over the field this season. He plays on the line at TE, he will play in the backfield as an H-Back, he will play in the slot, and he will play at WR. His versatility and ability to win from so many different positions on the field is one of the reasons that makes Hodges such an attractive draft prospect. Not only do you have to be athletic enough to do this, but you must also have enough football intelligence to master the playbook from multiple spots as well. Head Coach Justin Fuente seemed to have a game-plan that was evident from the first snap. He was going to use Hodges almost exclusively out wide. If the idea was to draw the attention and coverage from Clemson’s top CB, Cordrea Tankersley, it worked brilliantly.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, being able to keep Tankersley on Hodges and away from other options such as WR Isaiah Ford, was not good enough. Virginia Tech was not able to run the ball consistently at any point of the game against Clemson’s deep and athletic front 7. Without a running game to keep them honest, Clemson was able to frustrate QB Jerod Evans all game long. They mixed coverages and blitzes up, clearly getting into Jerod’s head. When his first read was not open he would tuck the ball and run to try to salvage some yards instead of keeping his eyes downfield looking for a second or third option.
Bucky’s one reception came on a very bizarre play and one in which he did not draw the coverage from Tankersley. Clemson dropped all 11 into coverage initially on the play, eventually rushing a few on a delayed blitz. This allowed Hodges to literally get 40 yards downfield, post up, and wait for the ball against a smaller defender. The ball was intended to be a jump ball, which the 6’7 Hodges would be favored over maybe anyone in college football, but fell a little short. Hodges used his body to shield the defender to make an easy catch for a big gain. Hodges had one other play on the game that lead to a VT first down. It came on a trick play where a pitch turned into a RB-pass. Hodges had Tankersley beat deep and instead of giving up a touchdown, Cordrea decided to pull Hodges back drawing a pass interference penalty. Both of the interceptions thrown by Jerod Evans to Tankersley last night came on big plays in which the inexperienced, yet talented QB, tried forcing the ball to Hodges. There is a reason very few teams target Tankersley in the pass game and VT found out why first hand.
Before we talk about Leggett’s big night in the passing game, and he had a huge night, I want to sing his praises for his ability and willingness to contribute in the running game as well. I made it a point to pay attention to this closely last night, and by my count, the first and only time where Leggett didn’t win on his block came in the 4th quarter on a 1st and 5 play-very impressive. He isn’t a violent blocker but he showed last night that he can be a very effective wall blocker. This means that he has quick feet, puts himself in the right position, and takes accurate angles to shield ball carriers from the defender that he is blocking. Leggett made several blocks that sealed a crease last night that sprung teammates for long plays.
This is significant as Jordan is widely seen, like Hodges, as a mismatch in the passing game. He also has the ability to line up all over the field. Unlike Bucky, he showcased this ability in the ACC Championship game. QB Deshaun Watson put Jordan in motion often, every single play to my tally on the first drive, and in multiple spots to draw mismatches. His size alone won the Tigers 2 pass inference calls in the game. Clemson picked up another first down early in the game by targeting Leggett at WR in a screen play. He is big and fast making him not easy to bring down by smaller defensive backs in the open field.
Leggett is not Clemson’s only NFL talent on the offensive side of the ball and Watson is experienced enough to know where to go with the football. Leggett often draws coverage away from stars such as Mike Williams and Artavis Scott making his athletic abilities valuable even when the ball isn’t coming his way. On Leggett’s first touchdown catch he found himself wide open down the seem on a RPO play for an easy toss and catch. Leggett’s second touchdown came on a slant from the WR position in the redzone. He beat the CB in quickness and size on the play very easily.
Leggett won this match up, very handily last night. While I am not convinced that had Leggett and Hodges switched teams last night that the results of this matchup in the passing game might be very different, Leggett played a complete game and did everything he needed to do to help ensure his team win. Both players have the ability to torment defensive coordinators at the NFL level and should expect to be either day 1 or day 2 picks.
While you are enjoying college football this weekend join NFL scouts by putting your grade on these marquee individual match-ups with draft implications. We will revisit the “Main Event” early next week to see who came out on top of their battle.
#16 Jordan Legett, Clemson, TE
#7 Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, TE
#11 Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, WR
#28 James Washington, Oklahoma ST, WR
#31 Jalen Tabor, Florida, CB
#26 Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, CB