Clemson's ability to dictate its own destiny. Under Tom Bowden, the offensive strategy was to react to what the defense put in front of our offense. This idea was evident in the TB era (though not the entire time), with Clemson lining up at the LOS then looking to the sideline for the actual play. While I am all for gathering all information before making a decision, I do not believe in this strategy. I think that overall trends, down and distance indicators, and overall team strengths (for both teams) should dictate a strategy. This should also dictate play calling decisions. Too many times I think Clemson has gotten into game situations and the coaches have tried to "out think" the opponents. IMO, this agenda ruins game rhythm and the fluidity of an offensive series. This criticism blends in with the previous blog (Swinney/Spence) on this issue.
I would also like to clarify my stance on adjustments--they are absolutely necessary. I just do not believe that (on a 24 second play rotation--this simplifies the "new" clock rules) a coach can get a team into a formation in 5 seconds, have the defense line up within that 5 seconds, make efficient calculations and signal in a new play in 15 seconds, and effectively run the play in 4 seconds--please excuse the roughness of these assumptions. In short, it is very rare in the college game of football that a group of coaches can digest all this information in such a short period of time, relay said information to players 40 yards away through hand signals, then expect the players to digest this information in a short period of time and gain a significant advantage.
I believe that the tempo and objective (run/pass/special play ratio) should be set by the play caller at the onset of the drive (i.e., the offensive coordinator should have a good idea of the layout of plays and how they will play out before the team begins a given drive). The offensive objective should also be set in pre-game preparation (study of game film). This plan should involve plays that the offense is capable of executing. When properly prepared, it is the play caller who pulls the right strings at the correct point in time and takes advantage of the preparation done throughout the week and throughout the game. The last portion of that sentence was the most important, as I honestly believe that Clemson under TB made the least game time adjustments of any team I can remember (see CU vs. UMd last year and CU vs Auburn in the Peach Bowl, as Clemson had no answer to the defensive adjustments these teams made). Bottom line...preparation is everything. Once the game starts, the war is broken down to individual battles for the offensive coordinator, with each battle being each individual offensive series.
Let me stop the digression...the coaches should have a good idea of the play call before the actual play. If there is a huge problem the qb can call a time out or (if the coaches allow) audible. Play calling is a chess game. Each coach knows his player and (through film study) should know the other players and other teams. Down and situation is the third variable to this situation (by knowing down and situation coupled with watching film and what the team has done in the game thus far, you should know the other team's tendencies). The items in parentheses dictate why a coach should be able to dictate plays from the sideline without much qualm.
The final point that I will make regarding controlling your own destiny is that this staff seems to be more proactive. Swinney has already said that all positions are up for grabs all the times. This is in direct opposition to TB's strategy of not changing until the system is broken beyond repair (or TB is about to get his ass fired, in Willie Simmon's case). Tom's strategy was to make a decision and never alleviate from this decision (particularly from a personnel standpoint). Swinney "hires and fires" on a daily basis. This increased competition will not only drive the players to practice and play better but will also ensure that the best and most prepared players on a weekly/daily basis will be utilized in game situations.
Thus, this long winded dictation says that Clemson cannot be a reactionary unit and must play to its strengths against its opponents weaknesses in game situations. We cannot wait for a player to fall into place, we must go out and find this person. By calling a play from the sidelines and running the play (or allowing the QB to audible at the LOS), you build rhythm and dictate the tempo of a drive. By creating competition weekly for all positions, you ensure that the best players will be on the field at all times.
Clemson's ability to maintain consistency. This issue is one that has peeved us over the years. One week the Tigers are world-beaters, the next we cannot beat Duke. Can the Tigers avoid the peaks and valleys that we have seen out of this team over the past 10 years? The big difference between this team and teams of the past is motivation by the coaching staff. This staff seems to have more of the "get after your ass" mentality than the previous group. I think that mistakes made this season will be more from lack of experience from a head coaching standpoint than a lackadaisical attitude by the team.
I also think that the simplification of the offense/reduction of the playbook coupled with more repetition in practice will allow the Tigers to execute more consistency. Repetition is the only way to drive home an idea/technique, and in turn gain consistency. You can bet Dabo will have the guys excited about playing football each week.
Physical Play that is Technically Sound. Nothing pisses me off worse than an arm tackle...and I have been regularly pissed off watching the Tigers the past few years. I will be interested to see the effect of the new coaches on this team. We are watching for mistakes all year long. You can bet your sweet ass that mistakes will be brought up on this blog, simply because they are avoidable and are often the difference between 3 pts and 6, getting the ball with 3 min left or 45 seconds left on the clock, winning and losing.
The new coaches (specifically Pearman, as a former TE here at CU) brings a fire for physical play. Swinney himself is committed to physical play. The effect of this commitment should be seen in goal line and short yardage situations. It should also be evident in the 4th quarter. The more physical team usually polishes off its opponent by wearing them down to nothing by the end of the game.
On a side note, congratulations to Coach Ford on being a member of the 2009 Football Championship Game Legends Class. Coach Ford is well deserving of such an honor and continues to contribute to Clemson University.
It is a travesty that Clemson University will not put the Block C on the side of the stadium...this is an issue that I am positive will be discussed in future blog.