I could not believe it. Saturday afternoon with Maryland, and Clemson got their ass beaten. After chatting with Dr. B (with both myself and the Dr. dropping about 20 WTF's), the only thing that is clear is that neither of us understand what any of our offensive coaches could be thinking. After wasting 3 hours of my life Saturday, everyone but CJ Spiller gets an F. From Swinney all the way down to the equipment managers, "F" is the grade.
There were not many bright spots, so I will go ahead and get the two I saw out of the way. Spiller is a fantastic athlete. He played to win. I just feel bad that he is wasting his talent with this clusterfuck of a program. Palmer also showed that he can catch the ball. Since our receivers can't catch a cold ass-naked in Alaska, I sincerely hope that Allen and Palmer get more chances throughout this year.
On to the rest of the story...Clemson did not play defense in the first half. On the two touchdowns, Clemson's defensive backs were out of position and UMd's receivers wanted the ball more. It did not help that Clemson could not pressure Maryland (specifically since MTSU and Rutgers whipped them up front). Clemson did get its act together defensively in the second half, but their play early on was unacceptable. Poor tackling and lackadaisical play ended up haunting the Tigers Saturday.
Offensively, I don't know what the hell went on Saturday. The WR play was crap. Clemson's WR's can't catch and sure as hell can't block. With this piss poor play, the play selection is even worse. If you cannot throw the ball, don't try to do it. PERIOD. Why Clemson doesn't just line up in the I and run the ball on first and second downs perplexes me. Clemson has a freshman QB, bad receivers, and a poor offensive line. The combination of these aspects indicates that CU does not nee to throw the ball 35 times a game.
Play calling looked like a video game. Did Napier just put all the plays he had in a bag and randomly draw plays out to run? After chatting with Dr. B, neither of us can figure out what kind of logic was used in this category. We do not utilize our speed with a vertical pass game. We do not stick to strong points when calling plays. Clemson goes from the I formation to a four wide receiver set. Clemson lined up and ran the ball pretty well early in the year only to abandon this since. CU must learn to get into third and short situations if the Tigers want to win any games this season.
In previous posts, I generated a simple checklist of attainable items that should be focused on. This list was apparently way too short and incomplete. There MUST be improvement this season. While we all knew this would be a learning event and would take some patience, I think the Maryland game was more trying than anyone expected all year, especially after the Bowden/Spence disaster over the past few years.
What Clemson must work on over the next two weeks.
QB play. While originally I wasn't too pissed at the play of our freshman QB, analysis of the game shows that he is clearly a freshman and is making too many mistakes. While part of this problem is the poor play up front and drops by his receivers, the coaches don't help him a bit with the poor play calling either. Parker is having difficulties anticipating where his receivers will be and focusing solely on one player. The sack at the end of the game was unacceptable, with the fumble only making this worse. Parker will need to make more plays either by becoming more precise with the football or by tucking the ball and getting up field for a few yards. After mulling over the idea of having two QB's, maybe it is a decent idea to give Korn more playing time. He looked really determined Saturday. I must admit that I shot this idea down earlier--and am still not sure that the timing was proper for the QB substitution--but now think that a shakeup under center would definitely be good for Korn and may allow KP to see the game from the outside and understand what he will need to do to be successful. At this point, I will try anything.
Receiver play. Please refer to the previous 4 weeks worth of posts on this position. This group is a definite weakness, with no one stepping up and making big catches. This, coupled with CU's inability to get the speedsters in more vertical routes, is really limiting this offense.
Offensive line. The right tackle position will be a weakness for this team all year. I am afraid that either Walker or Lambert will be a liability here. Both of these players have been beaten badly over the first 5 games, and many of these deriving from the lineman's inability to move his feet. The speed rush by CU's opponents has killed Clemson all year. Clemson must rely on more TE's and having the backs chip the ends. There is no way around helping whomever is in on the right side.
Running backs. I could care less if I see any more of Harper for a while. He does not run hard, and appears timid as he is trying to get to the line. Spiller and Ellington have both run well over the year, but Ellington has made a few mistakes leading to turnovers this season. I would still rather see Ellington spelling Spiller than Harper, and even have more confidence in Ellington getting a tough yard or two. It should be noted that the play calling coupled with some poor blocking makes these guys jobs a lot harder. Swinney/Napier could do these guys a favor with more power sets, running more iso and offtackle plays on FIRST AND SECOND DOWN (and on third down after success on the first two downs).
Defense. I really do not have to break down all positions on defense, but can give some general overviews. Clemson's defense (outside of 2nd quarter woes) played well enough for victory Saturday. Up front, Bowers had a nice game, recording a career high 2 sacks. McDaniel and the boys forced fumbles in critical portions of the football game. Clemson stopped Maryland in important 3rd and 4th down situations all day. Poor tackling really pissed me off halfway through the game. Fundamentals win football games, so you can never be too good of a tackling team.
Special teams. Obviously CJ Spiller kept CU in the game this past week with a fantastic kick return overcoming turf toe and losing a shoe while tossing some poor Maryland tacklers to the ground. This may be one of the last times this season someone takes the chance on kicking deep to Spiller. It should be noted that CJ is the national return man of the week after this performance. Otherwise, a miscue by the punt return team (Ellington unintentionally touching a punt after a clear "PETER" call) and a punt return given up for an (eventual) TD were not impressive. Since the defense played well after the fumble and CU only lost a little field position. The TD turned out to be the difference on the scoreboard. Richard Jackson, after drilling a long field goal of 50+, missed two critical attempts. This is the second week that Jackson has missed at critical portions in the contest. It should be noted that these field goals were fairly long, but I expected at least one of them to split the uprights.
Coaching. This is where there is a definite split between the experienced portion of the staff and the rookies. The experience gradient is obvious (to the defense of the offense staff, the defense is much more talented than the O. The defense is also much more fundamentally sound with their coaches giving offenses fits so far this year). On defense, once the players started getting after it (i.e., not in the 2nd quarter) Clemson played pretty well on defense. I was impressed with the play of Bowers Saturday. He is a big guy who can really move and get up the field when he wants to. The defense surrendered under 300 yards on Saturday. We must do a better job tackling and taking angles to the ballcarrier. Otherwise, the defense had a poor 2nd quarter, but surrendered very little after half. These fundamental mistakes can be fixed.
Offensively, the coaching was atrocious. Play calling was pathetic. Fundamentally, Clemson dropped a lot of passes and really could not get too much going. The use of formations sucked. The run/pass combination (especially late in the game when CU needed a field goal) was terrible. Clemson showed some success in the I formation running the ball. However, just as quickly as this success came, it was pissed away with pass attempts out of the gun. Clemson had better learn how to sustain drives in conservative formations by running the ball. Please, give your freshman QB some help by getting some yards on the ground on 1st and 2nd down. Please throw the ball vertically and utilize your speed. Please utilize the TE's more (to neutralize the opposition's ends as well as catch the ball. I think Palmer may be the only dependable choice outside of Spiller/Ford). Napier/Swinney have to create some sort of fluidity and rhythm offensively. So far, this offense can be described as choppy at best. Clemson has not shown a true offensive identity. Clemson has not shown that it can line up and do anything consistently. When Clemson is successful at something, the play callers immediately move away from what gained the success. I don't know why our staff is scared of getting in the I formation and running the ball plays. This team is a frustrating group to watch, especially with CU's inability to take care of business against a bad Maryland team.