Editor's Note: Season Review posts are intended as summaries of the season for use as a single reference later, not exhaustive review posts.
2010 Season Review
Our plan for the future with respect to football is to begin releasing position-by-position reviews and prospectus. We think it is best to evaluate the coaches based on their entire body of work, and this involves recruiting. The ones who are gone will not be affected and we doubt what we have to say will truly influence any recruits before signing day, so expect to see them in the next two weeks.
This post is intended as a review down the road, in case we need to look at what happened in the past, so short synopses are given, and we specifically track the QB play, OL play, defensive performance, etc. to see how they varied throughout the year to tell a short story of the 2011 season.
|Opponent||Score||Opp Final Record||Standing|
|Troy||W 43-19||3-9||7th Sun Belt|
|Wofford||W 35-27||8-4||2nd SoCon (1-AA)|
|Auburn||W 38-24||8-5||4th SEC West|
|Florida State||W 35-30||9-4||2nd ACC Atlantic|
|Virginia Tech||W 23-3||11-3||1st ACC Coastal|
|Boston College||W 36-14||4-8||5th ACC Atlantic|
|@ Maryland||W 56-45||2-10||6th ACC Atlantic|
|UNC||W 59-38||7-6||4th ACC Coastal|
|@ GT||L 31-17||8-5||2nd ACC Atlantic|
|Wake Forest||W 31-28||6-7||3rd ACC Atlantic|
|@ NC State||L 37-13||8-5||4th ACC Atlantic|
|@ South Carolina||L 34-13||11-2||2nd SEC East|
|ACCCG: Virginia Tech||W 38-10||11-3|
|Orange Bowl: West Virginia||L 70-33||10-3||Big East Champs|
|Final Record||10-4 (7-2 ACC)||106-74|
Biggest Win: Auburn was defending National Champions, but winning at night in Lane Stadium and the ACC in Charlotte are the biggest wins.
Worst Defeat: All of them were bad. Clemson was essentially run off the field in every loss.
Record in Death Valley: Unbeaten
Final Ranking: 22 AP, Coaches. 15th in BCS. 32 in FEI.
While the score and statsheet says that Clemson trounced the Trojans, the game was much uglier than that indicates. This was one of those games where it was obvious that there was a skill talent gap and Troy couldn't keep up. Clemson's Charmin-soft lines were pushed around by the Trojans, on both sides. Even after the D put things together in the 2nd half, we never really pushed Troy around. Here's what I said postgame:
We have been on the Caldwell wagon since before he got here. I know he's been a good coach, but the OL got their asses kicked today and theres no excuse for it. I have said several times to those that defend Joey Batson that our functional strength sucks, and it was showcased today. We have more talent than Troy does up front, we're stronger than Troy up front, and we couldn't punch it in from the 1 yard line. We have shown you that the new offense is an A-gap-to-A-gap system inside, and we didn't get a damn thing inside.
Tajh had a very rocky start to this one but he put his act together. Clemson led only 16-13 at the half with 6 3&outs. He made a number of bad reads and threw balls into double coverage. Troy didnt have the personnel to exploit his mistakes.
Troy's defense threw a mix of defensive fronts against us, both ODD and EVEN. Troy's primary set is a 5DB group, and they made a habit of zone blitzing and running stunts into Clemson's line that could not be picked up. In the 2nd half, Troy's linemen were clearly gassed and Clemson started to light them up. I don't believe it was just that our OL figured out how to block their zone blitzes and stunts, as you'll notice further along.
While the offense as a whole stuttered in the 1st half (62 yds on 28 plays after the first drive), Sammy Watkins let us know on the 2nd play of the game that he was a star.
In the 2nd half the offense went with high percentage pass plays and did begin to get some interior runs on the Power and Counter as Troy wore down late. Ellington looked unlike himself, which became a recurring thought all year as well. Mike Bellamy let us know about his abilities as well.
Clemson's defense showed the primary problem that would affect them all season: bad tackling. Open field tackling was quite bad but gap control up front was decent. Troy has an Air Raid offense and still ran for 168 with 423 yards of offense.
Another big problem that kept recurring was the play of the safeties in deep coverage. They did not do a good job of helping the corners underneath, and they went for the ball on an INT instead of the receiver. If they had, Troy might not have scored 2 TDs. Breeland was beaten on one of them that should not have happened.
Wofford is a pesky opponent for anyone, but they shouldn't be anywhere close to Clemson at the end of a game. This one was not one of those games where the other team racks up points against the scrub defense in the 4th quarter. Clemson as a whole looked like they had not watched their film from the Troy game, and the same mistakes were made again in this contest. Wofford managed to confuse our offensive line the entire game out of their 3-4 front, and did the same things Troy did, with even lesser talented personnel.
After Tribble Reese led the TigerWalk with his hoes, Dabo rocked the Camo because he's hardcore, and the game was a total shitshow. Wofford jumped up 14-6 in the 1st before AE got free for 74.
Clemson's OL was beaten with the same Fire Zones that Troy employed, despite our newer, simpler adjustments up front. Part of the blame there can be spread to the QB for not reading blitzers and adjusting back protections, and two sacks were a result of this, but the OL as a whole was still outmaneuvered in their gaps.
Otherwise Tajh made a noticeable progression from the week before. He did not force but one ball into coverage late, and the offense appeared to be simplified for him with reads. Very few read option plays were run compared to the previous game.
Brandon Thompson completely manhandled Wofford's Center the entire contest. Coach Mike Ayers made a nice adjustment to this by running an inside FB Trap right at Brandon, and it was Wofford's best play the entire game. The MLB was never there to cover the gap once Brandon got trapped, and Rennie Moore showed that he would not become a run-stopper. As usual, Clemson could not tackle at all, and our skills against the option were lacking. Wofford runs the WingBone offense, so it does use similar plays to Georgia Tech and we did not attack it well. We sat back and waited on the plays and when you read the option instead of attacking, it beats you. We could control the interior plays well enough thanks to BT, but could never set the edge.
Lots of Clemson supporters tried to explain away these defensive problems by saying we were young up front. That is not the case. We played mostly starters the entire game. The guys like Shatley, Moore, Goodman, Branch, Thompson are all experienced, and they played most of the snaps. Don't let anyone tell you that it was all the Barnes', Jarretts, Williams' playing in there that caused our problems with the FB Trap. We didn't really give the backup LBs many snaps (< 10). The LBs were a big problem in this game early, along with the DEs, in setting the edge and controlling the perimeter.
Was the tackling issue something that reared its head in camp?
I saw it coming. Let’s leave it at that. We’ll get it fixed. You’d be surprised if you broke it down. It’s a select few. It’s not mass. This guy’s got one, this guy’s got two, then all of a sudden who have eight, nine, 10. You have to be careful saying the whole team’s tackling poorly. I can name five or six starters who have none or one through two games.
Its hard not to still be excited about the outcome of this game. It was one of the best offensive performances I've ever seen Clemson put up against a good opponent. Yardagewise it probably is the best I can ever recall. 624 yards and 92 plays run against Auburn. 386 yards passing and 239 rushing. Auburn wasn't expected to have a banner year after losing most of their National Title squad, but the memory of defeating another defending champion is something I'm sure we will not forget here.
When the game started, you could tell the Valley was rocking and there was potential to have a special day. It wasn't all sunshine from the beginning though. In the first three drives we punted each time, twice because Antoine McClain could not block anyone on 3rd downs.
We went down early and it started looking pretty bad at 21-7 in the 2nd Q. Our defense was getting worn out and their already poor open field tackling got noticably worse, but it wasn't an especially hot day. Auburn was doing the things that scared us the most when we looked at them on tape, and getting to the edge with their better WR and edge blocking.
Then when Clemson put together the 12 play 80 yard drive to make it 21-14, we looked like we had a chance. We held the ball long enough to at least give the defense a rest after they gave up the 90 yard drive. That answer was huge for our defense to get their breath back and regroup. They got a big stop, and we put together another 75 yard drive to tie it at 21.
Clemson's defense had a few problems aside from tiredness and horrid tackling. We were being killed by Michael Dyer on the bucksweep and perimeter plays because DBs were not in position. Safeties were being cracked, LBs could not get over, and the DEs never set the edge. I have always been confident in Steele's halftime adjustments, and we held Auburn to two 60+ yard drives in the 2nd half, chiefly as a result of two things. #1, Malzahn stopped running Dyer, and #2 we kept hitting Barrett Trotter all day.
Why Malzahn stopped doing so is beyond our comprehension, because he was not injured. Later on in the season I heard various rumblings on Finebaum's show that suggested this was Chizik's doing and a source of their division.
Offensively, we could not muscle the ball inside all day, even against one of the worst defenses we faced all year. What we were able to do though is to get outside on the perimeter, and thats where Clemson gained the majority of the rushing yards.
In the second half, Sammy Watkins put us up 28-21 with a Snag.
and Auburn couldn't finish a drive after that. Clemson put up big drive after drive.
However the best drive of the whole day was a 16 play, 9:34 drive that moved the ball 75 yards to ice the ballgame. Just like the first drive against Auburn in 2010, this was probably the best drive of the entire season.
FSU came into this game off a loss to Oklahoma, which their fans will remind you of every time you mention that Clemson shredded their vaunted defense into little bitty pieces. They'll constantly remind you as well that they had several injuries that impacted their performance and that ACC refs hate them (join the club), and that otherwise Clemson would've been blown off the field by Fisher's Sainthood.
There are always extenuating circumstances in football games. We defeated the defending champs, and then the defending Atlantic champs whose fans thought their defense would stifle Clemson. They didn't, and couldnt beat Wake Forest either. We carved them up like a turkey and put enough pressure on the coverage that some guys were forced to commit PI or get beat for a TD. You had a chance to stop those TDs after the penalties and didn't do it. We'd have won last year if our offensive staff hadn't stepped on their own dick because The Skirt straight-up PUNKED the FSU defense up and down the field. Many Nole fans thought it would be the closest game we ever played again, wrong. If your team was as good as you thought, they'd have beaten Clemson this year, plain and simple. That works for anyone and these things go both ways.
Some thought we had opened up the playbook, but we didn't. Clemson stuck with what worked the weeks beforehand and executed at a very high level in the passing game. What was for the rest of the season a good coverage squad got ripped by poor matchups with Dwayne Allen and Sammy Watkins because they tried to play M2M coverage. Dumb. Pass protection by the OL, considering the opponent talent, was very good. FSU had some success in the pass rush towards the end of the 1st half, but the number of plays run really wore down the defensive front's legs.
Clemson's run blocking was weak, as usual. Andre had very few holes to hit and didn't appear to be 100% at all, but gutted his way to 71 on 23 carries. Had Clemson been able to run inside, this game might not have come down to a final sack by Rennie Moore to end it.
Clemson's defense did not match the offense's level of play. Chunk plays killed them.Their 2nd TD was a 57 yard pass. In the 3rd they hit a 41 yarder. Another score on a 30 yarder. Thats ~130 yards of just chunks. The last TD drive was set up by a pass + roughing.
We were shredded by the first of many backup QBs this defense faced. Many of the throws Clint Trickett made were outstanding, but in general the coverage was too loose and the tackling too bad. Clemson managed to hold the FSU run game to 29 yards, but Fisher basically gave up on the run early and their OL never did play at a very high level in the run game.
I think most of us could've only hoped to sit 4-0 after this far, we said in the preseason that winning 2 of the 3 big games here would make a good year, but we somehow managed all 3. Its sad that we couldnt finish it and have a truly special year.
We were all inching towards Cloud 9. We had just defeated the defending National Champions soundly, then pistol-whipped FSU's defense at home. We climbed up to 13th for this matchup with 11th-ranked Tech. I think it is fair to say most of us were a little intimidated by going up to Blacksburg, where we've been pounded on pretty well by Beamer's perennially well-coached team. Somehow on this cold rainy night, Clemson put together one of their best total performances of the season.
Mike O'Cain was promoted from QB Coach to playcaller for the Hokies this year and was charged with developing Logan Thomas into another dependable QB for Beamer. Unfortunately, his skill as a playcaller remains nonexistent. He couldn't figure out Duke in 2004, and definitely had no good gameplan for Steele's defense in front of the home crowd on this night. The Hokies offense consisted of David Wilson and more David Wilson.
Clemson didn't do a good job at all on Wilson, giving up 123 yards and 6.2 per carry, but despite overall poor tackling the Hokies could not put a drive together. However Tech would not just force-feed him the ball when it mattered, despite the success he had. O'Cain just had a pitiful gameplan that mishmashed spread and power running, and didn't appear to know what to call. Why he never went max-protect to help Thomas is another head-scratcher because we dominated them up front in the 2nd half. Clemson lost Breeland early in the game and there was no concerted effort to attack his replacement, or anyone else in our poor secondary either.
Clemson's offense faced the usually stout Foster defense, and gritted this one out. Tech was rated 4th in total defense, FSU 5th the week before, and Boyd did a good job taking what they gave us. The OL did a good job giving him time as well, and Brandon Thomas supplanted David Smith at LG. Dwayne Allen was indefensible in the flats, which was basically all Tech allowed us to hit due to the Cover 4 package they run. They were the first team to manage stifling Sammy Watkins with very physical coverage. Jaron Brown made some very key catches on 3rd downs to keep drives moving instead of Nuk and Sammy.
Clemson did not have great success running the ball and managed only one long drive in the game. Until Bellamy broke a late 31yd TD run, we had only put up around 90 yards. Andre Ellington didn't appear to be himself, but had no holes to run through at all, and gritted his way to 40 yards total.
While we were very happy, we also warned to just take sips of the Orange Kool-Aid.
Please, don't chug the orange flavored Kool-Aid just yet and don't solely use the orange tinted glasses. This team has played well this year and has exceeded what I expected going into the year. Winning each of the last three games without any sort of letdown has been impressive. I will caution you. We still have Boston College this week (yes, I know they suck but they give us fits annually), a well coached Georgia Tech team, and a talent rich UNC team. Hopefully this team keeps it going and hopefully we speak highly of Swinney come season's end. Trust me, we like talking good about our football team much more than when we have to point out the negatives. So far Swinney has had a great season, but the season is less than half complete and we want 10 wins.
Incidentally, we heard that Clemson's last week of really physical practices, until the ACCCG, was the week of the Tech game.
The gameplay was fairly ho-hum as the Tigers went to 6-0 following a 36-14 victory over BC. Clemson began the game with a 17 point first quarter behind a Boyd to Brown TD, Catman 38 yard FG, then a Boyd scamper for a TD. The first drive was a real thing of beauty:
The second half provided more anxiety when Tajh Boyd went down with a hip injury early in the 3rd period near the BC goal line. His injury looked serious but, fortunately, was more or less a bruise caused by insufficient padding and a tough hit. Admittedly, my first concern after seeing the hit and Tajh laying on the turf was the knee, which was definitely not the case. Clemson did cap the aforementioned possession with another field goal to stretch its lead. Clemson (Meeks) was able to intercept an Eagle pass near the goal line, giving Cole Stoudt the ball deep in his own territory. A near fumble on that drive scared us a little and Clemson was forced to punt from its own 6. Boston College did strike some concern, scoring on its following drive to narrow the Clemson lead to 12 points. Clemson then put the game away with a 13 play field goal drive in the 3rd and a 35 yard TD scamper by Andre Ellington early in the fourth quarter.
The items of interest here include the Boyd injury, Clemson’s relative effectiveness under Stoudt’s direction, and Catman’s five field goals on the afternoon. We thought that both quarterbacks played well on the day, particularly Stoudt who had received little "meaningful" playing time entering this contest. This injury shows how important having a capable backup is for an offense that attempts to run 85 plays per game and occasionally requires its QB to run the ball on designed draws and zone read type plays. Anytime you run that many plays and ask your QB to run the football, there is a reasonable risk of injury. Boyd’s decision/gameplay item that scared me was his attempted pass as he was being tackled. This effort looked similar to the fumble Boyd committed against FSU when he was trying to make something out of nothing and gave up a TD.
I should note again the great play by the receivers, particularly Sammy Watkins. Watkins cracked the 150 yard mark and his play highlighted by a grab for a huge gain on Tajh’s final drive. Additionally, Brown had a couple big catches including the TD and Andre Ellington pitched in for 117 yards and a TD on 22 carries.
Clemson’s defense was able to force two turnovers—an early fumble to set up a first quarter TD and the aforementioned third quarter interception to stop that BC drive. Clemson was also able to stop BC on two fourth down attempts, both near the game’s end. This defense was effective overall against a bad Eagle but more "traditional" offense. Still the CU defense was, per usual, hampered by quite a few missed tackles. We were shredded by another backup, this time BC's 4th string RB. I was particularly disappointed in the tackling on BC’s scoring plays. Numerous Tigers were lying face down after missed tackles here. When you miss tackles, bad things happen. Also, we did a terrrible job covering the slot WR, who atte us up all day.
We have been Clemson fans long enough to know that a fast start often comes crashing down via a game that Clemson should win. This trip to Maryland had that kind of feel all week. It was a game that Clemson should have easily won especially when you consider Maryland's early season woes (2-4 overall, 1-2 in ACC going into the game). However, I am still bitter regarding the embarrassing loss our Tigers suffered in their 2009 trip to Byrd Stadium. As it turned out, this concern was warranted but Clemson was able to sneak out with a shootout win this time around. Maryland never recovered and lost the remainder of its games to finish the 2011 campaign with a dismal 2-10 record.
This game was absolutely ridiculous and turned into a track meet very early. CU was down 7-3 early after Sammy Watkins muffed a punt in the 1st. Maryland continued their push and eventually led 28-17 heading into the half. UMd came out and tagged yet another TD on the tally early in the 3rd and was up by 18 early in the second half. Clemson fought back with a tremendous all around effort from Sammy. Watkins had a school record 345 all-purpose yards on the night including a kick return that propelled the Tigers to victory. Almost overlooked because of Watkins' performance was a jam up night for Andre Ellington. The Junior ran for 212 yards on 24 carries and scored twice. His ability to run the football against a porous defense gave Chad Morris many weapons to attack the Turtles.
If you haven't noticed, we are not amused by shootouts. We definitely frown upon shootouts against a team that was forced to make a change at the signal calling position the week prior. Clemson was very fortunate to out-athlete the Terps and make plays late when really needed.
The defense was horrendous. Steele's crew gave up 468 yards and nearly 300 of those were on the ground. UMd backup QB C.J. Brown slaughtered our Tigers, passing for nearly 180 yards and three TDs then running for 162 yards and another score.
Here is what we had to say following the game regarding Steele's defense:
It wasn't all good, obviously. Kevin Steele's defense looked like garbage on Saturday. The Tigers allowed a sophomore quarterback in his first start to absolutely rip them apart, particularly on the ground. The overall tackling was completely unacceptable and must be corrected.
Well, this was a good preview of what was to come from this defense this season, particularly against a spread-type attack. Clemson's tackling was horrid against Maryland and featured terrible linebacker play. Maryland was able to spread the defense out and kill Clemson's poor linebacker play and fundamental failure to properly tackle using a quick and agile quarterback. C.J. Brown sliced this defense up and made them look silly due to poor fundamentals. Maryland even let OC Gary Crowton leave town after the season.
Here is what we said immediately following the football game:
But then theres the defense....and I'd dock Kevin Steele's pay for that performance tonight. They looked like they had prepared for a completely different team. There is no excuse for a defense at Clemson playing as bad as that one did tonight. It was like watching Reggie Herring's defenses again. Nobody took good angles. We cannot tackle in space. No one was mentally prepared for this ballgame; it was not the scheme but the coaching. This was not a scheme problem, because the Robber coverage we were playing does put a free man over the middle that is effectively a spy on the QB. It just didnt work because our Robber didnt feel like taking the right angle or making the damn tackle. Then, when it was apparent that it wasn't working, Steele kept at it. 99% of the time he'd make the adjustment to zone underneath at halftime, and he didnt make it until later in the 3rd.
We further delved into an item that became a glaring problem all season: Clemson's safety play. Again, safety help was not there for the corners. Poor angles and problematic play by Meeks and Hall really hurt this team against the pass play.
Kevin Steele admitted that the poor defensive play was his fault and promised to correct the play out of his functional group and the unit as a whole moving forward...
A lot of people were very high after this outcome due to the final score and how we dominated in the 3rd quarter, but we weren't so thrilled. Again the safeties appeared to have not practiced much at all in coverage. This is what I said immediately following the game:
Our pass coverage is purely shit. There is no nice way of putting it. You might want to point out that UNC has 2 really good WRs, and you’d be right, but I watched the coverage all day and these guys are clueless. I had projected before this year began that it would be our safety play that saved our young corners from being roasted one on one. I think now that it’s the other way around. Double moves badly beat both of them all day, which you don’t always get to see on the TV camera. UNC hit us with hitches and quick passes early, but the Post is the Safety’s #1 responsibility and our guys all got roasted. It looks like they don’t know where to go or who to pick up, whereas Breeland or Robinson at least pick up the right guy. Even Rashard Hall, playing with one good knee, is nowhere near where I’d expect him to be. Everybody looks confused.
UNC ate us badly with bunch formations that caused the safeties to have to decide who to cover, and they usually picked late or picked wrong. The CB play was decent. It was clear at this point that the defense needed to be simplified, but it wasn't. Tackling inside between the tackles was pretty good and the DL did alright, but in the open field we didn't like it:
I think it may be time for Steele to go into simplification mode. If we can’t tackle, then there’s little point in practicing 5-10 different fronts and blitzes. If the DE lets Renner out of his clutches on a clean sack because he wouldn’t wrap up, or several passes go for extra yards because of bad angles and the inability to wrap up, then we have problems. This has to be corrected now, because even though GT’s offense is sputtering, it can still kill a defense that won’t wrap up.
The big highlight though was the turnover that Kourtnei Brown forced and returned for 6.
And Dwight Jones stated pregame that he was a better "technical WR" than Watkins, yet got only 16 yards total against our secondary. Boyd and others torched us though. UNC scored twice late against starters and again vs a mix, but the defense stifled them enough for the offense to wake up.
Our offense sputtered in the 1st half, largely a result of our problems picking up their blitzes and handling their talented DL. After a good OL performance against MD's pitiful DL, we could not keep anyone out of Boyd's face and could not open up anything for AE, who again looked injured. In the 2nd half we turned it around with big play after big play, largely due to some WTF coverage calls by UNC and Boyd didn't press as much. Why you wouldn't keep a Safety over Watkins is beyond my comprehension, and he killed them as a result. They did use the C2/C4 combos, but whenever they went Man on Watkins or Hopkins or Bryant, we roasted them.
Overall this win was good and against a talented team but felt a little hollow. It almost felt like 2000 again, when we could put up big points and the defense could never stop anyone from scoring.
Despite Ellingtons absence, this game started off well for our Tigers. Tajh and company drove 67 yards on 12 plays to open the game’s scoring with a field goal.That was the best part of the football game for Clemson up in Atlanta. Georgia tech responded, scoring one TD in the first period following a fumble on CU’s next possession. Clemson missed a field goal and GT tacked on a couple more touchdowns to take a 24-3 lead into half. The second half was little better for the Tigers.CU opened the second half with a 70 yard TD drive that featured a 48 yard pitch and catch between Boyd and Watkins.Tech answered with a 75+ yard drive that took just over 2 minutes.Clemson and GT traded fumbles before Clemson finalized the scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter.
How did Tech, a team that had been beaten before, whip formerly undefeated Clemson by two scores?
Here is what we said in the day after rant:
Back to reality. Clemson lost the game last night because GT wanted it more, plain and simple. We got whipped up and down the football field. We were fortunate with a couple of items and official's calls that went our way but ultimately poor defensive play, inability to properly respond to Al Groh's pressure schemes, and our offense turning the ball over/not capitalizing when opportunity knocked that caused last night's loss.
Most obvious issue for the Tigers were the turnovers—four of them on the evening and two while the game was reasonably close.An early fumble by D. J. Howard gave the Yellow Jackets immediate momentum and led to their first score.Mike Bellamy coughed the ball up early in the 3rd when trailing 31-10.The final two turnovers were 4th quarter interceptions, the first a big mistake as the Tigers were on the cusp of cutting the Tech lead to seven.Tajh made a poor read and was picked off in the endzone.Tech’s ball control following the INT all but sealed the deal for the night.
Tech was also able to keep the ball out of Clemson’s possession, holding the ball for nearly 2/3 of the football game while amassing 383 yards and four touchdowns on the night.Clemson had no answer for quarterback Tevin Washington.The Junior from Alabama ripped the Clemson defense for 176 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown on the night. This after Miami and Maryland and UVA had given Tech problems BECAUSE they forced Washington to keep the ball.
What was most frustrating and what we’d seen many times over was a Clemson defense that showed poor fundamental play.Clemson did a poor job attacking the veer and midline because we refused to put the quarterback on his ass every play, couldn’t get in proper position, and were decimated by Tech’s cut blocking schemes. If you dont attack the option, and try to read it, it will kill you. Tech held the ball 39 minutes. Overall, we looked soft.It is difficult to play these teams if you don’t practice properly and I question how much hitting actually went on before this one.Georgia talked about how they were wide open, particularly hitting hard with the cut blocks for lengthy sessions prior to their contest against Tech and they whipped the Jackets.We, on the other hand, looked as though we’d never seen a cut block before (again).
While Boyd had little time, our WR play was hampered by the physical zone coverage Tech employed in deflecting routes. Pass blocking was obviously bad, but our OL outweighed Tech's 3-man front by a good amount and couldnt move them.
Clemson dismissed reserve FS Desmond Brown the following week, but he was expected to transfer anyway.
Clemson had a bye week following the GT game that was needed badly. We were tired, beat up a little, and it was clear the team was faltering. The offense wasn't clicking quite as well, and Tajh looked much more confused against Tech. We still weren't running the ball well at all inside, the perimeter runs werent as successful because opponents overplayed us outside, and the defense went down the toilet. Still, with Ellington out, there was something to point at as a cause for nothing happening in Atlanta.
We expected Clemson to come out guns blazing and demolish the Preachers. Two weeks off, Senior Day, our talent advantage, and the ACC Atlantic championship on the line appeared motivation enough for us to destroy them. We didn't, and what followed was arguably the most disappointing win of the year. After the game we said this:
There is no excuse for a team to take 2 weeks off before a game that decides the Division and look as horrible as we did today. I saw a team that was not mentally prepared to play and that looked like they hadn't practiced a football snap in 2 weeks. The offense looked bad, special teams was bad, and the defense is regressing further when they should begin improving after an off week to work on fundamentals. Thankfully our guys woke up in the 4th quarter to pull this game out at home 31-28.
It is a small wonder we scored on two nice drives in the first half with the poorest play from Tajh since the Spring game. He was clearly not right mentally and wasn't reading coverages. He was locking in on receivers without seeing all the defenders around them. Wake Forest could've had over 5 INTs today but only got the 2 he threw right at them. After the last pick, I noticed The Chad decided to make him take bubble screens and hit the safety valves underneath (which was open all day) along with the TE. That got him into the rhythm we needed to win it. Tajh wanted to hit the big play early, and when you underthrow balls and throw into areas without thinking, it gets ugly fast.
Clemson's OL, which averages over 300lbs, could not move a 3-man WF line that averaged 260. We could not move them at all for Andre Ellington to get through. We see ODD fronts all the time, but when both guards are completely uncovered its like we don't know who to block. That is pathetic. Troy did it, Wofford did it, GT and WF have done 30 fronts, and we're 30-40+ lbs bigger per man. Part coaching, part soft players, part Batson. Pass protection was much better in this one.
The offense was poor, and Tajh had a terrible game, partly because he locked on Watkins immediately after the snap. Wake's gameplan was sit back and wait for Clemson to screw it up, and we nearly did. Wake sat back in soft 2/3-deep zones just like GT and Tajh threw it right to their guys without reading the coverage. Tajh was just too confident in his arm today, and thought he could throw the bullet through the guy in the other jersey. Once Sammy went down with a shoulder sprain, Tajh was forced to look around and the offense really got better. 522 total yards is a nice number but three turnovers is not, and most who watched this game would not say it was anywhere near a dominant offensive performance. Fortunately this offense was able to capitalize late in the game to keep Clemson's ACC Championship dreams alive. Allen and Jaron Brown both had really good days to pick us up.
The Defense was pretty weak, but the turnovers were in bad spots too. WF didn't kill us with the big plays so much as short passes and basically dinked/dunked all the way down the field. The pass rush was poor but there were a lot of uncalled holds in this one as well.
What we thought after the film review:
Our gap control up front is bad. That is the cause of us giving up another 100+ yd game to another 2nd/3rd string RB. Pendergrass wasn't even the starter remember. The truth is that our defense is not going to get much better this season. It'll likely get worse.
...I saw us run a lot of fronts in this game early, and I don't think we can handle it. We don't even play our base fronts correctly, and we're showing 3 or 4 more fronts? You can't cut the whole playbook out, but the LBs don't attack, they play slow and reactive like they don't know what to do.
....Goodman looks so slow that he's nearly useless. He's so big now that he looks like a better 3-technique than End. The speed rush he once had is gone. Steele says he's doing his job, and the film shows it, but he's not ever making a play. I think he needs to work on technique and lose 15lbs.
We need speed at DE badly. We need a pass rush. If you play Man coverage with no pass rush, youre asking for it. One feeds on the other's success. Pressure coverage requires you to get pressure on a QB, and we got none until the end of the game. This is why the young corners are having a rougher time. It would help them if they knew how to jam someone out of their cleats, but they dont collectively.
The best thing we can say about the defensive performance is that they put it together at the end of the game and got the needed stops to win it, after we screamed for Steele to switch to Press Man at halftime. Wake got the momentum but we pulled it back to win the game with a Catman clincher.
NC State 37 - Clemson 13 - No film review for this game, Stats
LOL where do we start? Tom O'Brien's squad led the conference in turnover margin and forced a whopping 20 interceptions, 7 more than anyone else in the ACC coming into the game. What do you not want to do against a bad team that forces a lot of turnovers?
It was so bad I couldn't stand to watch the tape for a review, and only recently watched it again. There is still not much constructive to say.
NC State's defense was not a good one coming into this game. While CB David Amerson is elite, there isn't much else on the defensive team to be afraid of. However, Sammy Watkins was out and State was motivated to play and it definitely showed up front. They physically whipped our OL and every time we dropped back to pass, they were in the backfield before Tajh could set his feet. With Price out, we could do nothing at all to stop the edge rush.
The other problem was again the turnovers. Each one deflated the offense more and they'd just press harder and screw up again. The first big one happened at 7-3 in the 2nd with a Boyd fumble on a sack at the 10, and State scored. As soon as we got the ball back, Bellamy fumbled at the 20. NCSU had to kick a FG, which was a win for the D, but we punted on the next drive and they returned it 34 yards and only had another 11 to get another TD. At that point it was 24-3 and State put up another FG on a 60 yard drive to make it 27-3 at the half.
I don't think the team quit, but their heads were down. The same pattern struck against West Virginia.
Clemson had no fire in the 2nd half to do anything, but it was clear that Glennon had known how to pick apart our defense and they put up another 10. Our OL was so poor in a pass definite situation that we could do little offensively. Ellington had only 28 yards as Clemson put up 34 total. Nuk Hopkins played very hard and finished with 124 yards, as the only one to do anything when the team was down big, just like WV.
South Carolina 34 - Clemson 13 - No film review for this game, Stats
This contest was very, very disappointing to say the least. Clemson had not lost three consecutive football games to the other school in the state since the Nixon-era. Yet, for the third consecutive year, Clemson got worked by the Gamecocks—there is simply no other way to describe it.
From our post game wrapup:
Well I don't know what to say that I have not said here many times before. Clemson is a Charmin Soft football team that has been whipped at the point of attack by teams with superior functional physical and mental strength... …And Clemson's defense is the worst Clemson defense I can remember. Tommy West's teams sucked overall, but they could still play good fundamental defense.
Then from our thoughts the next day:
What an effort out of our team and, most importantly, our coaching staff. Same shit we saw last week, the week before that, then the game before that. South Carolina was without Kyle Nunn, Marcus Lattimore, and a host of others. With their average/below average offensive line, a quarterback who struggles with the forward pass, and a running back who has discussed leaving the program with eligibility left because he will be so far down the depth chart next year he may not even see the field, SCar was able to completely dominate Clemson's defense. Our gap control sucked. Tackling fundamentals sucked. Overall aptness is pitiful. We are 12 games into the freaking season and simply look lost the majority of the time. Begrudgingly, I have accepted that either the defense is too complicated or our coaches just aren't getting through to the players. This is unacceptable… …We don't play proper fundamental football. This is an attitude issue.
South Carolina was able to dominate Clemson running the football. The relatively inexperienced Conner Shaw had a field day on the ground, rolling over a CU defense that again could not bottle up a mobile quarterback.
South Carolina was able to dominate Clemson running the football with a guy who wanted to transfer due to lack of PT as the 3rd/4th string RB and backup QB. The relatively inexperienced Conner Shaw had a field day on the ground, rolling over a CU defense that again could not bottle up a mobile quarterback. On the other side of the football, Clemson was largely ineffective on offense. Tajh could do nothing against the USC defense which pressured him all night. This was by far the worst pass protection on the season for Clemson’s offense that was, in their defense, playing without several key players for a portion of the football game. On the night, CU had just over 150 TOTAL yards in the football game. Boyd threw for a measly 83 yards, one TD, and one pick on 29 attempts. Clemson mustered only 12 first downs on 60 total offensive plays…not exactly a recipe for Chad Morris success. Make no mistake, Clemson had its opportunities but mearly mustered a field goal off of a blocked punt and did give up critical TD passes in addition to the thrashing delivered on the ground.
This was a complete team failure for the Tigers and it was really ugly to watch. I certainly hope that Clemson does not drop another one to Carolina next year in Death Valley, though the margin between the two teams seemed to be widening even further following the latest faceplant performance in Columbia.
After the crap that we saw from GT forward—and particularly in a team that appeared to quit in Columbia—things did not look overly positive heading into a rematch against Virginia Tech for the ACC crown…
Before the game, after the debacle in Columbia, Dabo had been stewing over something reportedly said by Spurrier, not the attitude from Allen and Walker and others that SC didn't matter and only the ACCCG did. I'd wager this on-camera response to Spurrier was orchestrated with someone like the AD shill David Hood, but I don't know the voices in the video who asked questions.
In any event, we hypothesized about what Clemson had stopped doing over the last few weeks and what the real problems were over the season. Clemson had things going right in Blacksburg, but there were some issues that crept in afterwards. The playcalling had taken a turn towards a direction where Chad wanted to go, but not where they should've gone. He didn't call the jet sweep anymore (partly due to Watkins' shoulder injury) and had called runs by Tajh that weren't actually option calls. Ellington was beat up and the Guards were called out for their poor play. Overall the playbook appeared to be trimmed back too far and I didnt think it needed to be yet.
There is nothing wrong with the scheme itself. There are issues with the playcalling in situations that I have had, but I believe these have been strongly influenced by issues ultimately related to S&C and fundamentals. It is our opponents who have learned a strategy that has seemed to work, and they won’t change it until you can beat it. Zone coverage, zone blitzes, and dropping 7-8 into coverage is not a magic recipe to stop this system. FSU did these things and we carved them up. It just happens to be what is working now and our guys have not defeated it.
Morris has gone to forcing Boyd to keep the ball to make him a running threat. The read option plays that look like zone reads are in fact not being read for the most part, and are called plays from the sideline. In principle this is a good idea to make your QB a threat, because you want the defense to play you honest on the IZ staple of this system. Tajh is not going to be a great runner, but being merely effective is possible, if your OL can move people.
Because of the Guard play, many other plays seem to have fallen to the wayside. Power O was run heavily earlier, and rarely gets called now. Counters (and Counter H) get called more. The play I call IV Jet sweep, since it uses the IV blocking scheme (except that TE blocks the DE, so its not really an option), which is what Sammy used primarily as his run play, is nonexistent lately. It disappeared before the shoulder injury. The Trap is nonexistent.
Because of that, defenses can now easily take chances by dropping 8 into coverage and confusing Boyd with more looks. Why would they ever stack the box when the offense cant run the ball?
Those were the major problems for the offense, and the defense had poor fundamentals and no one did their jobs.
Most of us thought it was over. Tech would destroy us.
Before the ACCCG, the team had a meeting where the coaches pulled a lowlight reel together and showed them as a group that no one had been doing their jobs. Dabo made each player stand up and say that they would do their jobs this week. Its a tough job to pick a team up from the losses they'd just taken, but Dabo did.
Clemson beat Virginia Tech like a damn drum.
Logan Thomas had visibly improved over the year after the first game, but went back to his old self. O'Cain had a bad gameplan again and ran the ball even less than before, and Wilson was perfectly healthy. Clemson's defense looked just as dominant up front as they did in Blacksburg. We attacked instead of waiting and reading things. Our guys wanted to hit and they hammered on Tech.
I think we expected Foster's defense to do just as well as before, but they didnt. They did play well up front, but CU went max-protect quite a bit to prevent another sacking debacle. The defense had the same strategy, but Watkins was uncoverable and with Jayron Hosley out, they didn't have anyone to really jump the routes underneath like before.
Clemson got its 10th win and an ACC title. The biggest win for us in 20 years. We hoped that things were fixed well enough for us to bring some intensity to the Big East Champion and catapult into the offseason.
Following the game, Dabo called out his doubters.
This is what it's all about. You don't quit. There are so many quitters out there. All these people that quit on us, they don't deserve this. This is for the players and the coaches and for all the people who were all-in all the frickin' time. I'm proud of those people. That's what this one's for.
I was a bit leery of West Virginia's offense coming into the game because I know how dangerous it can be. I believe Clemson really benefitted in the regular season from not playing in a high-powered passing conference. Our safety play ranged from nonexistent to below-average over the year, and the youngsters in the secondary really had not faced a team that has the speciality of being a pass-only system. FSU had gone mostly to the air, but it is not their preferred style, and their backup had cut us up. However, considering how WV had really looked bad in a few games and the pitiful level which their OL was playing over the 2nd half gave me enough confidence that I hoped we'd deliver.
Well we didn't, and the loss looked about as bad and the team as inept as the Texas Tech Tangerine Bowl under Bowden. This time we were the only game on TV and the entire country saw it. All the intensity that the defense had against Virginia Tech disappeared. They sat back and read instead of attacking, and when the DL could not get pressure nor set the edge in the run game, we were in trouble.
Clemson's offense started out very well in the game, and WV's defense really had not stopped us on the ground or in the air. For the first quarter, we moved the ball at will. Then, as we were going in for a TD at the 1, Ellington had a loose grip on the ball and WV took it out of his hands. WV returned it 99 yards for a TD and a 14-point swing. While I do not know for sure if we'd have done any better against their offense, I do believe that if we had not turned this ball over, things would've been different.
Clemson just turned it over again and our defense could not touch a QB who could keep himself off the ground in Big East play, and could not cover a soul. The Mountaineers went up 49-20 at the half, scoring 3 TDs quickly within just 2:29 of game time. After the game we called for Steele and Batson to be fired.
Clemson's OL had some great success running the ball, but since we gave up on it when we were down, theres no way to say if they had really improved in run blocking. They could not keep WV's 3-man rush off of Tajh Boyd though. Of any group, the OL was most disappointing. I think some of them quit on us, and West Virginia players said they felt like one of them was asking for mercy.
Tajh had another bad day when he could not avoid the pass rush and could not read 8 men dropping into coverage. Watkins was mostly blanketed, Allen could not produce, and Nuk Hopkins was the only WR to really stand out.
The meltdown was in full after the game, and Steele was finally released from his contract after Dabo returned from the AFCA Convention.
When Dabo Swinney took the reins at Clemson, he said we just needed an oil change. He said that if we just got tougher up front, that things would really turn around here.
I think someone forgot to change the oil filter.
The simple fact is that we’re not tougher up front at all. For the second straight season we returned most of the OL and could not move anyone up front when it really mattered. While rushing yards look good for the season, they did largely come against poorer defenses and I don’t know anyone who is confident that Clemson can get the 1st down on 3rd or 4th and 1 when we really have to get it. This offense is based on the running game, and descended from the Wing-T, so misdirection plays a part, but both Morris and Malzahn will tell you that it requires a physical running game to really move at its best. We highlighted the performance of the OL in each game above; you tell me if you’re impressed with this group.
The DL brought back Brown, Branch, Thompson, Moore and Goodman, all guys who we expected would be the strength of the defense. While I believe that they were, they were also not physical enough in the running game. Teams spread us out to take out the 3rd LB and then ran at us inside all season, then found out that we can be reach-blocked or cracked and killed us on the perimeter. We saw this in Spring:
I wasn't thrilled with the overall defensive performance, particularly in tackling. This is a game to watch individual players and look for an overall feel rather than statistics, but my overall feeling is that our front was pitiful against the run.
Things must change up front if Clemson is ever to get to the BCS and win games consistently. If they do, I think we’ll stop hearing about Clemson "pulling a Clemson". Losing we can deal with, but when you lose the way we did to NC State, SC and WV, it really colors a good season badly.Of course its not all bad. We got over the hump in the ACC and won 10 games and the conference for the first time in 20 years. We defeated the defending national champs soundly at home, shelled Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and then stomped them again in Charlotte when we all thought we’d lose. Its nice not to have to hear about that any more. We’re recruiting at a very high level and should get to the consistent 10-win performance level of Virginia Tech.
Many people wrote off Tajh Boyd after the Spring game, but we said after South Florida and after the Spring that Tajh just needed more reps and that he’d be fine if he worked hard and was ready to play ball. Tajh Boyd had a great season overall. I expected him to have freshman mistakes and not to perform as well as he did so early. He just became overconfident in his arm and lazy in his reads when he started pressing himself. He needs to perfect his footwork. Those things can be fixed and I expect him to play even better next season.
Tajh Boyd needs reps, because as he got into the game you could see things turning on for him
I missed the game live but now that I read the articles from the various beat writers and the knuckledraggers on the message boards, I see people completely down about everything and saying Tajh Boyd sucks and that things aren't looking much better than last year.Overall tempo of the offense I liked. They got the ball snapped quickly and hurried after successful plays. Many were snapped with 20 seconds on the clock. We did not show much schemewise. If the QBs take things seriously this summer I think we'll be ok.
Clemson’s WR issues of '09-10 disappeared with the influx of talent. Sammy Watkins showed out on the first day and when he’s healthy, nearly no one can cover him 1 on 1. Nuk Hopkins is as dependable and tough a receiver as we’ve had this decade. Jaron Brown became a clutch WR. Dwayne Allen finally played hard for whole games, and was nearly unstoppable as a result. The other freshmen will contribute next year to fill his vacancy in the passing game, and I think we’re very good at WR at least 2 more years.
Andre Ellington gutted it out all year with injuries behind an OL that had even simpler schemes than before. He’d have to stay in games when he should’ve been resting because his backups either didn’t know the plays or couldn’t block well enough to protect Tajh. RB blocking is very important when you play this offense, and Andre got to be pretty good at it. If he steps up in the receiving game next year, he’ll be drafted highly. He should benefit from more seasoned backups and put up another good season rushing. If Mike Bellamy keeps his head on straight, focuses on football, and hits the weights, he has shown flashes that he could be a superstar.
We were initially skeptical of (but not against) the Morris hire when a seasoned and successful OC was available, but further analysis of footage changed our minds. His stats at Tulsa were all you heard about, but none of that mattered to us. Dabo finally listened and moved Brad Scott off the staff and hired Robbie Caldwell, who I’ve wanted for years. He also listened and replaced Powell with Tony Elliott, who we also were immediately on board with. Now he’s listened and removed Steele for Venables. While we like the scheme, we’ve already looked at some of his footage and remain highly skeptical of the hire, but we’ll see.
Statistical Rankings for 2009-2011
|Category||2009||2009 Ntl Rank||2010||2010 Rank||2011||2011 Rank|
|Overall turnover margin||.43||28||-.23||69||.15||T-45th|
|Offensive FEI Rank||32||56th||22nd|
Looking at these offensive stats, you can see we still have a way to go to really become great offensively. If the run game opens up a little more, we have a chance to be special under Morris. Still, this performance was on the high side of our expectations coming into August and several players outperformed:
Still, the (WR) corps is inexperienced and I don’t see a 1000 yard season from any in the group. I think about the best realistic production we can hope for is a 50 catch, 500-600 yard season from Watkins, a couple hundred more than that from Hopkins, and 300-500 from Brown.
That would top last year’s production and combined with Ellington and Bellamy with Howard spelling, should get us back up to the Top 40 in offense.If we finished in the Top 20 in total offense I would be ecstatic, but Tajh would have to be stellar in his first year without teething issues, which I just don’t think is realistic in year 1 of a scheme against this schedule.
|Category||2009||Ntl Rank||2010||Ntl rank||2011||Ntl Rank|
|Pass Efficiency Defense||110.88||21st||116.24||27th||133.47||74|
|Tackles for Loss||7.29pg||12th||7.38pg||10th||5.07pg||86|
I wasn't expecting a good defense this year. What I hoped for was a weak performance at the beginning of the year that would improve greatly as more youngsters got playing experience, and to finish in the 25-40 range.
Additionally, until the offense figures things out, these guys are going to be out there a lot….sometimes without seeing 30 seconds come off the game clock. I see the defense getting beat up some out of the gate but improving steadily in 2011. Steele didn’t have to blitz last year either, but you’ve heard about us putting in some 3-4 sets, and we did predict that you’d see him get more inventive to create pass rush, so you’ll see plenty of blitzing this year.
I’m not so worried about the secondary. I think Harbison can coach his guys up well enough to be solid at the back end, but we won’t be at the top in pass defense this year. I think Top 25 in pass efficiency might be possible considering that we aren’t in a passing conference, and if the front holds steady we’d again be a Top 25 defense.
I think though, given the hits we take and the inexperience, that a Top 20 total defense is unrealistic. I project somewhere in the 25-40 range overall, improving as the season goes.
I was way off. The safety play was bad, but Hall played with one leg all year. We tried to blitz more, but the LBs ran into linemen and stopped, and the DL didnt produce the sacks we needed. Actually we got worse as the season progressed, and not that many freshmen got significant PT. We went downhill with the upperclassmen still playing a large majority of snaps. Aside from Stephone Anthony, the only RS/Fresh that played significant time were Crawford and Breeland.
So now the question is whether we support Swinney. We have 3 main goals here that I hold Clemson to every year: win 10 games, win the ACC, and stomp Sakerlina. I also have said that I would not donate money to Clemson until I saw an effort to fix things.
Well, the BOT got involved last December and kicked those facilities plans into motion, and IPTAY pledged matching funding that they've been sitting on for years to donations (which is what we donated the money to them for in the first place). We pushed for the training table, and we'll get it. We complained and pushed for an Indoor facility, and it'll start breaking ground in March. I'm considering donating to IPTAY again at least.
Dabo is going to be Dabo. He's up and down, and this team took that persona. He's going to call out fans when he wins who doubt his genius, and that is not going to sit well with a lot of us. When he loses, he'll get defensive, and then lie and say he doesnt read the internet. After the dust settles he'll get on the internet and do what is suggested. So, Dabs, before you go out and lecture the fans, media, alumni, and all the other people who throw their energy and money into this program, you'd better give your speeches to your own team so they dont quit in a game.
But he did manage to win 10 games and an ACC Title, and for that we'll support him as coach another year. I'd extend his contract as is, but not with a raise beyond the stipulated one he's due for the ACC Title. The primary negative is his losing streak to SC, which is unacceptable, so I would not give him a larger buyout. He has not proved that the oil change cleansed the system because we're still as bipolar as we were under Bowden.
Last year we asked you what it would take for you to support Dabo beyond 2011. Only 3% were full anti-Dabo with 10% identifying themselves as knuckle-draggers and being full-Dabo (and a few of those were cockfans). The rest of the voters aligned themelves as 16%=ACC Title, 40%=Division title, and 28% only wanted a winning season. I think its fair to say we all would give him 2012, including myself.