CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 17: Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball against the Auburn Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Clemson finished their 2nd DV scrimmage of the spring yesterday, and last one before this weekend’s spring game. The defense was without Stephone Anthony, who will require finger surgery and will be ready to play in August, but performed a little better overall. I’m still very concerned about the offense being able to impose their will, and Venables stated we did not do well in situationals. Also, while I’ve heard many more good impressions of the OL, they still were not good enough in short yardage situations against our freshmen DTs. Some notes of interest:
-- Darius Robinson has been matched up quite a bit on Sammy in an effort to get better at his technique. Sammy still owns him of course, but it has improved Darius’ play.
-- Venables is concerned about the backup DE situation. "We've got to keep getting better there. I've seen some things that are encouraging with each individual. We have to continue to improve, make consistent improvement." Translation: We aint good enough at DE after the starters.
-- Corico Hawkins has remained at backup WILL, behind Tig Willard, even with Anthony’s injury. Spencer Shuey, Justin Parker, and BJ Goodson are all at MIKE for the spring game. Venables has commented on Parker’s instincts and range improvement, but I remind you that last spring Steele said "Parker’s light is coming on"…just to have him disappear in the season.
-- When Tony Steward ever returns, it’ll be at MIKE or WILL, according to BV. Hopefully they have enough sense to sit him this fall on a RS, rather than risk him coming back to be another Scotty Cooper. What I fear is that everyone will say he’s 100% in August just to find out In December that he was 75-80% the whole time. That would be typical Clemson.What do you want to see with a few practices left?
BV on the defense and what he wants to see this week: "Just consistency, from pad level, communication to being on edge and physical. You want to win every rep in practice. I want them to like to come to practice, I want them to like to seek knowledge in the meeting room. I want to continue to enhance our culture on how we think, act and lead in this program. Our own level of expectation needs to be high. We need to be very demanding of ourselves. I want our guys to play with some attitude. That comes from knowledge. Nobody needs to be Superman. You just need to do your job and do it well and do it on every play. We want our guys to have that sense of desperation on every play. That's critical."
Another thing I’m seeing is a trend of people describing Venables’ defense as more Vic Koenning than Steele. This is not quite the case folks. VK’s defense was a spot drop zone-based 4-2-5 that was 4-3 in name only. In spot drop, the guys drop off on the snap and sit in areas on the field. While BV and Stoops and VK are all descended from the K-State style of defense, the description of BV as being similar to VK is not correct at all. The Stoops style is the more aggressive pattern-read, not conservative spot drop. Both, however, are Cover 3 based. VK never blitzed, while Stoops and disciples have no problem sending Linebackers once every series of downs. Steele already used pattern-recognition but gave his guys too many adjustments to make on each snap, and Steele was playing 60% man, not 100% as you see people criticizing him for. Venables will call more Cover 3, which Steele rarely called, but if you think Venables is abandoning the man-to-man-blitz-heavy defense, you are far from correct. I wouldn’t take much from the spring game either, as we have certainly not installed it all.
-- Thus far it appears to be much simpler on the LBs schemewise, which will let them make more plays. You’ll see some guys like Christian or Willard or hopefully Parker stand out when they’re allowed to make simple calls and concentrate on one key:
"Sometimes (we were confused)," Willard said. "Mainly it was off communication, getting the whole call communicated to everyone. Our eyes were on the offense, looking back, looking at the coach, looking here, and looking there. Now we are just making one call for everybody."
"There’s not a lot of stuff to do pre-snap," Hawkins said. "It’s either ‘Left, left, left’ or ‘Right, right, right.’ Those are the only calls you make, as opposed to (Steele’s), where it’s an NFL scheme and style of defense."
"I know in the running game I have this gap," Willard said. "In the past, depending on the personnel or the formation, I might have different gaps I was supposed to cover. Now I know that when the ball is snapped, if it’s a run, I have this gap. If it’s a pass, I go here. It sounds simple, but it’s just based on the formation. Once you see the formation, you know which gap is yours or what pass route you have to cover."
That’s music to my ears for this team. While I think Steele’s scheme can work fine, he could not teach the fundamentals well or break down his system for them, and if your fundamentals suck then you’ve lost from the start. Once you give them too much to process with bad fundamentals, you have a crap defense.
On the offensive side, The Chad was a bit happier:
"Much better today. Actually the last two practices, short yardage has been a lot better. Last Friday we were still unable to convert inside the 1-yard line. But we showed a lot more promise last Friday and today. Today was the best it's been up to this point. That's promising. We're still not where we need to be. But we're at least stepping in the right direction and not stepping backwards."
-- Nuk was again unstoppable, as I figured he would be if he gained some muscle. Some say his improvement has been more impressive than Watkins this spring.
-- Tajh was inconsistent, with two early brain-farts turned into INTs. Tajh finished 13-of-20.
Chad: "Inconsistency. He'll have two really good days, and then we'll have a letdown. Like today, we come out and start slow, sluggish and not operate within the system. Those are things we've got to get better at. He's a veteran now."He's trying to do entirely too much. He's trying to score every play. He's trying to feel like all the pressure is on him. And all he has to do is not turn the ball over and get the ball to his playmakers."
Basically the same thing that caused him to look so bad at times last year. He tries to score every play and forces balls without looking off the safety.
-- On Bellamy, who I don’t expect to get more than 10 touches per game this fall for this very reason:
"We all know what is talent level is like. We could sit here and talk about his talent all day long. But we've got to get him better at pass protection. Right now he's not very good at pass protection. The game is moving extremely fast for him. But he's fast, so it should equal out. ... But pass protection is his biggest downfall, which leads to not having the confidence to put him in in crucial situations."
You can’t start at RB in a spread-formation offense if you can’t be the 6th blocker in blitz situations. Ellington really improved in that respect last season and always attacked his man with inside leverage. Bellamy has to learn that. His diminutive size is a part of it, but knowing how to block and having the want-to to hit somebody is a bigger part of the equation.
-- The last thing, and most alarming, was Freeman’s comments about how we sucked last week in short-yardage:
"Obviously we were disappointed last week, but we had never game-planned some of what they were doing on defense. We just kind of went out there and tried to see where we were. We obviously were not prepared. With the new defense, we had no clue what they were going to line up in. We had no clue what to expect. We had never really run those goal-line, short-yardage type plays in a live situation."
While I'm happy they did better in the scrimmage yesterday, WTF? Just to remind you, this is the same garbage answer we got for why Troy and Wofford raped our OL last year.
DF after Wofford:"Normally we don't face an odd front everyday. Playing a base defense, we normally have a good idea of what we're going to do. You have to tip your hat to Troy and Wofford. They showed us odd fronts and did a lot of things that made it hard for us to get a hat on them.""
I’m sorry, maybe we should call up Gene Chizik and ask him: "Coach, please tell us how youre going to defend us, so our OL doesn’t look like a bunch of sissies?"
Does our OL expect to know how a defense is going to play? How they line up should not be an issue if you know your front structures and your technique, and Freeman is a senior, theres no excuse for him not knowing. In goal line situations its not even complicated, you block the inside gap and get movement. Its fundamental football you learned in Pee Wee.
Maybe if we had an OL with balls and some damn attitude, we’d be a better football team. I’m shocked Dalton didn’t ask the DL to take it easy on them. The only consistency I see from our OL over the years has been in their excuses. Either we didn’t expect them to show an odd front, or we missed someone, or they stunted when our OL wasn’t expecting.