Clemson tries to recover from an emotional loss this week, traveling to Boston College this week to take on Coach Frank Spaziani and the Eagles. Clemson has one win at BC in three trips to Chestnut Hill since BC joined the league in 2005. This is a classic Admiral Ackbar game (Its a trap!), especially with BC (1-2 overall) reeling from a 22-13 loss to Northwestern, a game they had a chance to win until late in the fourth quarter.
However, this Boston College team is not like any we have known during the Spaz tenure. Long gone are the big names like Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji, Luke Kuechly, or even Montel Harris who parted ways with the team this offseason but BC still has some considerable talent and a new offensive scheme. Oh and they are coming off an open week.
Coach Spaz is fighting for his coaching life and made wholesale changes to his offensive staff from last year. He pegged Doug Martin to be his new offensive coordinator after being the OC and head coach at Kent State and OC at New Mexico State last year. BC has been relying on the arm of Chase Rettig, passing for an impressive 316 yards per game so far (only running for 95). Alex Amidon has put up a staggering 122 receiving yards a game (4th in the nation!) and BC has two senior tackles (both over 6' 7") in LT Cleary and RT Wetzel. Unless our DE's dramatically increase their talent and technique levels this week, we won't be getting much pressure from a 4-man front. RB Andre Williams is still around and could gain some yards on the ground with his physical style of running. BC is also experimenting with Clemson's disruptive technology (competitive advantage)--increased tempo. Here is Venables assessment of BC's offense:
They’ve got Chase Rettig, who’s a good player. He’s got a big arm, great accuracy, a really good player. He must have been really bad before, because he’s really good right now -- he can throw the ball. He’s a really good player. They get into two backs and two tights, spread it out and give four wide looks. I think they’re multiple with what they do. It’s no huddle. They tempo. They had Miami running all over the place before the ball was snapped. Northwestern does about one thing on defense, do it about every single snap and they do it pretty good, so they didn’t have them running all over. We’ll have to think about doing something like that.
Defensively BC has three very talented LB's and Pierre-Louis is also still there. They are absolute tackling machines. Their latest product Nick Clancy leads the nation in tackles and had 24 tackles against Northwestern. If we had a linebacker get into double digits I would be ecstatic but 24 is unthinkable. Their D-line and secondary are re-tooling a bit but those LB's are rock solid. Here is Dabo's take on the BC defense:
It's typical BC. They line up and do what they do. They're a 4-3, cover-four team. They do a great job of recognition. One of their ends is 6-foot-8. They get their hands on a lot of balls. As you typically see with BC, they usually have someone leading the league in tackles. They've got three guys leading the league in tackles. They're number one in field goals and number three in punting. This is a big challenge. It's as big a week as we'll have all year. I want to see us respond like a champion.
I do think Swinney is right that this is a pivotal game for Clemson. Beat FSU and you are on the crazy, undefeated track but no one really expected that going into the season. Losing to BC on the road changes the expectations for the season. Rather than looking at 10 wins, every game will be a struggle and you risk losing recruiting momentum. Speaking of recruiting--I was going to post my speculations but Dabo just came out and said it:
I think they're developing nicely. Giff Timothy, that was a good confidence builder for him. He really held his own. I'm excited about Kalon, Norton, Shatley, Beasley, Thomas, all those guys. They're going to be really good players. Eric MacLain is going to transition into the offensive line. Our confidence in that will be reflected in our signing class this year.
Yep, we may only sign one Offensive lineman this year. The rationale is that Dabo and the staff like who they have and with the additions of Jerome Maybank and MacLain they are already over or right at their arbitrary numbers limits per position. This is the same rationale that went into telling Derrick Green we were filled up with 5 RB's on the roster. Its obviously not a bad rule of thumb to have a general number per position that you aim for but when that becomes too strict a guideline, I find it counterproductive (no I actually find it stupid, frustrating and disappointing for a staff so good at recruiting).
Let me go a bit deeper because this mismanagement of scholarships is partly responsible for our meltdown in the 4th quarter at FSU. When you have gaps in your recruiting, you often have gaps in your seniority on the field and with talent. 2008 and 2009 screwed up recruiting and we can go through the interim coach should recruit debates (which aren't really productive at this point) but why would we choose to repeat those mistakes? Dalton Freeman will graduate so we will bring in Mav Morris. That is it. How does this not result in a huge talent and seniority gap in the future? What if Morris doesn't pan out or gets injured? Its a lot of pressure to put on the evaluation of a largely unrecruited 3* player from a small school. I am rooting for Morris (even more so now) but he isn't viewed nearly as high as Dalton was coming out of high school.
This problem gets compounded when you can't recruit JUCO's to fill in the gaps like other schools. FSU had JUCO's McCloud and Carradine starting on their D-line for example. We won't get any JUCO's in the near future so we can't have these recruiting gaps. Why are we having to start Soph.'s at DT for the first time in forever at Clemson? Gaps and mismanagement of scholarships. To play national championship caliber football year in and year out you need to plan for attrition.
So we won't be going after Droogsma, which is very disappointing to me. We will still take Tyrone Crowder, of course, but this isn't a move being done because we are sure we will get him.
A few last notes: Dabo said we really missed Martin Jenkins and compared missed tackles to a rash. Here is asked about defensive practices and whether we suck during practice:
We really have practiced well. It's hard to simulate that game speed until you get there. Sometimes it's like a rash. It can spread quick. Before you look up, you have 10 missed tackles. But you have to give the other team some credit, too. That's the worse we've been this year. We've practiced well. Brent and them work tackling everyday. You have to do it on game day.
I don't think missed tackles are a rash that spreads for no reason. We have a lack of focus and breakdown of technique, coupled with a lack of toughness. To find a cure you must first exorcize our S&C demons.