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Defensive Review: Clemson vs. Boston College

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Jim Rogash

This is long and I encourage you to read this installments. The better the opponent, the more detail I’m going to provide. I’m also making a conscious effort to keep it as understandable as possible for the casual fan. However, if you want to learn, you still have to try even if it’s only a play or two a week that you fully digest. I’ll use pictures for the pivotal plays if you want to skip to just those. If you rewatch the game, or even parts of it, this can be used as a companion piece. And yes, I know this is the defensive review but I like to lead off here by discussing the offense.

We lost Adam Choice in this game and there goes our big back and plan to use him in the wildcat. The play where Choice got hurt was on the wildcat when he tried to take it outside and got hit in the knee by a DB when his leg was planted.

As far as play calling goes, we basically picked up where we left off last week and with the same gameplan of Zone Runs, Bubble Screens, and 13 yard outs to move the chains with deep posts to keep them honest. All in all, I thought we were better offensively than we were last week and more cohesive. Stoudt played better than he did last week, albeit, against a slightly lesser defense. The drive at the end of the first half and the drive that answered the BC TD in the 2nd half were the big highlights for the offense.

In the pass game, we are dropping too many balls. We got spoiled a little bit with Watkins, Hopkins, B. Ford, Allen, and Brown, who all had great hands. Now, we are back to having WRs drop balls that are on the money and we need to be catching every well-delivered spiral from Stoudt that we can.

That’s because, of course, we are still horrific in the run game. We are now ranked 115th in the nation and 13th in the ACC in “yards per carry” at 3.23. Remember, every National Champion since 2008 has finished in the top 11 nationally of “yards per carry” (Btw, if this trend holds true, Georgia would an under-the-radar team to watch out for right now).

In special teams, did you know that Aamon Lakip hasn’t missed a FG since FSU? Hopefully, he’s starting to relax. Also on ST, I think it’s time for T.J. Green to stop running the ball out on kickoffs. He looked good on a couple returns early in the season but, since then it has been all downhill. We now rank 127th (out of 128 teams) in kickoff returns this year but we’re holding steady over Tulane. Yea, I would fire most of the kickoff team right now. We literally can’t get much worse.

Here is a key for my shorthand in alphabetical order in case you need to refer back to it as you read this: Blast = FB lead play in the C gap with a kick out on the DE or seal on the LB. Bullet –ILB A or B gap blitz. Crack- WR blocks down on S or LB. C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 = we are playing Cover “x.” Diet 4-3 – 4-3 alignment with Wiggins at Sam. Dog (overload)- LB and S/NB blitz on the same side. EM = end man on the line of scrimmage. ET stunt – Tackle shoots outside gap and end loops around on the inside. Iso = FB lead play in the A or B gap. IV= Inverted Veer. IZ = Inside Zone or Zone blocked play inside the tackles. Jailbreak – 7 or more blitz. LOS = Line of Scrimmage. man = man to man. OZ = outside zone run or zone blocked play just outside the tackle. PA = Play Action. PBU- Pass broken up. Power = FB/RB/H-B kicks out EM, backside OG leads into B gap hole. Power Sweep = FB lead to the D gap with OG pulling around. Sky – SS moves up two yards, takes flat, CB and FS take deep third. Slant Right/Left – DL slants in one direction in unison Smoke/Fire- S, NB, LB blitz from the outside D gap. Soft Coverage – CBs/NB playing well of the WR until he gets to the 1st down line. Stretch = zone blocked run just inside the last offensive player on that side. Student Body Left/Right = FB lead play to the D gap with all uncovered linemen pulling. Sweep = FB/ HB lead play to the D gap. Stack – the 3 LBs are stacked behind D linemen. Stalk – WR blocks CB in front of him. TFL = tackle for loss. Trap – playside DT is left unblocked, backside OG pulls and takes him out, RB runs underneath. TT stunt = one DT crashes on a slant and the other DT loops around and fills the hole he just left.

Coach/Player shorthand: BB = Ben Boulware, BV = Brent Venables, JJ= Jadar Johnson,  KW = Korin Wiggins, Mac = MacKenzie Alexander, SA = Stephone Anthony, Tank = Cordrea Tankersley, The Gambler = Garry Peters, The Fire Ant = Martin Jenkins, TS = Tony Steward

Here is a guide to Personnel groupings. I will include WRs as well to make it easier. Ex. “123 personnel” would be 1 RB, 2 TEs, and 3 WRs.

Thoughts within a play will be separated by a comma (,)

Each plays will be separated by an ellipsis (…)

First downs separated by a paragraph

Comments of a drive will be done in italics

1st QUARTER

1st Drive, 15:00, BC 25, 0-0

4-3 Under, Safeties are at about 6 yards depth (usually at 8-10), play action off Lead, rolls right, Goodson picks up the TE he wants to throw to, Crawford with pressure, QB jukes him in the open field, TS misses a tackle, Goodson gets him for a gain of 4…4-3 Under MLB Bullet, Power O, SA pops the RB as he gets the handoff, loss of 5, PENALTY ON CLEMSON (they never said what) 5 yards…2nd and 1, 4-3 Over, play action off power sweep right, bubble screen left, Mac hits him as the ball arrives for a loss of 2…Nickel, rolls right, ILBs go ahead and fill like it’s a run, well scouted because it is, gain of 6., PERSONAL FOUL, BC Chop Block… 3rd and 18, Nickel, Tunnel Screen, absolutely destroyed by KW, might should’ve gone for the pick there…PUNT

The QB is slippery as advertised. With each passing game, I realize more and more how we are going to miss SA next year. He is playing at an almost flawless level fundamentally. He is as good as the ILBs we had back when we were “Linebacker U.” I’d say he is faster than Ed McDaniel, bigger than Leroy Hill or Keith Adams, and has better run-game instincts than Dorian Mariable.

2nd Drive, 10:39, BC 23, 0-0

4-3 Over vs. 131, Jet Sweep, Goodson sets the edge, Kearse catches an OT, Mac trips him up for a gain of 5…4-3 Under slant right, ZR, Crawford goes for the QB and doesn’t slant, OL gets to the 2nd level, Jarrett gets handled, Smith takes a good angle and stops an early TD, gain of 13…

1st and 10, BC 41, Nickel, Speed Option Left, Beasley sees an OG coming at him and stands his ground allowing the QB to get outside, TS scrapes and takes QB AND then pitch, gain of 5…Diet 4-3 Over against 2 TEs, BV is expecting pass on 2nd and 5, ZR play action at KW with the TE on an arc block, TE cuts inside KW and runs a seam, the TE drops a big gainer, incomplete…Nickel on 3rd and 5 with Barnes at a DT spot, Timeout BC…Nickel double bullets DE takes RB in C1, It’s the same triangle rollout play we ran that had Mike Williams wide open, they got everybody open, uh oh, TS darts through unblocked and gets the sack to bail us out, loss of 11…PUNT

Poor assignment football by us on the option based plays. There were two potential TD plays on that drive, so we were fortunate to remain unscathed.

3rd Drive, 3:43, BC 6, 0-0

4-3 Under, fake jet sweep, power o, SA sheds the TE and Goodson comes around unblocked from the outside and they get him for no gain…4-3 Under, blast, the WR runs by Crawford who then turns it in, Watson gets him for a gain of 3…Dime on 3rd and 6, Kearse lines up over the TE, jet sweep, Kearse beats him to the sideline and tackles him for a 2 yard gain…PUNT

They’re trying to set up a pass off of that blast action. If they get the CB on that side to bite on the run, they can hit a big play. Kearse continues to display his range and athletic ability…he’s a football player.

Offense goes 3 and Out to end the 1Q.

2nd QUARTER

4th Drive, 15:00, BC 20, 0-0

#2 DL and BB in, 4-3 Under, play action off jet sweep and IZ, he wants the TE on a wheel route but Williams gets to forces him out of the pocket and Barnes gets the sack instead, loss of 1…we bring in an ET and go 6-2 vs jumbo unbalanced line, counter trey, Jarrett tries to grab the pulling tackle, SA meets the RB in the hole for a 3rd yard gain…Dime of Doom on 3rd and 8, 6 man Zone blitz with Jarrett dropped into coverage, OT tries to cut Barnes but he wiffs, Barnes gets through for the sack, loss of 7…PUNT

Gallman gets the TD run on the offensive drive. Then we give up a huge kickoff return to our 49.The Gambler runs him down from behind.

5th Drive, 11:42, CU 49, 7-0 Clem

4-3 Under, weakside B gap Iso, TS takes on the FB with the wrong shoulder, Shaq sheds the OT and gets him for a 3 yard gain, nice play by Shaq or that could’ve been a TD…4-3 Over with Goodson covering the slot, IZ, SA fills playside and gets him for a gain of 1…Nickel TT stunt, 4 WRs wide left so SA walks out (middle/tunnel screen?), QB fakes the bubble screen left and runs right, Williams comes around on the loop and puts a stop to that, so he ridicules their decision to run at him with the “Finger of Rejection.” He put a little stank on it this time…PUNT

6th Drive, 8:32, BC 37, 7-0 Clem

Nickel, QB Counter Trey, SA bites on the counter, pulling OG kicks out Crawford and pulling OT picks off Boulware, nobody home, TJ Green saves the TD, gain of 19…

1st and 10, CU 44, Nickel, ZR, Murphy keeps it and outruns Crawford to the corner, Green gets him out for a gain of 3, PERSONAL FOUL FACEMASK on Clemson, Peters grabs the WR’s helmet on a stalk block and doesn’t let it go, correct call, bad decision by The Gambler…

1st and 10, CU29, Diet 4-3 Over NB bullet, HUOH (Hurry Up Out of the Huddle), play action off QB Power, KW is on a blitz and Kearse is over on the right to cover the area KW vacates, RB wheel route to the twins side, wide open… TD BC

I’m putting this one on Green (although I think Kearse and Peters bear responsibility as well). This was a well designed play on 1st down, which is typically a running down and that helps the play develop better. The RB is either Kearse’s responsibility in man or, more likely, T.J. Green is required to read the wheel coming, get depth, and make an exchange. Meanwhile, Peters just continues his fight with the outside WR from last play and is actually 2 yards ahead of the RB when the ball is thrown and never reacts (If he was supposed to exchange, he should’ve been sat down for that). SA and BB have to honor QB power first then play the pass. Notice in the second image how the WRs eyes are fixed on Anthony to make sure he can’t run through traffic to get to the back out.

Unfortunately, #6 Sherman “Sproles” there is just a freshman, so 3 more years of trying to stop him in the open field.

7th Drive, 4:57, BC 17, 7-7

Nickel double bullets looped, Beasley dropped into coverage, QB Power, Watkins beats the OT then jukes under the pulling OG and makes the play for a loss of 2…HUOH, Nickel, ZR give to the RB catches BB out of position but SA gets a backside fill and gets him for a gain of 2…Nickel double bullets on 3rd and 9, blitz is picked up, uh oh, deep fade and Mac is beaten badly, overthrown incomplete, whew…PUNT

Halftime Thoughts

This was another dominant defensive performance. But for the miscommunication with T.J. Green, we might be pitching a shutout right now. Then again, there’s the another side to this coin as well.

Normally, I’d be ecstatic about holding a team to 65 yards of total offense in the first half, but this wasn’t the same lockdown performance that we’ve grown accustomed to in the past 6 weeks. This looks more like the 2012 team at the end of the year. We looked tough and athletic but also young and mistake-prone when it comes to assignments and fundamentals. There must’ve been 5 good solid busts that could’ve resulted in big plays or TDs, but BC just couldn’t take advantage.

I’m glad we won this game because the decision to play T.J. Green over Jadar Johnson was very questionable and gave up a TD in the first half. Last year when Blanks went out, we had a trial by fire for Jayron Kearse that ended up with him making similar mistakes that led to easy TDs. Since we won the game, I kind of feel like we stole some experience for Green and were very fortunate to get away with that. Hopefully, it will be Jadar next time Smith goes out and hopefully, Green will respond in the offseason the same way Kearse did.

Credit to BC though, they showed up for a fight. So, it was good that we were up to the task of matching their physicality with our aggression. Our depth up front paid dividends and our MLB was cleaning up any messes. I’m proud of us for taking that assault of QB power, ZR, and Counter Trey and holding up. 5 years ago, that wasn’t happening.

Random question: Why wouldn’t we recruit up in the northeast? If we’re going to sign 3-star OL, than why not sign the type of guys that BC has up front? Their 3 Star OL seem to be better than our 3 Star OL.

3rd QUARTER

8th Drive, 13:14, BC 20, 10-7

4-3 Under C1, B gap Iso, SA takes on the FB and makes the tackle at the LOS. Excellent job by SA, gain of 1…6-2-3, Counter Trey, blownup by Crawford on the squeeze and forced outside, Crawford gets him for a loss of 1…Nickel C1, max protect, roll left, tries to throw back right for a screen, we’re all over it, Crawford pressures and gets him in the grasp and he throws it away, incomplete…PUNT

Now there’s the defense we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

Offense goes 3 and out.

9th Drive, 10:20, BC 36, 10-7

BB in, Nickel, jet sweep, reverse pass to the slot WR, got caught defending the perimeter in run support, wide open, gain of 35…

1st and 10, CU 29, TIMEOUT BC…Nickel, dive off jet sweep and QB sweep action, stuffed by Jarrett and both ILBs, no gain…HUOH, Nickel, PA off quick slant and sweep, Beasley uses an inside move and the OG just grabs his legs and holds on, checkdown to the RB, Mac and Wiggins bring him down for a gain of 5, HOLDING BC, 10 yard penalty…

Yeah, no. We take the penalty and move them back out of FG range

2nd and 10, CU 39, Nickel, IZ, Jarrett destroys that for a loss of 1…Dime of Doom on 3rd and 21, Triple bullet zone blitz with Jarrett dropping in coverage, Kearse gets the sack, loss of 1…PUNT

9th tackle for loss in the game. Outside of the one trick play, we were dominant again.

The offense flips the field position and we get them backed up in their territory.

10th Drive, 2:10, BC 17, 10-7

Nickel C2 WLB smoke, ZR keeper, sick run up the middle, The Gambler gets him down for a gain of 5…Diet 4-3 Under C1 Sam Smoke, PA off QB Counter, Reader carries his blocker all the way to the sideline to apply pressure, throws it away, incomplete…Nickel, we threaten a jailbreak and don’t come, speed option wide, Kearse takes pitch, SA takes QB, shovel pass inside that is blown up by Green for a gain of 2, remember this play and where Green was in order to make it…PUNT

That was as dominant of a quarter of football as we have played all year long. 10 rushes for 7 yards for Murphy on the day now.

4th QUARTER

11th Drive, 13:26, BC 16, 10-7

Nickel, PA off jet sweep, TE seam is wide open and it’s off to the races, gain of 47… Let’s look put this one in the spotlight.

Remember last week, when discussing our own offense, I briefly discussed how a good OC will test all levels of the defense and also use play calls to gain valuable information. Then he will use that information to set up other plays. Well, this was another first down play that was set up from the flaw of how we defended the wheel play from the 2Q. BC learned from the wheel route play that the safeties, Green in particular, do not “exchange WRs” well. So they come back to that same concept, put it in a spot where we are expecting a conservative play call, and use it for a big play again.

This is also an example of another concept I discussed in last week’s review about our own offense. If you never throw deep, those safeties will stop honoring it and creep on up. Sometimes the difference between getting there and not getting there is only a couple yards of your drop. Well, remember the last play where Green tackled the shovel pass for a 2 yard gain? BC didn’t caught that and took advantage of it. A lot of times, fans will see a play work and immediately want more of it but the truth is that the better the defense or the worse the offense, the more those plays are going to need to be set up. It took a lot of running plays inside the box to get our safeties to ignore pass responsibilities so that this play was so wide open.

This play just changed the game. Now the Safeties are going to be back to playing pass first.

1st and 10, CU 36, 4-3 Under, tried to go downfield again but good coverage this time, thrown away, incomplete…Nickel TE stunt, quick fade, thrown and caught out of bounds, Kearse got away with PI…Dime of Doom triple bullets, Beasley flushes him out wide, 5 Tigers within 5 yards of him, throws as he gets hammered, complete on a crosser and great catch for a first down, The Gambler just let him go, gain of 15…

SA is out, 1st and 10, CU 21, Nickel, IZ, Kellen Jones get caveds, Crawford and TS both take the QB, uh oh, safeties are back now too,

Big hole, gain of 16.

1st and G, CU 5, 6-2-3 Goalline vs. 230, Counter dive left, stuffed by Shaq Diesel for a loss of 1…4-3 Under, sprint option pass right, throwback left to the TE that came from the right, great play design, risky but great…TD BC, missed XP

First 10 drives: 33 plays, 109 yards, 1 TD. This drive: 7 plays, 84 yards, TD. BC takes the lead but our offense answers with a great TD drive to take the lead right back.

12th Drive, 9:29, BC 19, 17-13 Clem

SA is back in, Nickel WLB bullet, Counter Option Reverse to Sherman Alston, Beasley misses him in the backfield, he breaks TS and Shaq’s ankles on the corner and cuts it up, then cuts behind some blockers and gets tackled by Green for a gain of 9 (that kid is special)…Nickel, OZR, Murphy tries to keep it but Sherman takes it and is tackled immediately by Wiggins and Beasley, loss of 5… (Raining now), Nickel TE stunt, we show zone blitz and back out of it, Jarrett comes around to pressure Murphy, Beasley goes Tree Rollins on the throw but misses it, The Gambler gambles that the QB is going to run it and gets caught, great throw and catch, tackle by Green, gain of 12…

1st and 10, BC 37, HUOH, 4-3 Under, our old friend Power Sweep, Grady blows through his man, takes out a pulling guard, and hits the RBs legs (wow, just wow) for a loss of 5, unbelievable play by Jarrett…Nickel WLB smoke, same seam route play they hit for a big gain from last drive, at Kearse this time, no chance, TS and Watson get him for the sack, loss of 3…Dime of Doom on 3rd and 18, we show a 6 man blitz and drop out of it to rush 3, draw play, snuffed out by TS and Barnes for a gain of 1…PUNT

We go 3 and out on offense, run some clock, and get a 55 yard punt from Pinion with a great open field tackle by Green. They have to go 82 yards in 3 and 1/2 minutes. The missed XP looms large now.

13th Drive, 3:25, BC 18, 17-13 Clem

BB in, 4-3 Under, ZR give to the RB, tackle by SA for a gain of 1…Nickel soft C2, PA quick slant, PA jet sweep, Beasley pressures, Watson misses in the backfield, QB runs it, Jarrett pursues and dives and misses, Crawford gets juked and takes out BB, uh oh, lots of room to run in soft C2, Green and Mac get him down for a gain of 43…

1st and 10, CU 38, 2:17, Nickel, IZ give to the RB, tackled by Crawford, gain of 1…Nickel, PA jet sweep, rolls right, runs it to the sideline for a gain of 7…3rd and a foot, 6-3-2 Goalline, PA off B gap iso, Jarrett gets through and hit him as he throws, throw into double coverage and the WR gets both hands on it, Green and BB both knock the ball out of his hands, incomplete…4th and a foot, 1:34, 6-3-2 goalline, Power O, SA can’t get there, gain of 2, first down…

1st and 10, CU 36, 1:15, Nickel, PA off Jet Sweep, RB wheel at Green again, wide open, pass is on the money, dropped, incomplete (dodged a huge bullet there)…2nd and 10, 1:07, Nickel bullet crossers, BB gets there and QB throws it away in the grasp…3rd and 10, 1:01, Nickel CB blitz, sending The Gambler, OT snuffs out the blitz, Murphy steps up and throws it high out of the endzone, Mac had good coverage, incomplete…4th and 10, 0:55, ILLEGAL SUBSTITUTION PENALTY BC, 5 yards…4th and 15, 0:55, Dime of Doom, we rush 3, all day to throw, throws a beautiful dart over the middle trying to thread the needle between KW and JJ,

a little off but the WR had a diving chance, the ball goes through his hands…TURNOVER ON DOWNS, Ballgame.

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY:

Stats:

The Tigers are now ranked 19th in Scoring Defense. We are ranked 5th in Total Defense.

6th in “opponent yards per play.”

12th in “yards per carry” by our opponents and 17th in “yards per pass attempt.”

6th in sacks, #1 in “Tackles for Loss,” and #71 in “Turnovers Forced.”

#1 in “Opponent 3rd Down Conversions” but 58th in “Redzone TD% Allowed.”

#13 in 10+ yard plays given up.

Vic Beastly is ranked 4th in the nation in “sacks per game” and 10th in “tackles for loss per game.” Stephone Anthony is ranked 69th in TFLs per game.

Syracuse’s offense is ranked 26th “in the nation in yards per carry,” 95th in “yards per pass attempt,” and 61st in “yards per play.” Cameron Lynch from Syracuse is ranked 22nd in “sacks per game.”

We should have the better offense and defense in the game on Saturday. Although, why do I feel like it could be a 23-17 type game?

The eye test says

After the 3rd quarter domination, it appeared we had this game in hand and it seemed that we had taken it to the “Alabama 2011” level in the front 7 after a shaky first half. What was really happening is that BC was content to just try to play power football, run clock, and keep it close until the end of the game. Therefore, BC never got us out of the box. Then, the 4Q started and they opened up the play book and found ways to get the ball downfield.

Then we find out that Murphy CAN throw. BC just wanted to stay in the game and guarantee that they have a chance to win. In one way, we were the more talented team and they gave us that respect. In another way, it’s possible they gave us too much respect and thwarted some opportunities for themselves. Either way, mission accomplished for them. They had a chance to win at the end of the game.

However, mission accomplished for us as we prevailed in a close game with a clutch defensive stop for the 2nd game in a row. The offense is not the same with Stoudt in there, but the defense has put the team on its back and carried us to victory.

I’ll wait until the end of the year to assess where this defense ranks with other great Clemson defenses from my lifetime, but this one is going to be up there awfully high if they keep performing at this level.

PLAYER REVIEW:

Game Ball: Stephone Anthony. Anthony was all over the field making plays and cleaning up messes in this game. Last year, he was in Shuey’s shadow still as our 2nd best ILB. This year, he has become a special player and the All American level talent we hoped he would be when he got here. Better late than never. Of all the players departing after this year, we might miss him the most. Again, Grady Jarrett finishes a very close 2nd as he has almost every week of the season. He hasn’t gotten my game ball yet (which tells you how talented this defense is). Grady brings his A-game every week and, imo, is a better DT than Donnell Washington, Brandon Thompson, and Jarvis Jenkins.

All American Level Performance: Grady Jarrett, Stephone Anthony

All ACC Level Performance: Vic Beasley, Corey Crawford, DeShawn Williams, Tarvaris Barnes, Jayron Kearse

Solid: Everybody else except…

Less than solid: T.J. Green. They picked on him a good bit. Anytime they needed a big play they usually went at him. This is a problem that needs to be taken care of by personnel in my opinion. Jadar Johnson or Kearse needs to be cross trained at both safety positions with JJ being the primary backup to both.

Past Game Balls: Robert Smith (Georgia), Stephone Anthony (SC St., FSU), Garry Peters (UNC), Vic Beasley (N.C. St.), Jayron Kearse (Louisville)