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Clemson Football Season Preview: Offensive X's and O's

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Taking a look at Clemson's offense this season and how our strategy could change based on personnel and our opponents.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Key Losses: Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Roderick McDowell, Zac Brooks (for one year), Tyler Shately, Shaq Anthony (not from a talent standpoint but a depth one), Brandon Thomas, and Darrell Smith. (We can also include Giff Timothy and Patrick DeStefano but these losses were already known).

Key Additions: WR Artavis Scott, WR Demare Kitt, WR Kyrin Priester, RB Adam Choice, WR Trevion Thompson, and TE Milan Richard…….oh yeah and QB Deshaun Watson (ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN).

The 2014 Clemson offense will have a much, much different look to it compared to last 2 years. And yes, it is mostly due to the fact that we have lost Mr. Watkins, Mr. Boyd, and Mr. Bryant. Granted we have lost many other key contributors in between but, these guys were the key to playing the ball downfield for explosive plays. Tahj had the arm strength and deep ball placement to hit guys in stride 40+ down the field, and Sammy and Martavis were able to outrun 99.99% of people playing football. This was a deadly combo.

This year, expect a lot more methodical drives that take up 12, 14, hell even up to 18 plays. I do not expect us to be as explosive as the previous season, but I do expect us to be much more efficient in moving the ball in smaller pieces. Also, if Cole can keep up the break neck pace that he had when he came into games last year, we could see this offense run even faster. (Please, do not take this as a guarantee, as I am just a lowly sports fan and not a gypsy.)

Now, we all know what the general M.O. is for our offense. Run the ball well first (supposedly, but when we had Sammy to throw it to…meh) and then use the run to set up the pass. Now, this is always a recipe for success, as it gives you the ability to suck in the defense only to stretch them back out again with a long play action pass. If we are to stretch the field vertically this season, we HAVE to get the running game going. Our receivers are both young and not in the same athletic cloud district as Sammy and Martavis. Our guys this year are probably more quick than fast.

I would like to break down some plays that I think we will see a lot this year, and will prove to be vital to our team’s success. And the first one is one that we have seen a lot in the Chad’s first year here at Clemson, but seems to have gotten lost along the way. It’s the spread triple option. So we start off with the formation below (or something similar).

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After the snap, the tackle leaves the frontside defensive end alone for the quarterback to read. If the defensive end crashes down, the quarterback will pull the ball and run to the edge, if the end stays to the outside to keep contain on the quarterback, he will hand the ball off to the running back. The is the first element of the triple option, the dive read.

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If the quarterback does pull the ball and run for the edge, he will next read the WLB/S. At the snap, the slot receiver will go out and block the cornerback, at this moment if the WLB/S elects to follow the block to the outside and the QB still has the ball, the QB will keep the ball and run up the seam. If the WLB/S sees the ball and comes back in at the QB running to the edge, the QB can flick it out to the outside on the receiver quick screen.

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I personally love the spread triple option as it makes the defense have to think rather than play on instinct while at the same time, giving your playmakers space in which to play in (get with the times GT). Next I want to look at a running play that we struggled with last year, but if ran correctly can provide a solid inside run game to which we can run a play action off of. We start with the formation below (or a variation of).

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At the snap, the RT chips the nose and climbs to the SLB. The tight end then pulls to trap block the end and provide the kickout to give the RB a seam to run in. If ran effectively, it gives you a solid inside run game to compliment the outside characteristics of the spread. We struggled with this scheme last year, as our tight ends were miserable at blocking, minus Darrell Smtih. We didn’t use Smith a lot last year, though, due to the fact he was not a threat in the receiving game. He was a great blocker, but his athleticism was limited. If Jordan Leggett can manage to be a sound blocker, then he could very well be what were looking for in our TE. The Chad has often said that TE is a crucial part of this offense and you saw at times last year how our struggles there hurt us (NCST early, FSU, SC State early….yeah really).

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But off of this inside run and spread triple option, there are many variations of plays that we can and have run in the past, just to keep the defense honest. One such is where Adam Humphries scored twice on Syracuse by faking the block on the quick screen to Sammy and running on the wheel route. And a variation of the inside run are the wheel routes that Seckinger and Leggett caught in different games last year off of the play action set up by the run game.

And the last plays I would like to review are plays that are starting to take the HUNH offenses to new heights. It’s plays that are covered by SBNation’s Ian Boyd (link in comments). It’s a great article about the evolution of the option and you should read it. I would love to see Clemson to use some of these tactics in games this year, it’s just another dimension for teams to defend.

As far as season predictions go for the offense I will give you three names to you may learn to love by the seasons end.

Number one: Wayne Gallman. You wanna know why you’ll love him? Because he is a big back who loves contact. No more dancing in the Clemson offense (no offense to our departed and current guys who are smaller, but I’m a big guy, so big guy love for days here). Gallman also has great hands and good speed. I am excited to see him strap up. But you guys probably all know his name so let’s move on.

Numero dos: Tyrone Crowder. This guy is strong. Too strong. Like the smell of turpentine in a shoe box dorm room, this guy will knock you off of your feet. He is a little shorter than your average offensive lineman, but who cares? Offensive line is all about leverage and the low man wins. Low man combined with his strength, man that’s a dirty combo. I’m excited to see it.

Nummer drei: Let’s go with a guy with a little more age, shall we? And it’s a guy who we will rely on a lot. Cole Stoudt. Now we all know what he brings to the table. Years of experience in the offense, good accuracy, smart decisions, but has it been against top competition? Well not exactly but I have faith. Now I am by no means a sunshine pumper, but I think that Cole is more than capable of taking the reigns of this offense and leading us to many good victories. So he’s a "game manager"? What I am hearing is that he won’t make dumb mistakes and he will take the easy 5 over the tough 15. Unathletic? He didn’t look like he needed a walker when he was out there last year against GT running the veer. I am excited to see Cole and this offense take shape this year and I hope you are too.

Now let’s tee it up and Go Tigers.