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Clemson Football Coaching: On Dabo Fallacies and Coaching Mettle

Scott Cunningham

Like many of you, I have been in a state of comatose. Just depressed. I wrote this post right after the loss (end of the 4th quarter) but I thought I should let it marinate. I shook off my depressed slumber this morning and found that I'm just as mad. I'm supposed to do Dabo Press Conferences with this post and will return to that next week.

As I write this Todd Gurley just scored again.

You don't want to read it, I don't want to write it, but Clemson just collectively got fed a good dose of reality. (**disclaimer this is an educated rant, but a rant nonetheless)

Since a lot of Clemson fans have begun to think that Dabo is always right about what he says, let us look at some of the fallacies peddled to the Clemson fanbase this offseason.

1. We were the better team in terms of Strength and Conditioning. (in retrospect this is a bit harsh but I maintain that S&C is still a problem for this program)

We have improved in this area, but no one can look at this game and say we were the stronger team or the best conditioned. Pruitt came in and they look like a different team on defense--he had them all lose weight and in better condition. Lots of things contributed to our defense being gassed but this was systemic (defense was gassed, offensive line was reminiscent of the Alabama Georgia Dome, TE's and WR's who couldn't block and our special teams was lacking), which leads to the next point...

2. We have enough quality depth.

You could see how superior the depth was for Georgia. We cannot CANNOT keep giving away scholarships. Rescind the greyshirts of the Davis twins. Kick Carter off the team (those in the know understand why I would say this). Don't even think about offers to Trapp or Dawkins Jr. We waste scholarships and still don't run off enough guys who aren't trying to contribute. We think we are deep at WR but we had zero speed on the field and no big WR target for our QB's. And, of course, we kick Priester off the team.

What were we doing for the last two years recruiting only 2 offensive guards a year?? Joe Gore at RT was woeful but it is not his fault--he has no one behind him. Do not recruit less than three-four O-lineman a year. That is why you have no depth and looked completely outmatched in the second half. The staff was worried about the O-line and they were right. Recruits can't get here fast enough.

Even our Defense, which I thought was developing some good depth was exposed. Boy did we miss Spencer Shuey--our gap integrity was atrocious. I want Steward to succeed, but he was guilty of too many Gurley cutbacks. Setting the edge could be its own bullet point. Our strongside DE's just couldn't get it done and when Barnes cramped up it was pretty much over. Corey Crawford. When that group decided to light up, we lost the game. We needed Crawford on the field or more quality depth at DE to have a chance at stopping Gurley. As Venables said, they didn't do anything special with Beasley, he got handled by TE's one on one and reached the entire night by offensive lineman (here is an explanation of a reach block and controlling your gap).

3. We will be good at RB.

Some fans (those who don't remember the 6-7 season apparently) feel like when Dabo says that "you all will be talking about X position group at the end of the year" that he isn't blowing smoke. (Yes, he was right about the defensive line last year) I know losing Zac Brooks was really, really bad for the gameplan with his ability to block and catch out of the backfield and we can all agree that DJ Howard just doesn't deserve many carries (remember Dabo passed on James White because of his Bama boys Howard and Demont Buice). Not sure we had any yards after contact--it was almost comical seeing him go down so easy. Georgia has 4 backs that were all infinitely better than our guys.

What happened to running jet sweeps with the speed of Davidson? That killed in the Orange Bowl but we seemed to have bulked CJ up a bit and looked to have lost half a step. Was that the best use of his talent? Uggh...Choice and Gallman going forward up the A gap and Davidson attacking the edges. Scott on a jet sweep??

4. Danny Pearman is a good coach.

Improving special teams was an emphasis for both teams in the offseason. Guess which team actually changed things? We seriously don't even try to block anyone (or attempt to block a kick) on special teams. Its embarrassing. We are lucky that kicks were moved up because our coverage is awful.

He doesn't recruit, he barely coaches and I was really surprised that our TE's barely showed up in the game. Crappy blocking, etc. etc. Best is the standard (this should not apply to position coaches golf games).

5. We were the better coached team

Going back and watching the film--we missed so many assignments. These guys have been in the system for years and it is just inexcusable and poor coaching. You can blame players all day long but ultimately coaches are responsible for putting players in places they can succeed and demanding good fundamental technique and execution. Not having Sam Cooper hurt the running game because Leggett was ridiculously bad blocking and Seckinger wasn't much better.

We went with seniority over better talent in some situations because the rationale was that those guys could be trusted. That didn't pan out.

Ryan Norton played an awful game and Webster wasn't much better. Those two were blowing assignments left and right. This is the best we have produced after years of Morris and Caldwell in the system? Yes, Kalon Davis played well and is an example of good development, but Guillermo and David Beasley should start (I'll take a few bad snaps if it means that we don't get blown off the ball).

The deal with Beasley is that the coaches don't want to start him or play him because he is lazy and it is rewarding that work ethic. But his talent level is just that much better. I want to see more Crowder going forward too.

On defense guys started complaining in the 4th quarter after the first Gurley score. When your offense gains 20 total yards it is hard to argue with that, but there is plenty of blame on D. Anthony missed tackles and took some horrific angles, but so did everyone else. Steward allowed the cutback lanes. Our secondary is just plain average. Robert Smith is the equivalent of a below average replacement player. Not athletic enough to impact the game and 'Steady Eddie' just blew it on some of those long runs--just nowhere near the play.

The Georgia coaches had a superior gameplan. Mason didn't hold the ball at all. Any pass was immediately out of his hands--his deep ball is worse than Cole's, which negated our pass rush. Georgia used their talent effectively--simple plays developed to maximize a players talent like Michel. They even ran some jet sweeps!! Gurley on the kickoff. On defense Pruitt brought pressure to the mesh point on the zone read and pressure from the edges.

We have lost our creativity on offense. Watching the Seahawks game and the multiple wrinkles to the zone read I remembered what it was like originally watching a Chad Morris offense. We ran this play once with Watson. If Cole can't do what is required of a QB in the Morris offense, then it is time to go to Watson after the FSU game. I love THE CHAD, but he has lost his mojo--I used to think it was just Boyd's inability to execute, but a guy in the system since the beginning looked absolutely lost and tentative when the scripted drives dried up.

This team is teetering right now. The Priester dismissal was, in part, a move to regain some order but another FSU beatdown and things will get ugly fast. Swinney gets to prove his coaching mettle right now (and I hope it is not with a tennis ball). There is still a lot to play for thanks to the playoff. Beat FSU and Clemson could conceivably win the ACC--I don't think it will happen (no one should after last week) but it would be sweet.

Yeah, that is all I got right now that is intelligent. Anyone else want to rant with me and try to get it out of your system?

What happened to the forward pass in the second half? We didn't get a single ball down the field. No crossing routes or slants? No mass protect when Floyd was abusing Gore? Lakip is going to be fun this year. I understand wanting to slow the pace a bit so that you can save the defense but if you don't push the pace offensively then you never push the opposing team. This happens every year we play South Carolina--go breakneck speed or implement a different system in my opinion.

***Oh and on the Priester dismissal, this was just sort of building. He wanted to be on the field and ran his mouth a bit too much during and in the wake of the Georgia game. Too quick for my liking because he has talent, but no way around the fact that he had a kind of me-first mentality and wasn't afraid to communicate that to other players and coaches.