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Clemson Beats Syracuse: Running Deshaun Watson

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

For this edition of play of the week we are going to look at a draw concept Clemson has used a few different times to spring Deshaun Watson open for long runs. In this case the most notable instance of it came in the fourth quarter, with Clemson nursing a 34-27 lead vs. a shockingly pesky Syracuse team. Due to a trip I did not see this game. Watching film afterwords was, to say the least, an adventure. All credit to Syracuse though, they played one of their best games of the year. Unfortunately, like the LSU game, it just wasn't enough for the Orange. (As always, all images via ESPN/Youtube user Tigerray)

Clemson begins aligned in trips, with Gallman aligned to the single receiver side. Syracuse is in a pretty standard 4-2-5 alignment, with two safeties deep and the fifth DB splitting the difference between the second and third receiver to the trips side. Cain, to the boundary, begins the play by running the corner to his side off. In essence just going deep and blocking him if/when he figures out it's a run. Scott, the furthest split receiver to the field, does likewise. Both inside receivers in the trips (Leggett and Thompson) run a few yards upfield before settling into curl routes. Based on the way Watson turns his head towards these curl routes I'm guessing at least one of them is live if the defense doesn't cover them, and Watson might be allowed to throw to Scott if he feels like it. The play Clemson is running certainly seems very similar to the stick draw.

Let's look at what the offensive line is doing. Hyatt and Gore are both dropping back as if to pass set, for all intents and purposes this is a passing play in their eyes. The same can be said for Maverick Morris, who lets the Syracuse DT get under his pads and blow him back. Here's hoping Crowder stays healthy through and after the ACC Championship game. Jay Guillermo and Eric Mac Lain have to, between them, block the nose tackle and the linebacker. Since the nose drives towards Guillermo all Mac Lain has to do is give him a shove before he is able to make a backpedaling and off balance linebacker look absolutely silly. Gallman comes across the formation and sort of blocks the last linebacker, with Watson making a nice cut. In essence the offensive line is running a combo pass protection scheme, but the players assigned to linebackers are firing out to block them past the line of scrimmage. Since those two players are either, in Mac Lain's case due to speed, and in Gallman's due to alignment, not likely to get there for a while this gives Watson time to make his read and take off.

Finally, just watch Watson cook. I know as a collective fanbase we hold our breath when he runs, but lord can he run. Watson breaks one tackle at the line of scrimmage, avoids and outruns a linebacker who bounces off of Gallman then stiff arms another defender before falling down because he is bobbling the ball. If Watson didn't have to run I'm pretty sure he's gone. As is, this was a thirty nine yard gain. On a day where Gallman and Brooks both looked fine and nothing more Watson lead the team in rushing yards. Watson currently has nearly 600 rushing yards, averaging about 10-11 carries and 60 yards per game. That alone is not enough to sustain a rushing game, but it certainly has made everything Clemson does on offense this year more dangerous. Perhaps more so than that the elusiveness Watson shows here is next to impossible to game plan for. There's not a lot you can do to make a guy that hard to tackle go down. At the rate Watson is going he should account for 4500 total yards easily, and could push 5000 yards. As a true sophomore. I do not know if he is a Heisman caliber quarterback this year, nor do I want to get into that. What I am certain is that, for as dangerous a passer as he is, Watson is just as deadly on the occasions he is called upon to run the ball.