This game was fine. We didn't show much at all we haven't run this year, with one major exception. On a day when Wayne Gallman was resting Clemson saw a surprising name lead the team in rushing yards and yards per carry, backup quarterback Kelly Bryant. Despite not taking the field until the second half Bryant led the Tigers with 58 yards and 7.3 yards per carry. What is really interesting is that on many drives both Watson and Bryant played QB. It sort of reminds me of the 2006 Gators, where Tebow was used as a situational runner to supplement starter Chris Leak. There's some differences, for one Watson absolutely can run, and two, Bryant is not the bull that Tebow was. But Clemson should be hesitant to run Watson now, any injury pretty quickly turns into Watson being banged up in a lose and go home game. Bryant may be a guy who is able to take the field and add a look for our offense.
(As per usual, all images/gifs are from ESPN/Youtube user Tigerray unless otherwise noted.)
Let's look at two of his plays, first his big run of the night, a twenty yard run on QB counter. The play before, a fake jet sweep to run QB power look reminiscent of every Wildcat package in the country, got Clemson to third and one.
Clemson begins aligned in a 2 x 2 set, with Jordan Leggett aligned in a wing position to the right, Wake Forest is in a pretty normal 4-2-5 alignment with the exception of the boundary safety, who is cheating up to play the run. Leggett motions over to create a trips formation and Wake tips its hand, lining up in a 4-3. There is safety help, but it is tilted heavily towards the trips side, likely afraid of a bubble screen or stick route.
Wake Forest isn't wrong to crowd the line either, for all of his running prowess Bryant is averaging three yards per pass attempt. His longest pass on the season is ten yards. There's an issue with this style of defense though, if Bryant gets past that stacked box the safety has to run him down, and Kelly Bryant is stupid fast. You do not want that sort of footrace.
Clemson was able to spring a hole wide open. Norton and Fruhmorgen, especially Fruhmorgen, blew multiple Demon Deacons off the ball. I'm not thrilled about Guillermo's block, but it'll do. Hyatt sealed off well enough. Eric Mac Lain found work almost immediately, logging the defensive end and sealing him inside. In an ideal world you want a kick out, but that end was pretty much playing the B gap at that point. With both Leggettt and CJ Fuller serving as lead blockers Kelly is able to sprint through the second level of the defense entirely untouched. Without that many lead blockers this play doesn't happen. But because Kelly, the QB, is a power running threat it frees up Fuller to serve as another blocker. With Kelly's speed in the open field he is able to get twenty yards before he's even touched.
The next play is how I think Clemson will begin to use Kelly's legs to aid his advancement in the passing game. It actually came earlier in this same drive, on another third and short. Clemson is once again aligned in 2 x 2, this time with Leggett as a true slot.
Wake Forest is again in a relatively normal 4x2x5, although all of their DB's except the nickel are extremely far off the line of scrimmage. Clemson pulled the dummy snap trick we've run a few times this season. The one where the center snaps and the offensive line doesn't move.
It serves to freeze the front seven while giving Bryant enough time to get outside. It's not a way to run sprint outs six times a game. It is something defensive coaches have to waste practice time preparing for. As is every single play Bryant is running.
The actual pass itself did not go so well this time, and the drive was bailed out due to a flag. Here's why I love the call though. Sprint out passing is based on very simple reads for quarterbacks. Often times there is only one pass read. Rarely are there more than two. After that Bryant's job is simply to tuck the ball and take what he can get. Bryant doesn't have the best pocket sense right now. The drive these two plays are from? It stalled out and wound up becoming a field goal when Bryant's first read was covered and he couldn't covert a third down with his legs. With the sprint out Bryant wouldn't waste time deciding to run, it's built into the play. In addition, for a quarterback who is very much used to run the ball, it serves to spread the field horizontally and punish teams for playing cover zero. If Bryant were able to pass consistently enough to at least put a little fear into the back of a teams minds when they lined up against him he is a dangerous weapon in a situational package. If not, it's valuable experience for a talented freshman as well as our best backup quarterback.