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Clemson Spring Game Film Review: 1st Quarter

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NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

More than ever, it’s important not to get carried away with knee-jerk reactions after a spring game which I found somewhat alarming from an offensive perspective. On the other hand, of course, this is encouraging from a defensive perspective. Even with this in mind, I remain less than enthused with what I saw from the quarterbacks; the defense is expected to dominate this fall and should have largely won the day on Saturday, especially with split rosters. But after a day in which each QB looked shaky and/or shaken, I exit the spring with far more questions there than answers.

Shorthand

Alley = area between the OT and WR. BCB = Boundary Cornerback. Bucksweep = power run with 2 blockers pulling from the backside. Bullet = linebacker A or B gap blitz. C0, C1, C2, C3, C4 (quarters) = coverage scheme by the secondary. DIME OF DOOM = 3rd down 3-2-6 havoc formation. FCB = Wide side or field cornerback. Fire = S, NB, LB blitz from the outside. Green Dog = man blitz when your man stays in to block or is not in the formation. 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 coverage. OZ = outside zone run or zone blocked play off-tackle. PA = Play Action. PBU = Pass broken up. Power = run play in which backside guard pulls to lead block. Red Dog (overload) = LB and S/NB blitz on the same side. Robber = S or LB underneath zone to take away crossing routes. C3 Sky = SS moves up two yards, takes flat, CBs and FS take deep thirds. Soft= CBs/NB playing well off the WR until he gets to the 1st down line. Stretch = zone blocked run just inside the last offensive player on that side. Stack = the 3 LBs are stacked directly behind DL. Stalk = WR blocks DB in front of him. Sweep = RB/QB run, often FB/ H-B lead play to the D gap. TO = Triple Option. ZR = Zone read option play.

Format

  • Thoughts within a play are separated by a comma. (,)
  • Each play is separated by an ellipsis. (...)
  • First downs are separated by a paragraph.
  • Comments on a drive are in italics.
  • Offensive personnel listed as a 2 digit number: # of RBs, # of TEs, # of WRs; 11 = 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 receivers; 22 = 2 RB, 2 TE, 1 receiver, etc.
  • Defensive personnel listed as # of DL, dash, # of linebackers: 4-3, 3-4, etc.

Play by Play

1st quarter

Orange ball, Bryant QB, 15:00, Orange 35, 0-0

1st & 10, 22 I-form (wow) vs 4-3, Bryant fumbles the snap exchange, recovered by offense, loss of 1...

Immediate impression: Isaiah Simmons is playing nickel/Sam. This is exciting since he gives Dorian O’Daniel a capable substitute in the 4-3 and he may even start at nickel.

2nd & 11, 11 shotgun vs nickel (same personnel but Simmons split out, love his flexibility), ZR handoff to Fuller gains 12, Wilkins stunted away from the play and Crowder was clear to block Davis (Will linebacker) immediately...

11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, quick out to Greenlee, Smith flies in from his new strong safety position to make a clean tackle, gain of 3...11 shotgun vs nickel, screen to McCloud wildly overthrown out of bounds, likely the torn pinky ligament, Israel enters at QB...3rd & 7, 10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 3 Sam fire/WDE drop, quick out to Renfrow complete for a gain of 4, PUNT.

White ball, Cooper QB, 12:46, White 19, 0-0

11 shotgun vs 4-3, fake jet motion counter to Choice, fights for a gain of 5...10 shotgun (2x2 stacked) vs 4-3, quick screen to Cain gains 2...10 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1 robber, rollout, out route to Chase complete for no gain, PUNT.

Cooper definitely seems to have the best arm of the bunch; his release his quick and fluid. Play-calling is bland on both sides but that’s fine in during a broadcast scrimmage. I’d like to see more chances for Cooper to read downfield.

Orange ball, Bryant QB, 11:04, Orange 43, 0-0

11 shotgun vs nickel, reverse to McCloud looks promising early but Wiggins cuts him off and out of bounds, gain of 3...11 shotgun vs nickel BCB blitz, ZR handoff to Fuller gains 3...empty shotgun vs nickel cover 4, RPO, Bryant quickly tucks and runs up the middle, jukes Skalski, gain of 11...

10 shotgun vs nickel fire cover 4, quick curl to Renfrow overthrown, Simmons with the hit on Bryant may have forced the overthrow or perhaps the pinky again...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, jet sweep to McCloud, Wiggins reads it and flies the alley to set the edge but Yeargin wasn’t quick enough to prevent the cutback, McCloud in the open field is where he excels, gain of 32...

Davis and Wiggins each tried to set the edge, Yeargin sat on Bryant and didn’t get outside quickly enough to prevent a cutback.

11 shotgun vs nickel, ZR handoff to Choice, Simpson was clear to the second level but blocked nobody, only a gain of 2...11 shotgun vs nickel, ZR keeper, Wiggins reads it and keeps Bryant from turning the corner, loss of 1, good tackle...11 shotgun vs nickel, fake jet sweep left, QB power sweep right, Maverick Morris pushes Wilkins into the endzone (whoa), Simpson seals Davis at the second level, and Bryant cuts back behind him, dives into the endzone for a touchdown.

Davis over-ran this and left the backside gap open for an easy seal by Simpson. The offensive line won this play.

Good to see Wiggins making plays again, I’d all but written him off after last season. It seems he can provide solid depth at either safety position this fall. As of now I do not see Bryant as a competent starting quarterback, but at the very least I think he should be on the field in short yardage — whether as a decoy in the zone read or primary option on QB power/sweep. This should be a package for him regardless.

White ball, Johnson QB, 8:16, White 22, 7-0 Orange lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3, sweep motion at the snap causes Johnson to fumble, he recovers and is swarmed for a loss of 5...10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, DT stunt, Johnson backs away from a perceived rush and throws off the back foot to Cannon Smith in the flat, off target and incomplete, skittish freshman moment...10 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, Johnson quickly steps up and scrambles for a gain of 9...

More inexperience/nerves. As he matures (and perhaps enjoys in a 1st team offensive line) Johnson will learn to anticipate the deep crossing route to Cain which opened as he scrambled.

Orange ball, Israel QB, 6:48, Orange 12, 7-0 Orange lead

11 shotgun vs 4-3 (Simmons FS) Sam fire man, curl/wheel combo on the wide side, wheel route complete to Renfrow along the sideline, gain of 31...

11 shotgun vs nickel (Simmons back at nickel) cover 4, ZR dive for Fuller gains 3...11 shotgun vs nickel Mike/Sam blitz, flare out to Fuller in the flat gains 8, good clean hit by Smith at the end...

Empty shotgun vs nickel, tunnel screen to McCloud is sniffed out but Skalski misses the tackle and allows a 4 yard gain...11 shotgun vs 4-3, quick bubble screen this time to McCloud who fights for another 3 yards, good closing tackle from Smith again who looks very aggressive and polished...11 shotgun vs 4-3 man cover 1 Mike/Will bullets, quick slant to Renfrow wide open, soft coverage from a walk-on Sam, gain of 9...

11 shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, max protect with 3 vertical routes, Israel holds the ball and releases under duress, throwing late and off target over the middle, Simmons drops an easy interception on the run, might’ve had the head start to return it all the way and thus dropped it...11 shotgun vs 4-3, ZR dive to Fuller gains 5...empty shotgun vs 4-3 cover 4, comeback fade to Thompson covered beautifully by Mullen, that’s a mismatch, FIELD GOAL GOOD.

White ball, Cooper QB, 3:29, White 36, 10-0 Orange lead

11 shotgun vs nickel (Spector nickel/Sam), IZ to Feaster gains 10 yards...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 3, go route to Cain overthrown...empty shotgun vs nickel cover 3 Will fire, QB power gains 5 behind the pulling Hearn...empty shotgun vs nickel man cover 1, easy slant complete to Powell vs soft coverage, gain of 12...

11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Sam fire, PA, Cooper wanted Cain on a go route but he is hit on release and Cain cut the route off, incomplete...11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 Sam fire, QB draw has no chance and Cooper is finally brought down behind the line by Lawrence...11 shotgun vs 4-3 double LB bullets, Cooper eludes pressure and gets a pass off to Cain underneath who promptly drops it, PUNT.

Orange ball, Bryant QB, 1:20, Orange 20, 10-0 Orange lead

11 shotgun vs nickel, bucksweep to Thomason (walk-on) goes nowhere, loss of 1...11 shotgun vs nickel man cover 1 NB fire, speed option keeper gains 5...11 shotgun vs nickel cover 4, Bryant steps up and scrambles, breaks Sterling Johnson’s shoestring tackle, jukes the corner Cameron Scott (walk-on) and is free down the sideline for a big gain to end the quarter.

I actually like best what I’ve seen from Cooper thus far. He has the best arm, throwing motion, and seems the most confident of the bunch besides Israel, who probably has the best grasp on the offense’s route tree. Cooper has eluded pressure well without looking to immediately run like Bryant and Johnson have. Bryant will always be a run-first QB and the offense will not reach its full potential under such direction. Even if he does develop as a downfield passer, his throwing motion is too elongated and inaccurate for the unit to thrive. Johnson is playing like a freshman in front of a big crowd for the first time: he’s nervous and not yet going through reads. Luckily there is a long way to go before September, but based on one quarter of a meaningless scrimmage, Cooper looks the most capable of the group.