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Snap Count Review: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

Orange britches!

NCAA Football: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The season debut of the infamous “Orange Britches” did not disappoint as the Tigers handily defeated the Hokies in a lopsided blowout, punching their ticket to the looming rematch against Notre Dame.

Snap counts at this point in the season are a helpful indicator of how things have trended over the season at each position group, so let’s look at where things stand after the final regular season game:

Clemson Offensive Snaps

Player Name (* indicates start) Position Game Snap Count Season Snap Count
Player Name (* indicates start) Position Game Snap Count Season Snap Count
Trevor Lawrence* QB 55 492
DJ Uiagalelei QB 1 232
Travis Etienne* RB 37 443
Lyn-J Dixon RB 10 120
Chez Mellusi RB 4 68
Darien Rencher RB 1 56
Amari Rodgers* WR 49 517
Cornell Powell* WR 49 506
EJ Williams* WR 28 288
Brannon Spector WR 13 157
Ajou Ajou WR 5 110
Will Swinney WR 4 123
Davis Allen TE 31 294
Braden Galloway* TE 25 381
JC Chalk TE 6 115
Jaelyn Lay TE 2 73
Cade Stewart* OL 55 689
Jackson Carman* OL 55 660
Matt Bockhorst* OL 55 622
WIll Putnam* OL 47 657
Jordan McFadden* OL 47 645
Walker Parks OL 8 175
Mason Trotter OL 8 135
Paul Tchio OL 1 79
Mitchell Mayes OL 1 60
Hunter Rayburn OL 1 56

Virginia Tech chose to hold the ball as long as possible on their drives, leading to considerably lower snap counts and only 22 minutes of possession for the Clemson offense. It was a solid attempt to try to slow down the Tigers on offense, except for the whole preventing the Tigers from scoring part.

This game, despite the blowout score, didn’t allow for the usual level of substitutions on the offensive side of the ball. Most of the starters didn’t even clear fifty reps, and only two of the backups received more than ten snaps.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Darien Rencher with the 50-yard touchdown run on his one snap, you love to see it. Great moment for a great guy.
  • Lyn-J Dixon and Chez Mellusi looked nice out there on their reps - it’s hard to tell how much the backups benefit from opposing defenses respecting the run less without ETN playing. Still, Dixon had a nice touchdown run and Mellusi ran hard.
  • Trevor Lawrence played decently but had a couple “what happened there?” moments too. With the way Mac Jones and Kyle Trask are racking up numbers over in the SEC, Trevor needed a last push to keep voters’ attention, but unfortunately this wasn’t it.
  • Will Swinney currently sitting at 123 snaps for the season, 13 more than Ajou Ajou.
  • Cornell Powell came up just short of his fourth 100-yard receiving game at 90 yards, which would have been a Clemson first. His play late in the season has been critical for this offense, especially with how many receivers seem to be battling injuries.

Clemson Defensive Snaps

Player Name (* indicates start) Position Game Snap Count Season Snap Count
Player Name (* indicates start) Position Game Snap Count Season Snap Count
Justin Mascoll* DE 29 313
Xavier Thomas DE 25 119
Myles Murphy* DE 24 338
KJ Henry DE 17 314
Regan Upshaw DE 16 157
Greg Williams DE 9 65
Tyler Davis* DT 36 128
Bryan Bresee* DT 30 366
Nyles Pinckney DT 20 212
Jordan Williams DT 16 193
Ruke Orhorhoro DT 7 21
Etinosa Reuben DT 2 37
DeMonte Capehart DT 2 18
Darnell Jefferies DT 1 47
Trenton Simpson LB 34 233
Mike Jones Jr. LB 32 316
Kane Patterson LB 31 103
Baylon Spector* LB 28 428
LaVonta Bentley LB 20 73
Keith Maguire LB 19 95
Jake Venables LB 8 319
James Skalski* LB 5 218
Mario Goodrich* CB 55 173
Derion Kendrick CB 50 280
Malcolm Greene* CB 18 111
LeAnthony Williams CB 10 100
Fred Davis II CB 9 168
Sheridan Jones CB 5 280
Nolan Turner* S 56 484
Joseph Charleston* S 43 380
Jalyn Philips S 24 137
Ray Thornton III S 17 137
Tyler Venables S 15 198
RJ Mickens S 1 32

For all the injuries and shuffling on defense this year, they have still become one of the better units in the country under Venables’ steady guidance. Virginia Tech was held to a season-low 131 rushing yards, and really only cleared 200 passing yards due to a flukey Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Given how Virginia Tech tried to really control the tempo and build long, slow drives to wear out both the defense and the clock, this unit performed excellently.

At corner, Goodrich and Kendrick locked things down with at least 50 snaps each. Andrew Booth was held out this game, and although Malcolm Greene started, he only tallied 18 reps.

The linebacker position is where where things get interesting. James Skalski and Jake Venables exited the game early due to injuries, opening the door for Kane Patterson and LaVonta Bentley to reach season-high snap counts. Trenton Simpson, a true freshman (just reminding everyone), led all linebackers in snaps.

It has been said on this site before, but for a true freshman to come into Venables’ linebacker system and be able to largely hold his own thus far is highly impressive. Simpson has 233 snaps on the year, the 4th-highest count for that position group.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Xavier Thomas matching his season-high snap count at 25 and clearing 100 on the season! Awesome to see him performing at this level again. Can’t imagine he would leave after such a stilted season but it will be interesting to see what the defensive end position looks like next season. Justin Foster unsurprisingly indicated he will be returning as well, which could lead to a log-jam at the position for 2021. Good problem to have!
  • Skalski exiting after that first series hurts, but more for the matchup against Notre Dame than Virginia Tech. His status for that game is huge, as his absence was heavily felt against Book and the Irish offense. (Fortunately, it sounds like removing him from the game was precautionary.)
  • Pinckney with the reeeeeeeach for the fumble recovery made me laugh. Great play from the veteran.
  • Jake Venables is out for the year likely with his broken arm. It is unfortunate for the guy, but the silver lining was getting to see the younger players step up and play in his spot. LaVonta Bentley has looked great - more of him please!
  • Really like how Joseph Charleston has emerged in the secondary to become a solid safety. His play alongside Nolan Turner’s steady work has been encouraging.
  • Tyler Davis also breaking 100 reps on the season. It really is amazing how much of a difference he makes on the line.

This is a good defense. At full strength, this is an excellent defense. Time to buckle up and play championship football.