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QT’s Take (MMQT): Clemson Avoids a Stinger

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Georgia Tech gives Clemson all they can handle at home

Syndication: The Greenville News Ken Ruinard / staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A win is a win is a win. This is going to be the season of survive and win to fight again. The ACC is horrible and Clemson just needs to avoid losing while riding the top 5 elite defense and trying to figure this thing out on offense.

Dabo and the coaches will rightly say—look, Georgia Tech limited possessions, came out in a funky defensive formation they hadn’t shown on tape, Clemson fumbled and lost possessions, and needed an onside kick recovery and safety to give themselves one offensive play to win it. The defense didn’t give up a touchdown and what are you guys mad about?? To a certain extent, I buy some of these excuses, but they are still excuses.

Yes, Georgia Tech came out in some funky defensive looks. It was some Cloud looks (3 down lineman), running some trap coverage, etc. Is that a valid excuse for blowing up your entire offensive gameplan? Not at all—but there is some merit to the argument. Remember Bockhorst has never played Center and called protections and DJ doesn’t have much experience with it either, so I think the offensive braintrust decided to simplify things and just run the ball with the lead. Don’t give up any pick six or interception and ride the defense to the victory (in the future, Clemson should probably just take FGs when given the chance).

BUT you had the entire delay time to make adjustments and figure out how to attack the defensive scheme. Yes, dropping eight makes it tougher to take shots, but there wasn’t a sack the entire game and there are plenty of zone gaps and LB matchups that you can take advantage of with the WR and RB talent at Clemson. Plenty of times GT crept 8 men into the box with man-to-man coverage on outside receivers and one safety over the top. Can WRU not attack that look?

AND this is a consistent theme with Coach Elliott. The defense dictates to the offense—the defensive coordinator dictates to Elliott what Clemson’s offense can and can’t do. Clemson is supposed to use its talent advantage to exploit weaknesses in the defense and leverage favorable matchups but is baffled by defenses doing something different (ie—the offensive coaches and head coach struggle to make proper adjustments).

OFFENSE

I thought it was obvious this offseason that structural change and revamping of the scheme were needed and we haven’t seen that yet. Also befuddling because Elliott let DJ unleash his arm against ND and BC. Here are a few humble suggestions:

  • Shifts and motions got taken out of the scheme to simplify things. I think that was a mistake. Elliott has never loved using shifts, jet motion, or orbit (which I’m not a huge fan of either but teams have figured it out), but time to incorporate more and commit to it.
  • Commit to being a tempo team. How about we start using tempo strategically like every team does to Venables. Second and short—sugar huddle—let the offense move. If they are sticking with Cloud and forcing you to run—hit them on the edges with strategic tempo on second and third down.
  • Two straight games without a sack—time for more play action passing that goes deep. Tight ends should have feasted on gaps in the zone of GT. At this point, I’m not sure what Galloway brings to the table. He has consistently dropped important balls, barely blocks, and should not be the starter. Earn more playing time with performance on the field.
  • Related to this—the perimeter blocking is so bad. This includes that Tight Ends. Ladson and Ngata have regressed in this area since coming to Clemson. For bigger bodies that struggle to get separation, they need to block well on the perimeter every single play.
  • Please add more bunch formations. What happened to the stack looks? It looks like remedial football. Screen game to Shipley
  • I am certainly questioning the Ross in the slot experiment. He actually didn’t play a bad game and made some key catches. But I think it might be time to move him outside and use him for jump balls (and move him around/back to the slot for third and short passing).
  • DJ needs to work on his footwork. He has such a strong arm that he doesn’t always need great balance, but his accuracy is impacted when he lets his feet stop working. Quick feet eat.
  • Shipley is RB #1. Repeat after me—Shipley is RB #1.

Poor Marcus Tate. Just your third start in your freshman season and everything you prepared for during the week goes out the window. Do we have the depth and the numbers at Oline and Guard to get him on the sideline and coach him up? No. And we weren’t able to coach him up during the lightning delay either (although he played a little bit better). Can’t miss the block on the fourth down pitch play to Shipley. Bockhorst is the other major problem. He is best at Center, but consistently gets beat (and no, he doesn’t overexert himself and play so hard—he falls on the ground all the time, super frustrating because he can play better but hasn’t yet).

At times the run blocking wasn’t bad. This oline can be better and will get better with time. Cut out the penalties, improve execution. Push the pile!!

Here I am going to stop and take a minute to defend DJU. He didn’t play all that bad. He probably missed three or four throws and that footwork must improve, but on a crucial drive, I LOVED the fire we saw from DJ. We saw him run the ball with purpose and authority. He is going to be the starter regardless—there is no one else and he has the talent. He needs to be built up and keep his confidence high. I don’t think he is the problem (improvement—sure, but he isn’t the problem).

Will Shipley basically willed Clemson to victory in many ways. He got YAC yards we haven’t seen around here in a while (ok—since ETN...lol). But legitimately, Cap’n of the Will Ship turned two-yard gains into 4 or 5-yard gains and has an uncanny ability to grind out yards that just aren’t there. THE GREAT YACK (I’m still workshopping names since Steamboat Willy got banned). I hope Lyn-J Dixon sticks with it—can’t take those negative plays, tackle for loss. Dixon’s strength is how he can bounce it outside, but sometimes that can bite you.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Good.

That on-side kick was just a great job by GT. Tip your cap. Ajou did fine trying to tip the ball out of bounds.

No more muffed punts. No more holds (Sheridan Jones got called).

DEFENSE

Also good. Mostly good.

Got tired on the drive before the half and that last part of the game, but kept another team from seeing the endzone.

The only negatives were losing contain on the QB too many times. I think Yates wheels surprised some of the Clemson defenders. Give credit to Yates for getting beat up and not flinching. Some problems with GT using TEMPO (I know Venables doesn’t want to hear it but when Skalski is staring at the sideline on a crucial down—it has to be asked) cropped up again. T-Bone (Tyler Venables) is fine, I’d rather see Phillips inserted and Greene or Mukuba slide into that slot as other options. Nolan Turner was also very rusty in this game and took a few bad angles, had a couple poor tackles.

LaVonta Bentley started for Spector and played a great game. Spector shouldn’t rush back until he is completely healthy. Spector gives a bit more coverage ability than Bentley, but pads were crackling with Bentley on the field. Losing Simpson certainly hurt and glad he will be back for the full NC State game.

Mukuba again impressed. He had a couple key pass breakups. Took one bad angle on a play, but other than that—the star continues to shine. Also liked Jalen Phillips play as well.

Xavier Thomas flashed! Happy for him. Bresee also showed up despite the shoulder injury.

LAST WORDS

So yeah, I can see how you can watch the tape and say—the team didn’t play that bad. Good job GT coaches. The offense will improve. The condensed game from GT and lightning delay didn’t help Clemson. But all that really isn’t comforting when these a consistent issues and problems. The hubris is dangerously close to coming home to roost, which would ruin a stellar BV defense. Get it fixed.

SAFETY

Shipley can’t fumble, could have coughed up the entire game.

I actually don’t have a huge problem with running there (and I’m even fine not snapping under center), but if you are going to run then don’t take the penalty. Every inch matters, right? If you take the penalty, then, of course, have your QB run around outside the tackle box or run to the sideline and chuck the ball to the sideline past the line of scrimmage. Game over. Your QB has the strongest arm in college football. He could easily throw it to the sideline and burn seven seconds (and no, don’t purposefully take the safety in the situation).