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Snap Count Review - Clemson Offense

A year in review.

Cheez-It Bowl - Clemson v Iowa State Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The 2021 and 2014 seasons share many parallels for the Clemson football program:

  • For starters, they both finished with the same record of 10-3 after a bowl win in the Camping World Stadium against a Big 12 opponent.
  • Both years Clemson defeated South Carolina but lost to SEC stalwart UGA in the opener.
  • Both seasons featured middling QB play (when Deshaun wasn’t exploding onto the national scene in between injuries, at least) - Cole Stoudt threw for 9 touchdowns against 10 interceptions with a 6.3 YPA, while DJ also threw for 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a 6.0 YPA.
  • A freshman Wayne Gallman rushed for 769 yards with a 4.8 YPA in 2014, while freshman Will Shipley gained 739 yards with a 5.0 YPA this year.
  • Both seasons featured two conference losses, one against a Coastal opponent and one against an Atlantic opponent, but boasted an unbeaten record at home. Clemson even lost its offensive coordinator at the end of both seasons!
South Carolina v Clemson
Former offensive coordinator Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney in 2014 during a game against the Gamecocks.
Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

What’s my point with cherry-picking stats and notable similarities between these years? Perhaps to remind myself that the program had a very comparable year like 2021 not too long ago. In fact, the years that have followed 2014 have easily been the most successful of all for the Clemson football program, so maybe this is just the speed bump to alert everyone to buckle up for the race ahead.

The mountain has been climbed before - now it’s time to see if Dabo and his staff can bounce back and return to the playoff just as they did following the 2014 season.

We can speculate all off-season about what the coming years might hold for the Clemson faithful, but for now, let’s just look at what we do know - playing time. We’ll be taking a look at season snap counts by position group to see how everything shaped out over the course of the year, starting with the offense first. Players with strikethrough on their row indicate season-ending injuries or mid-season transfers.

All snap counts come from the official Clemson report found here; numbers do not necessarily denote official plays, but rather non-special-team snaps.

OL Stats

Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started
Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started
Jordan McFadden 74 872 13
Walker Parks 74 869 13
Will Putnam 73 633 10
Marcus Tate 72 627 8
Hunter Rayburn 74 506 5
Mason Trotter 0 450 7
Matt Bockhorst 0 390 7
Mitchell Mayes 0 103 0
Paul Tchio 0 101 1
Bryn Tucker 2 68 0
Trent Howard 0 53 0
Tristan Leigh 0 20 0
Jacob Edwards 1 18 0
Ryan Linthicum 0 7 0
Dietrick Pennington 0 4 0

Let’s begin with the big boys up front - Clemson will have seven returning offensive linemen next year who logged at least 100 snaps this season. McFadden choosing to return for the 2022 season is a huge boost to this group moving forward, as he is probably Clemson’s best OL right now.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Cheez-It Bowl - Clemson v Iowa State
Jordan McFadden earned Second-Team All ACC Honors this year.
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Freshman Marcus Tate saw a lot of playing time through the first half of the season as he filled in for Mason Trotter, and although there were growing pains, he also showed promise as a young player and will be in the mix for next season’s starting lineup.

Speaking of lineups, this position group saw a different starting group in eight of their games this year. That is a lot of adjustment and is not an easy thing to overcome as a unit. Hopefully, 2022 will bring more stability to this group in regards to both injuries and starting cohesion.

QB Stats

Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVG TD INT
Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVG TD INT
DJ Uiagalelei 74 862 13 208 374 55.6 2,246 6 9 10
Taisun Phommachanh 0 43 0 11 19 57.9 131 6.9 1 1
Hunter Helms 0 26 0 5 13 38.5 58 4.5 0 0
Will Taylor 0 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Wiles 0 11 0 2 4 50 31 7.8 1 0

At quarterback, it was a one-man show this year as DJ Uiagalelei got the starting job, much to the Clemson faithful’s anticipation. Unfortunately, through a variety of WR injuries, OL shuffling, and perhaps a lack of development, DJ struggled to find consistent success for most of the season. The good news is that there were signs he was improving over the course of the year, and while he didn’t have the same bowl game explosion that Cole Stoudt did back in 2014 against Oklahoma, DJ still led this team to 10 wins.

He will compete for the starting honors this spring against the highly touted Cade Klubnik, who arrived on campus for classes earlier this week. DJ has a lot of talent, and he will need to play closer to what we saw from him in 2020 if he wants to keep his job.

Taisun Phommachanh was the #2 guy for most of the year until he made the decision to transfer out, leaving Clemson with DJ and a few walk-ons.

Will Taylor was listed as a QB/WR on Clemson’s official roster, but he didn’t attempt any passes this year. Instead, he flashed his potential more in the return game on special teams and as a gadget player before tearing his ACL against Boston College. He will make the switch to slot receiver once he is healthy.

Funnily enough, Clemson will have three former 5-star QB’s on the roster heading into spring practice, thanks to Hunter Johnson’s returning to Clemson as the Tigers’ first ever transfer portal acquisition. Sounds great on paper!

Everything is on the table heading into spring training - will we see a similar situation to 2018 when star freshman Trevor Lawrence unseated the incumbent Kelly Bryant? Or will DJ prove that he can elevate his game back to where we have seen him capable of playing and hold onto his starting rights?

RB Stats

Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps ATT YDS AVG TD REC YDS TD
Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps ATT YDS AVG TD REC YDS TD
Will Shipley 48 378 149 739 5 11 16 116 0
Kobe Pace 30 273 104 641 6.2 6 12 131 0
Phil Mafah 4 170 68 292 4.3 3 7 50 0
Darien Rencher 2 70 19 62 3.3 0 2 8 0
Lyn-J Dixon 0 37 10 48 4.8 0 2 7 1
Michel Dukes 0 15 2 7 3.5 0 1 3 0

Will Shipley and Kobe Pace shared a healthy 1-2 rotation to combine for nearly 1400 yards to go along with 17 TD’s between them. Pace’s best game came against a big-time matchup with Wake Forest, when he rushed for nearly 200 yards and 2 TD’s. His powerful running legitimately gives Clemson two high-quality starters at RB.

Shipley passed CJ Spiller with his 11th touchdown of the season to trail only Travis Etienne (13) for most touchdowns as a freshman in Clemson history. He also became the first RB to rush for 3 consecutive 100-yard games as a freshman since Spiller - the future is bright for #1.

Phil Mafah showed lots of talent as a freshman and will have to compete with Pace and Shipley for touches next season. However, with Dixon electing to transfer to West Virginia and with Rencher graduating, there should be plenty of playing time to go around for all three returning backs.

WR Stats

Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started REC YDS AVG TD
Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started REC YDS AVG TD
Beax Collins 66 472 6 31 407 13.1 3
Justyn Ross 0 471 10 46 514 11.2 3
Joseph Ngata 30 425 8 23 438 19 1
Dacari Collins 42 254 3 16 221 13.8 0
EJ Williams 0 250 2 9 66 7.3 0
Ajou Ajou 0 236 2 6 73 12.2 0
Will Swinney 51 162 3 7 27 3.9 0
Frank Ladson 0 137 4 4 19 4.8 0
Will Brown 9 86 0 2 38 19 0
Max May 2 35 0 1 32 32 0
Troy Stellato 0 23 0 2 15 7.5 0

Justyn Ross’ 514 receiving yards to lead all Clemson receivers was the lowest total in 25 years. This group struggled for most of the season and dealt with injuries continually. Ross led Clemson in most statistical receiving categories but had a modest season by his standards. Still, to come back after his neck surgery and lead the WR room the way he did is impressive no matter what.

Boston College v Clemson
Ross worked incredibly hard to bounce back after his neck surgery.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Williams, Ladson, and Ngata all struggled with injuries throughout the year, allowing the freshmen duo of the Collins Towers to step up and assert their talents, especially toward the second half of the season. Both of them posted season high snap counts against Wake Forest, Clemson’s 11th opponent of the season.

I’ll be writing the wide receiver season review later, but for now it suffices to say that this group had a strong drop-off in production compared to previous editions of ‘WRU.’

TE Stats

Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started REC YDS AVG TD
Player Name Bowl Game Snaps Season Snaps Games Started REC YDS AVG TD
Davis Allen 61 535 10 28 208 7.4 3
Sage Ennis 2 197 1 1 8 8 0
Braden Galloway 0 132 3 4 14 3.5 0
Jake Briningstool 18 102 0 3 67 22.3 1
Luke Price 3 36 0 1 7 7 0
Jaelyn Lay 0 27 0 0 0 0 0

Davis Allen and Braden Galloway entered the 2021 campaign as the experienced veterans, poised to split the majority of snaps. Unfortunately, Galloway’s senior efforts were cut short through injuries, meaning Allen was the clear #1 TE. Allen took advantage of this opportunity to the tune of a modest stat line, finishing the year as one of DJ’s most consistent targets.

With Galloway graduating, Allen looks to be the primary TE for the 2022 offense, although a bevy of young athletes will be nipping at his heels. Ennis and Briningstool seem to be the most likely to push Allen for playing time, but Clemson hasn’t seen truly influential tight end usage since Jordan Leggett during the legendary 2016 championship year.