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Snap Count Review: Notre Dame & Louisville

The last two weeks have given us a lot to look at.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

With only two regular-season matchups left in our season, the data set for the starters and primary backups is pretty well established by this point. Through ten games we’ve seen who the coaches trust when starters go down and who might not be ready for the bright lights quite yet.

The Notre Dame loss was painful but could serve as a splash of cold water to the face for this team, much as the Pittsburgh loss in 2016 did. Fortunately, this one didn’t require Clemson to lose their nation-leading active home win streak which is now at 39 (silver linings)! The Tigers bounced back to smack around a decent Louisville team with a strong defensive performance, minus a garbage-time touchdown.

Let’s see how the numbers tallied up for the last two contests. All snap counts come from the official Clemson report found here; numbers do not necessarily denote official plays, but rather non-special-team snaps.

Offensive Snaps

Player Name (* indicates start) Position ND Snap Count Louisville Snap Count Season Snap Count
Player Name (* indicates start) Position ND Snap Count Louisville Snap Count Season Snap Count
#5 DJ Uiagalelei QB 68* 68* 664
#2 Cade Klubnik QB 2 6 70
#1 Will Shipley RB 49* 55* 432
#26 Phil Mafah RB 22 24 224
#0 Antonio Williams WR 54* 66* 463
#10 Joseph Ngata WR 47* 50* 452
#80 Beaux Collins WR 37* NA 439
#13 Brannon Spector WR 21 39* 220
#6 EJ Williams WR 22 26 199
#8 Adam Randall WR 23 24 183
#16 Will Taylor WR 2 0 26
#81 Drew Swinney WR ST 1 23
#84 Davis Allen TE 36* 55* 502
#9 Jake Briningstool TE 30 32 260
#40 Luke Price TE ST 3 50
#11 Sage Ennis TE 5 ST 39
#56 Will Putnam OL 70* 74* 703
#74 Marcus Tate OL 70* 74* 699
#71 Jordan McFadden OL 70* 74* 696
#78 Blake Miller OL 70* 74* 696
#64 Walker Parks OL 70* NA 623
#77 Mitchell Mayes OL 0 66* 122
#75 Trent Howard OL 0 8 34

DJ’s much-improved play was the biggest storyline for this team through the first eight games of the season. Despite being benched for his play against Syracuse in a come-from-behind victory at Death Valley, DJ went into the bye week with a good attitude and plenty of time to refocus on the season’s toughest remaining opponent. Unfortunately, the offense never got much going at South Bend, and Clemson suffered its first loss of the year.

He is far from perfect, but I won’t spend any time criticizing DJ’s specific play. For better or worse, he is the leader of this team and has dragged the lackluster receivers to a 9-1 record. Cade Klubnik has clearly not shown the coaching staff anything to suggest he is capable of outperforming DJ currently or we would’ve seen a change by now. Trevor and Deshaun overtook the incumbent starter much earlier in their seasons because of how obvious it was — this is not the same situation.

What has seemed strange to me is the usage of Cade in the last two games. With the Notre Dame game slipping out of reach, the coaches desperately tried to spark the offense by substituting Cade in for DJ, just as they did against Syracuse. However, this change came right on the heels of DJ’s most productive drive of the night, and with horrible field positioning for Cade to work with.

We know what happened next, and Cade didn’t see another snap the rest of the night. Then the following week against Louisville, with the game out of reach for the Cards, Cade got sent in to hand the ball off and burn the clock.

Syndication: USA TODAY
Cade has thrown for 85 yards, a TD, and an INT this year.

DJ is no doubt the starter but I’d love to see #2 get some quality playing time against Miami, preferably before all the other offensive starters are pulled. Let’s see him throw the ball some more!

Shipley and Mafah are the best duo at running back we’ve had in a long time. Even with Kobe Pace out recovering from injury, the run game has been consistently strong. They each had incredible runs against the Cards:

Both runs are examples of their respective running styles — Shipley the electric and shifty runner and Mafah the bruising power back. Mafah also had his first career 100-yard game against Louisville.

By contrast, the WR room is a complete letdown. Very little separation, poor perimeter blocking, lackluster route running -- there is not a lot to warrant the forgotten WRU brand. Antonio Williams may be the lone bright spot, as he leads all receivers in snaps (463), receptions (43), and receiving yards (473). His talent is undeniable, and I’m excited to watch him for the next few years.

Ngata flashes here and there but has otherwise been inconsistent, the sad story of his career at Clemson, although he does receive the highest grades for blocking among the group. Beaux Collins leads the team with 5 TD grabs and is another strong WR but has disappeared at times. He had 13 catches in September, but only 7 in October and November. I like Brannon Spector but he’s no Hunter Renfrow; EJ Williams is practically nonexistent, and freshman Adam Randall hasn’t quite made his impact yet.

Jeff Scott was recently fired from USF and I can’t help but wonder if he has any desire to make a return to Clemson...

Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool have mitigated some of the WR shortcomings (they’re arguably two of Clemson’s top-five receivers). Allen has seen the second-most snaps of any non-lineman player on the offense, and Jake Briningstool looks to be more than capable of taking over as a starter next year.

The offensive line saw the first shakeup to its starting lineup this year against Louisville with Walker Parks held out due to a concussion suffered in practice. That is some awesome consistency with the starting five, something that was sorely missed last season. Mitchell Mayes (66 snaps) filled in for Parks and earned his first start of the year. Trent Howard also saw 8 snaps, his first action since Week 3.

Defensive Snaps

Player Name (* indicates start) Position ND Snap Count Louisville Snap Count Season Snap Count
Player Name (* indicates start) Position ND Snap Count Louisville Snap Count Season Snap Count
#5 KJ Henry DE 47* 59* 460
#98 Myles Murphy DE 47* 52 440
#7 Justin Mascoll DE 18 23* 231
#14 Kevin Swint DE 14 4 157
#13 Tyler Davis DT 43* 34* 334
#11 Bryan Bresee DT 41* 40* 259
#33 Ruke Orhorhoro DT 22 33 345
#55 Payton Page DT 14 9 158
#8 Tre Williams DT 4 10 108
#19 DeMonte Capehart DT 4 4 56
#32 Etinosa Reuben DT 0 3 53
#0 Barrett Carter LB 63* 69* 582
#54 Jeremiah Trotter Jr. LB 37* 69* 444
#22 Trenton Simpson LB 52* NA 474
#17 Wade Woodaz LB ST 20 61
#30 Keith Maguire LB 21 ST 231
#42 LaVonta Bentley LB 11 ST 152
#20 Nate Wiggins CB 52* 64* 531
#6 Sheridan Jones CB 64* 63* 351
#10 Jaedyn Lukus CB 3 7 58
#23 Toriano Pride CB ST 7 237
#25 Jalyn Phillips S 43* 69* 466
#1 Andrew Mukuba S 45* 69* 380
#9 RJ Mickens S 23 48* 362
#24 Tyler Venables S 20 3 222
#12 Sherrod Covil S ST 4 97

KJ Henry has finally become the monster we all hoped he would be, creating consistent pressure and batting passes down left and right. Myles Murphy is having a strong year as well and is only 0.5 sacks short of his career-high 7 from last season.

Xavier Thomas tragically reinjured his foot and will miss the rest of the season after making an explosive debut against BC only a few weeks ago. XT also saw playing time against FSU (32) and Syracuse (14) but will now have to decide what his next move is, as he could technically still redshirt and return for one more swing at things with Clemson. However, if he receives a high-enough draft grade I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the smart money and leave for the NFL at last.

Syndication: The Greenville News
Thomas has played his heart out for Clemson despite numerous setbacks.
Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kevin Swint has seen his role reduced in recent games, only accumulating 18 snaps over the last two appearances. Justin Mascoll got his second start against Louisville and is the clear third option at DE with Thomas out again.

Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis are crucial for this defensive front. Their pressure and presence along the interior consistently force opposing QBs to the outside of the pocket and shut down inside runs with ease. Both have missed a few games this year with injuries but are difference-makers when healthy.

Trenton Simpson was unable to play against Louisville, meaning Barrett Carter (69 snaps) shifted to the weakside linebacker spot. Carter had numerous athletic plays against the Cardinals, including a hurdle of his own to rival Shipley’s:

Wade Woodaz was called up and saw a season-high 20 snaps. I have really enjoyed watching Woodaz play this year - he has done very well for a 3-star freshman.

Wiggins and Jones make a formidable duo at corner. Clemson ran a 5-back scheme against Louisville with Mukuba and Phillips playing every defensive snap. RJ Mickens recorded 48 snaps as well, while Tyler Venables suffered a hamstring injury and was removed early.

Two games left! Let’s show up loud and proud for these Tigers at Death Valley; I hope to see lots of Orange with me in Charlotte on December 3rd for the ACC championship game.