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Deep Diving Garrett Riley’s Tenure as OC: A Look at the Numbers

What does Riley bring to Clemson?

NCAA Football: Kansas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With Garrett Riley set to bring a new offense, and a lot of excitement, to Clemson, one of the big questions has been just how good his offense is. For some casual fans, their first exposure to Riley was in the National Championship. That’s not exactly a strong first impression, even if UGA was a great team. Others saw what Riley did against Michigan in the semifinal and were more impressed, but wondered if it was a one-hit-wonder. Taking a look at the stats and recruiting at TCU and SMU under Riley gives us a much better picture of how his offense has performed.

Below is a breakdown of the advanced stats for each of Riley’s seasons as an OC. In 2020 and 2021 he was OC at SMU, then he headed over to TCU in 2022. As a reminder, S&P+ is a metric that is driven by success on a per-play basis, while FEI looks at success on a per-drive basis. F+ is a combination of the two metrics. And most importantly, all of these stats are opponent-adjusted, so playing a weak schedule is negated. All the numbers below are for the offensive rankings only.

Rile Advanced Stats

Year Team S&P+ FEI F+
Year Team S&P+ FEI F+
2022 TCU 5 14 9
2021 SMU 18 37 21
2020 SMU 24 29 29

Pretty good numbers. By contrast, Clemson was not as good as they hovered in the 40s and 50s, except in 2020 when they were 5th with Trevor Lawrence and company.

What we see here is an offense that does well scoring but they do it by being successful on multiple plays in a drive. This isn’t a team that just goes down the field in 2-3 plays or goes 3 and out. They are able to put together some sustained drives, but as we’ll show later also hit the big plays when needed.

Now for those who aren’t advanced stats fans, Riley still has some good numbers in a traditional sense. Below are his rankings for scoring offense, rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, total yards per game, and long plays per game.

Riley Traditional Stats

Year Team Scoring Offense Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Long Plays
Year Team Scoring Offense Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Long Plays
2022 TCU 9 31 39 27 4
2021 SMU 10 66 14 13 42
2020 SMU 15 53 13 12 17

Here we see the TCU offense was also excellent, and in all 3 years, Riley put an offense together that was able to score points. It is interesting that at SMU he had much more success throwing the ball than rushing, to the point where the passing yards alone were enough to get close to the top 10 in the country in total yards.

One category I especially wanted to highlight was long plays. The definition of long play here is any play going for more than 20 yards. I wanted to include it because Clemson has struggled the last two years. In 2022 Clemson was 66th in long pays, in 2021 the Tigers were 99th. Here we see Riley has an offense that can generate big plays, critical for consistent success on offense

So all of these numbers are good to see, but as we are well aware of from the last few years, talent matters. You can put great numbers up if you are extremely talented, even without a great scheme. But the talent below is going to show just how good these numbers are.

Rile Offensive Talent Breakdown

Year Team Blue Chip Avg Star
Year Team Blue Chip Avg Star
2022 TCU 15.90% 3.02
2021 SMU 13.50% 3.11
2020 SMU 13.89% 3.01

All these talent numbers have come from 247Sports and are based on the roster and rankings they have listed for TCU and SMU. It is also only looking at the talent on the offensive side of the ball.

Of course, talent doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it is also important to consider how talented TCU and SMU’s competition is. I looked at a few teams to get a comparison, all teams that don’t regularly challenge for their conference or national titles. Georgia Tech has a 23% blue chip ratio on offense, Vanderbilt is 0%, Iowa State is 12%, and Kansas is 10%. Not exactly illustrious company for TCU.

Now at SMU Riley was able to have a bit of a talent advantage. Even 2021 CFP participant Cincinnati only had an 8% blue chip ratio, yet even at SMU we can see some sound offensive output by Riley’s offenses.

The bottom line is Garrett Riley has put together some very talented offenses during his short tenure as an OC. He’s been able to find success when he has been out-talented and when he is one of the more talented teams in the conference. With Riley at Clemson, we should expect to see an excellent offense when a top-notch scheme is combined with superb talent.