Like DrB, I am enjoying my free time and just want a spot to land thoughts as this football season progresses. This seems an adequate location. As such, I don't know how often this will be updated or if it'll deviate from random musings about the Clemson Football program.
Two games in so I have a few basic thoughts I want to capture before Clemson gets into the bye week then heads down to Florida State. These items reflect both the Georgia / SC State games this season and look back at trends carried over from years’ past.
Yes,I am still overall pleased with Morris’ work he is a damn good coach and responsible for a lot of Clemson wins. However, in big games (particularly during the regular season), Chad Morris and the offensive staff tend to “manage” games the football games instead of calling them. Clemson’s offense operates best under loose, rapid-fire conditions. In years’ past against SCar and again last weekend at Georgia in the second half Clemson slowed down. Last week they got flat out conservative. The combination resulted in the second-half offensive bog. Of course, Morris was not helped by the offensive line, critical dropped passes, and the decision to play veteran backs but we'll look at those items in a bit.
Over the years I’ve openly criticized the decision to slow the pace down, highlighted with the expletive exasperation following the “check with me” strategy against the Gamecocks a couple years ago (yes, I still believe that Clemson could have worn down that SCar defensive line had the Tigers increased pace of play). Without delving too far into the Clemson offensive strategy, I’ll say that The Chad (and the rest of the staff) has to commit to playing rapidly and Morris must get back to his core philosophy revolving around taking shots down the field on a routing basis. It is one thing to do it against SC State, quite another against better teams we’ll play this season.
We saw complete crap from all five offensive line spots yesterday. Right now, this offensive line is
absolute shit a mess. From memory, the worst from State included Ryan Norton
getting bulldozed, Eric Mac Lain being slower than shit causing him to be way
out of position (then deciding just to dive into the turf way, way behind the
play), and Kalon Davis completely whiffing in several pass protection
situations. Pass blocking was very poor overall
and, again, we got no push when keeping it on the ground. Basically, a
Division 1-AA school beat our ass at the point of attack. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Shitty pass blocking from guys I didn’t expect
too much from is unacceptable but not inexplicable. Our
center getting his ass whipped / steamrolled against the defensive line we
faced yesterday is flat out embarrassing.
Clearly there are deficiencies up front—a big deficiency being
depth. Swinney and crew cannot piss away
scholarships yearly while this issue year over year remains a program eyesore. If we ever want to get serious about smashing the ball A-gap to A-gap (as I believe Morris would like), this has to be fixed. The "Mountaineer" Jet Sweep (pass) will only work so often when you have a defensive line faster and more talented than State.
Overall, Cole played fine both weeks despite some mistakes against Georgia and Watson played well in both games. I am more comfortable with Cole for the duration of a football game and believe he can lead this offense using the all of the items in the playbook. I'll admit I was disappointed in Cole trying to force another one near the goalline yesterday in addition to throwing across his body at Georgia in a similar down/distance. I can't think of an opportune time for most any quarterback to throw across his body, particularly with that much traffic. You must protect the football in those situations because, duh, they are your best opportunities to score. As mentioned earlier, Watson looked talented and advertised. He is impressive slipping out of trouble / running the football and has been more impressive with several downfield passes. Again, I expect his role to be limited, at least through the end of this month.
Many are calling for an immediate depth chart change at the quarterback position. Deshaun Watson is slippery elusive and throws the ball very, very well. He is the most talented incoming QB in my memory and looks very developed for a true freshman. He’s looked very good so far in his limited role. That role will remain limited in the near future as the staff will keep the training wheels on him (no matter what they say to the media). You’ll see him in a couple near-scripted drives at FSU and probably the same against Louisville. I agree with the staff here…in order to play at the pace we want/need to play, I believe the more experienced—and very capable—Stoudt is the horse to ride into Tallahassee. The win/loss results through the end of September should dictate how snaps are divvied up. Obviously, if we cannot win the division, Watson as many meaningful reps as reasonably possible...he is without a doubt the future of this program.
The decision should already be made for other Clemson backfield spots. The production out of the veteran runningbacks was poor at Georgia and younger backs have to be featured. Sure, we’ll have passing game issues because of this (you simply cannot expect a newcomer to come in and block well—either at the collegiate or professional level) but Clemson cannot win big running the football with the personnel featured in Week 1. The staff realizes this, hence Gallman and Choice being featured against State. Unfortunately, they'll likely have to carry the load without significant push up front.
I am not exactly sure where I stand with the receivers yet. We have a talented yet thin group and I am trying to stay optimistic. With the departure of Priester, we can ill-afford any injuries or suspensions. I am happy Peake was able to return, though it is a shame he was hurt a year ago--especially considering Clemson's track record of rehabilitation. I am still pimping Mike Williams even though his drops early against UGa were momentum killers. You know exactly what you are getting with Adam Humphries (I’ve spent the past three years praising his effort, so won’t rehash that here). Scott provides instant impact as the freshman was productive in the opener and set records against State. I look to see how Kitt progresses. With the aforementioned depth issues, we’ll need a lot of quality snaps out of the freshmen.
Tight end play has been a disappointment. I figured I’d see the TE targeted more in Athens but this group was essentially a non-factor. Their blocking has been a liability to date and I haven't noticed any improvement over last season. There is absolutely no sense in lining up Seckinger anywhere near the interior linemen if you expect to run to his side and I wouldn’t want him helping in max-protect situations if I were Cole.
The short yardage quandary is an offshoot of our line issues / question marks in the backfield. We have been piss-poor in this area using conventional running backs for years and I don’t see improvement in ’14. The last couple years featured a single wing power play with Tajh doing the grunt work. While this was successful, Cole…well…likely can’t generate the momentum Boyd did in his wrecking ball role. I’ll be interested to see how Clemson tries to get tough yards and, eventually, if the staff can find a way to consistently move the chains and convert goalline situations (without killing the quarterback).
This defense is good…possibly the best we’ve had at Clemson in a long, long time. I will admit they seemed lackluster and unfocussed as the Georgia game progressed but think that is more of the exception than the rule. Also, they won't see a back like Gurley again this season. Everyone said it all offseason and hopefully these guys will fully understand that this offense simply doesn’t have the fire power it had a year ago and is bad/average up-front. Accordingly, the defense will be asked to do more and more this year to win games. They rose up and did this on several occasions last season and I am confident that it’ll happen again this year.
The senior-laden front seven is the best we’ve had in recent memory especially when at full strength. There is little else to say about them other than enjoy this season because there has to be a dropoff next season. I probably should be a little more concerned about the corners than I am but the strong front seven clearly helps this group. Outside of Jenkins and Peters, I'll point to the extremely youth which will result in spectator frustration at some point in the year. The clear talent headliner is Alexander and I suppose I am not the only one eager to see him go through a full year. My biggest overall concern for this defense is the safeties (not a surprise following last season). I am still not pleased with all the angles that are taken. Poor angles result in players being out of position which leads to arm tackles which leads to broken tackles which leads to big yardage for the opponents. We saw Robert Smith woefully guilty of this yesterday. I'll be interested to see how better passing teams attack the seam. If I were the opposition, I'd make Clemson prove they can contain the middle of the field.
Special Teams suck. This specifically applies to the punt return team and kick coverage teams. Neither is something new. Clemson gave up trying to return punts for positive yardage against Georgia last season. This unit repeatedly fucked up against Carolina at the end of the year, handing them the football in opportune locations. I get it, you put AH back to assure that a fair catch is made (so make sure we can at least do that). I think most Clemson fans are interested in seeing if we can get any return on an opponent’s punt.
A kick returned Week 1 was the catalyst for Georgia’s turnaround. Clemson couldn’t manage the simple task of running lanes and paid dearly for it. Anytime there is that shitty of an effort to fill lanes you are going to give up a touchdown, it was that pathetic.
In addition to 7 points, how did that effect the overall game? I'll argue that Mike Bobo is a very
incompetent bad offensive coordinator and could see him leading Georgia down the path of complete implosion (yes, this is the same yahoo who refused to run the nation's best back the whole 1st half). I am not arguing
the result of the game or the dominance of Gurley. I am saying that the kickoff return moved the momentum / took pressure off of Bobo and the piss-poor execution of Clemson's kick coverage team was unacceptable.
We’ve said it time and time again, we don’t really know what Danny Pearman brings to this football program. Clemson has repeated special teams follies that completely changed games. He was brought in originally to help an inept Brad Scott. Now he’s an average TE coach, below average special teams coach, and ineffective recruiter. I want to like Pearman but cannot tell you I like him eating up a staff spot. Swinney clearly wants him around this program so all may be happy to put DP in an administrative role.
The final item I took from the weekend was the Clemson Radio Network's coverage of the football game. I did not listen to the whole broadcast. The piece I heard was absolutely awful. "Coach" Don Munson was extremely dry honestly tough to listen to. There were long breaks where you could almost hear Rodney thinking, "What the hell is this guy talking about?" I won't say that I was the biggest fan of Pete (it will always be tough in my mind to replace Jim Phillips) but I'll say that he was much, much better than "Coach." How anyone in the AD can think otherwise is unfathomable. I know Munson is Dabo's boy and all and I know there is no real reason to employ him in the AD now, but for goodness sakes don't make the whole fanbase suffer by putting him on the radio. At the very least, have some respect for Rodney Williams and get him a real counterpart for these broadcasts.