Sunday, September 20, 2009

This whole OL problem, 2009

Last year's post on this garbage.

I would say most of us agree that the offensive line has improved over last season, because damn, they could only go upwards from '08. Still, our offensive line is not getting the job done at all. We've faced 3 opponents who had undersized and/or young DLines, and we still cant generate push and control the LOS. We are running many more2-back I-formation plays, and against what we've faced, we should be racking up the yardage.

What do we expect?
Well FF and I only expect some damn improvement week to week, and be able to base block. No team is perfect and everyone has stuff to work on, but if you can't base block (block the man in front of you, man-man) then you can't do anything. No traps, none of this guard-pulling crap, nada.

Brad Scott says a "winning grade" is "75% or better". Thats bullshit. 75% is not winning football against FSU or Miami. 75% gets you 7-5 seasons, not 10-2 seasons. I would put that at 80-85%. You have to expect more to get more. It is a subjective grade based on whether a lineman hits his man/assignment, and his technique on those blocks.

Bear in mind that so far, most of our running plays have been designed to go right. The first two weeks, we ran Power quite a bit. We did not do bad running the ball, but we should be sticking it to MTSU and any inexperienced line with a sandpaper condom. I don't care if they stunt and slant or twist, there still should be open running lanes. There were not so many right-side power plays against BC and we ran inside plays more.

But to tell the truth, we are not missing assignments altogether. The sack against MTSU early was a missed assignment. GT's Morgan beat Lambert's ass up and down the field, but Cory wasn't missing his assignment, he just can't move his feet or keep his hands on anyone. We are BLOCKING the guy we're supposed to hit, but we arent PUSHING him anywhere, that comes down to technique. Its one thing to hit your man, but its another to knock him on his ass. When he bull rushes you, its not assignment that is the issue, its technique. Our technique is what needs work, thats what a coach is there for.

What do we know?
1. Cory Lambert, after beating Landon Walker out for the RT job in spring, still sucks. Danny Pearman says he basically forgot all his fundamentals against Georgia Tech, and I'm anxiously awaiting Pearman's comments again this week about it, because he tells you like it is.
Did you ever see somebody playing HS ball who was a foot taller and wider than everyone else on the field, and then couldnt do a damn thing? Thats what I think of when I see Lambert, a big baby. Hell he's one of the strongest players ON THE TEAM and he takes it like a $2 whore.

2. Antoine McClain was said to be a total monster in spring camp, and pretty much every article I read in May talked about how good he was and how he'd solidified his RG position, but in 3 games, I dont see any of that. He doesnt get raped like Lambert, but he doesnt get as much push as he could.
3. Landon Walker had the RT job last year, then decided to take the winter off and it carried through til August, because he thought he was top dog and wouldnt be challenged for the starting job. I really am more disappointed in him than anyone, because I felt towards the end of last year he was really coming on. Now, Pearman really hasn't praised him at all since joining the staff.
4. No help from the H/TEs in blocking, or at least not enough. It should not take moving Lambert over to LT, he should have the TE or a back held in protection helping him on Morgan. I want Napier to use the TE more, but if he's out on a pass pattern and we still dont throw it to him, and yet the RT needs help, what would you do? If the TEs we have can't block, teach a lineman how to play TE and line him up out there. You won't throw to him anyway so why not?
5. We dont run to the left side. I'll point out that we did try that some, and more against BC. Some of CJs runs against GT were cutbacks off designed right-side plays because they were overplaying the Power by slanting right. However if Thomas Austin is so good, and Hairston is the "Spiller of the OL" as Dabo says, why do we not have HUGE holes open on the left side and more run plays designed to go there? If the holes are there, then where are the plays? If the holes arent, then why are our two guys on the left side so highly rated?

This tells me that either Austin and Hairston arent the all-star types they've been made out to be, or Napier is dumb. Its one or the other. I'll give it to Hairston in pass blocking, and he definitely deserves accolades for that. He handled Morgan until Morgan ran himself out of gas last week against GT, and against Bammer and FSU last year, his absence was NOTICED. Yet I still dont notice him mauling people on run plays.

Thomas Austin can pass block as well, but on Powers and traps, where he has to pull, several times he just doesnt HUSTLE into the hole. Several times he looked tentative and was tip-toeing over there and didnt know who to block. With CJ behind you, you have to RUN over, lower those hips and explode on the first man you see, and he doesnt have that motor switched to ON on some of these plays. If these two are supposed to be our best, then they will get the most criticism from us, and a lack of hustle and fundamentals is what pisses both of us off.

I know the staff has said Hairston will be ok with his sprained MCL, but if he can't go against Jerry Hughes (TCU) or what Miami/FSU will throw in terms of speed, we are in deep deep trouble.

Whose fault is this? Brad Scott's. He has been OL coach since Spence came on staff. He is regarded as one of the best? By who? Show me who comes calling for him? Brad can recruit in this state, and has built many contacts, but what good does it do us to recruit and not develop? Was that lesson not learned over the last 9 years? If you bring them in and they do nothing, its on the coach. Its either bad evaluation in the beginning, or bad development; either way its on Scott.

Look at the OL recruits we have brought in, star ratings by Rivals:
Thomas Austin - 3
Jamarcus Grant - 3
Barry Humphries - 3
Corey Lambert - 4
Quentez Ruffin - 3
Ruffin is gone, Grant never has been able to do anything. Humphries screwed himself off the team with behavior. Lambert was chased by everyone in the southeast.

Chris Hairston - 3
Jamal Medlin - 3
...and thats it. This was a smaller class in terms of numbers, and the key went to Defense that year in recruiting. Medlin was a total miss, and unfortunately, can't play. In hindsight, Clemson hurt themselves NOW by going with a smaller class THEN. We should've oversigned.

Mason Cloy - 3
Wilson Norris - 3
David Smith - 3
Landon Walker - 4
This is the class that comes in after the 2006 season, when the OL play and lack of depth hurt us at the end of the year (remember VT?). Cloy starts at Center, Smith and Norris have been 2nd string Guards.

Dalton Freeman - 4
Antoine McClain - 4
Kenneth Page - 4
Matt Sanders - 3
Our highest rated OL class coming in. Freeman is 2nd Center, McClain starts at RG, Sanders has been a long-snapper. Page hasn't done anything at all.

JK Jay - 4
Brandon Thomas - 4
Jay comes in and immediately pushes for RT, WTF? A true frosh should never challenge for the starting job at RT at a place like Clemson. If not for his back, he'd likely be starting by now. Thats a pretty sorry state of affairs. Thomas is also redshirting. Clemson expected Thomas to RS either way, but Jay was expected to help at Tackle.

D. Beasley (G)-3
Kalon Davis (G/T)-3
Gifford Timothy (T)-3
Reid Webster (T)-3
All of these are tall enough, and will be over 300lbs before they really play, but where are the 4/5 star players? Timothy is a "project" tackle. Kalon Davis will likely be the best of this class, but we'll see.

3-star players should all be capable of starting by their upperclassman years, or be good solid contributors minimum. 4 star players should contribute early, and with coaching play professionally. Definite starter by upperclassman. 5 star players could play as freshmen at most places, and with a good work ethic and some coaching should certainly play on sunday. Where are the 5 star linemen if Scott can recruit?

Why is Scott so valued then? I realize the coaches divide areas and don't only take positions to recruit, but the position coach signs off any recruit. Position coaches pick em, the coach assigned in that area recruits em to a certain point when the position coach gets involved again. Brad missed on 4 players here altogether: Lambert, Medlin, and Grant....possibly Page. As highly rated as Page was, he should contribute. These guys cant even step on the field without getting whipped.

Also, look at the split between G and T by numbers. We have brought in classes full of Guards. Is it any wonder we have issues at tackle? 2005 was a good split, 2006/2007 has one tackle, 2008 has none. 2010 seems to be an admission that they missed on some guys. If he can't evaluate a guy as being able to play tackle when you need tackles the most, he shouldn't be here. Don't move them all inside because they cant play on the edge, find a coach that can teach them how to play on the edge. Can Pearman turn it around? I hope so. Clearly Scott can only evaluate Guards, so he got moved to interior line coach, but our interior linemen are the ones that get the push up front, and they still cant do it.

So why is Scott here?


  1. Good points.

    I am afraid the Swinney/Scott relationship is too chummy, and Swinney will let that cloud his evaluation of the OL.

  2. All very good questions. I sure wish I knew the answers.

    I have wondered about our line for quite a few years now. They are big. They have played football before. Surely they lift weights.

    Yet time after time, just as you noted, I see them "block" without moving anyone out of the way. W T F?

    So the RB just runs into the ass of the OL and falls down, or gets caught from behind, because you can't slip a knife blade into the "hole" they created. This was really evident last year.

    I watch other teams, and there is open field being created as their OL actually moves defenders out of the way. What a concept. The RB can choose where he wants to run. Imagine Spiller with that kind of space.

    Many others have noted that our years of mediocre line play have coincided with the tenure of the line coach. I don't know for sure if it started at exactly that time. Who had the job before Scott, and how did the line perform then?

    Having said all that, they are better than last year. And splitting the line between Scott and Pearman has got to help.

    Maybe Scott is providing other benefits to the team - recruiting, game planning, scouting, helping out a rookie OC?

  3. Jeez, ouch! A little tough on Lambert.

    Hopefully he doesn't have your address, or we'll be reading about him being kicked off the team for assault and battery... : )

  4. It was Ron West before Scott, back when we recruited 250lb guys and had to sit them 3 years before they could play.

    In RR's system he needs those smaller linemen, but even when Scott took over the offense in 2001 we didnt start bringing in the big guys.

  5. Why did they not realize they missed on some of the OL guys in 2005 and take more people in 2006? Either they missed on those guys, or they have not been able to "coach them up", but either way, if Lambert and Grant were solid contributors, then we would not be in this situation. The next obvious question is how many more OL recruits have we mis-evaluated? At this point, I would say we hit on (from 2007 on), D. SMith, Cloy, Freeman, McClain, and Jay. Brandon Thomas is an unknown, so you really can't make a judgement on him. The rest are either too soon to tells, or just plain misses.

  6. On the topic of offensive line strategy, the guys over at Tomahawk Nation posted an interesting piece a few months ago...worth a look.

    It all starts with recruiting, but the players you recruit must be developed into a good line. Florida State has done just that (if you remember a few years ago, their line was rediculously terrible).


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