Posted on: March 3, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 6:41 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Clemson, who opens spring camp Friday, March 4.
Will Clemson's offseason moves (coaching, recruiting, and otherwise) result in immediate improvement from 2010?
When the Clemson Tigers finished their 2010 campaign with a 31-26 loss to South Florida, there were plenty of frustrated fans in Death Valley scratching their head. After all, it was only a season earlier that Clemson won the Atlantic Division and took Georgia Tech down to the wire in the ACC Championship Game. Certainly there was expected to be some drop-off, but not the first sub-.500 finish since 1998. Head coach Dabo Swinney felt his seat warm up a little after the Meineke Bowl loss, and he acted swiftly to make changes and look towards the future.
The Tigers finished near the bottom of the ACC in most major offensive categories. Swinney could have blamed the deficiencies on injuries (starting quarterback Kyle Parker and running back Andre Ellington both missed time in 2010), but with Parker departing for Major League Baseball now was the best time to make a key change on the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Billy Napier was fired, and Swinney reached out to Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
Morris' arrival in Clemson is one of the main points of interest heading into spring practice. In 2010, Tulsa's offense ranked 13th in the nation in passing yards, while sitting at 15th nationally for rushing yards per game. They were the only school in the nation to rank in the top 15 in both categories, and their 505.6 total offensive yards per game ranked fifth in the country.
All of this is welcome news to Tigers fans, who saw too many close games slip away because of Clemson's inability to put points on the board. Six of their seven losses last season were by 9 points or less, most notably a 3-point loss to Florida State and 6-point loss to Boston College. Different results in both of those games could have changed Clemson's fortunes in the Atlantic Division.
Morris runs a fast-paced offensive style that stretches the field and relies on a strong running game to set up the deep ball. The "smash-mouth spread," as he calls it, does not include a lot of the pitch-and-catch screen game that has been prevalent in the last couple seasons at Clemson. This is very welcome news to quarterback Tajh Boyd, who is fired up about leading this new offense in 2011.
Boyd is the only scholarship quarterback returning from 2010, and the success of Morris' offense will begin and end in the sophomore's hands. The Hampton, VA native saw limited action filling in for the banged-up Kyle Parker, but that was a different offensive scheme. Not only does Boyd feel confident with a year of experience under his belt, but he appears to feel pretty comfortable about the new system.
“I think it could be a perfect fit,” Boyd said recently referring to Morris' system. “It’s keeping defenses on the edge. I’m trying to become the most versatile player I can to keep this offense explosive. Just having that extra threat would make this offense go, as you can see from all the spread teams (like) Oregon, Auburn, Texas.”
But Swinney could not spend his offseason neglecting the defense that helped deliver another bowl berth to the Tigers. Things worked out pretty well in 2010, leading the ACC in scoring defense at only 18.8 points per game. But Clemson only returns 6 starters from that unit, and has said goodbye to big names like Da'Quan Bowers and DeAndre McDaniel. So Swinney got to work as soon as 2010 was in the book, assembling the next crop of defensive playmakers to bring to Clemson.
Swinney put in his work late, and finished with a start-studded recruiting class that MaxPreps ranked as the No. 5 class in the nation. On National Signing Day, Clemson's defense received a major upgrade with the commitments of Stephone Anthony (LB, No. 5 overall prospect) and Tony Steward (LB, No. 7 overall prospect). But even aside from the two big names, Swinney identified and filled in most of Clemson's biggest needs moving forward. From a pair of highly rated wide receivers for the new offense (Charone Peake and Sammy Watkins) to an Oregon de-commit that hopes to be the next great Clemson defensive end (Roderick Byers), Swinney recruited and signed another class of "his guys." His confidence in the program suggests that Swinney's big offseason was just another part of his big plan, rather than simply a reaction to the poor finish in 2010.
“Come this fall, we have laid the foundation for what we want this program to become,” Swinney said on National Signing Day. “All the sophomores and freshmen on this football team this fall will be guys that we’ve recruited since January of ’09.
“This staff has worked really hard and has done it the right way. Before you can have a harvest, so to speak, you have plow, you’ve got to plant, and you’ve got to water. That’s what we’ve done for two years.”
But talk can only do so much for a coach at a program like Clemson. The Tiger fans demand to be competitive annually, at a bare minimum. But with the way Clemson has started 2011, the expectations will be high for the fall. Whether those expectations are fair or not never matters in big-time college football, they just need to be met.
Meeting those expectations begins on Friday with the start of spring practice. It might be a little rocky at first, with new coaches, players, and for some, positions. But when the Tigers rub Howard's Rock on their way into the stadium on September 3, the hot lights will be on Swinney. After making so much noise in the offseason, fans will want to see results.
Clemson will hold their annual spring game on April 9
Quotes via Greg Wallace, OrangeandWhite.com
Click here for the rest of the Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: December 31, 2010 5:54 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
South Florida weathered a late charge by Clemson to win, 31-26.
Offense: From a productivity standpoint, B.J. Daniels regressed substantially this year from his brilliant freshman campaign; his passing rating was down 20 points, and he rushed for over 500 fewer yards on the season. Not surprisingly, the Bulls' scoring dropped three points a game from last year. So it was nice to see Daniels put together a solid performance today, going 19-26 for two scores and rushing for another touchdown. At one point, Daniels completed 10 straight passes on the day. The running game was generally ineffective, with the Bulls' 38 rushes netting only 90 yards, but the ground attack helped open up passing lanes for Daniels. Grade: B
Defense: There might not be another team in the country that runs as many screens as Clemson, and to USF's credit, that screen game didn't exactly take off today. USF also swallowed up the run game, allowing just 50 yards on 27 carries. Of course, giving up 26 points isn't exactly a point of pride and there's no telling what would have happened if that last onside kick had gone another two feet before being recovered, but still. Grade: B
Coaching: There wasn't anything terribly special about Skip Holtz and his gameday coaching, which is really what fans should want to see: no surprises from the sideline. In that respect he did a good job, and the aforementioned defensive successes against the run and screen passing games indicate solid preparatory work coming into the game. Holtz probably needs to get his team's onside kick return game fixed, but he's got all offseason to work on that. Grade: A
Offense: It's hard to say whether South Florida or Clemson fans were more upset to see Kyle Parker leave the game with broken ribs; Parker's a fine quarterback who'll probably have a stellar career with the Colorado Rockies. He also single-handedly made his touchdown pass happen by scrambling away from pressure and finding his running back wide open on a check-down for the score. And yet, he also threw two picks and was brutally inconsistent. So was Tajh Boyd in relief, but at least Boyd threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Still, Dabo Swinney needs to figure out a way to get Jamie Harper some help in the run game; he rushed for all of 34 yards today and really never got free. That can't happen in a big game. Grade: C
Defense: It's something of an oddity that Clemson gave up 31 points; the Tiger defense was fast enough to keep USF from turning the corner on the sidelines, as the Bulls tried routinely. And yet, when USF got down to it and threw the ball downfield or rushed between the tackles, it encountered little resistance. Clemson has got to tighten up on defense if it ever wants to make the leap. Grade: C-
Coaching: I was ready to praise Dabo Swinney at the half when he decided to go for it on 4th and 7 near midfield late in the half, and was rewarded with a big play and eventually a touchdown. He then kicked an extra point rather than trying to get the game to within three points at the break, which was also the right call. Those are decisions that coaches routinely screw up and Swinney got them right.
And yet, he also called two punts in the fourth quarter -- one on a 4th and 1, which, WHY?! -- and his decision to go for two on Clemson's first touchdown of the fourth quarter trying to get the Tigers to within 10 meant Clemson couldn't afford to kick a field goal for the rest of the game. Yes, Georgia would have eventually needed that conversion, but conversions should be delayed until necessary in order to keep as many scoring options on the table during a comeback. And last, kicker Richard Jackson is apparently Clemson's onside specialist, and he put up two absolutely beautiful onside kicks in the fourth quarter. And with a weapon like that on special teams, why not use him all the time? Serious question. If you can reliably recover half or even a third of your onside kicks, that is an absolute game-changer. Do something with it! Grade: C
Today's game was about what people should have expected coming in: a slapfight between two physically talented but inconsistent and untrustworthy teams. Nothing was particularly impressive about the game, short of Clemson's near-comeback thanks to Boyd and Jackson. In fact, I'm still bitter that Swinney doesn't use Jackson on every single kickoff. It's like playing make-it-take-it! C'mon, Clemson! Grade: B-
Posted on: October 31, 2010 6:52 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This was already a flatly terrible weekend for Clemson , who were held scoreless for the final three quarters on the road Saturday at Boston College and lost 16-10 . The win snapped a five-game BC losing streak and handed the Eagles their first ACC win of the season; it also snapped a modest two-game streak for the Tigers and dropped them to 2-3 in conference play. With three different teams (N.C. State , Florida State , and Maryland ) all sitting on one loss at the top of the ACC Atlantic, Clemson's hopes of an ACC championship are all but kaput already, and the Clemson natives who'd hoped upset losses like this one left with former coach Tommy Bowden are getting restless .
Today's news, unfortunately for Dabo Swinney , is not going to make yesterday's loss any easier to take :
Andre Ellington has only been Clemson's most consistent, most explosive offensive threat this year, leading the team with 642 yards, 10 rushing touchdowns, and a 6.3 yards-per-carry average that ranks ninth in the country for running backs with more than 100 carries. Quarterback Kyle Parker has never looked shakier than he did against Boston College -- when he averaged a miserable 4.5 yards for each of his 39 attempts and threw a pair of back-breaking interceptions, one a hopeless duck into a crowd of Eagles to ruin a promising fourth-quarter drive -- but Swinner won't have any choice but to lean on him more heavily until Ellington returns.
Jamie Harper (418 rushing yards, 5.23 yards) isn't a bad fallback at tailback, but he hasn't yet been able to reproduce what Ellington has brought to the table. With three of Clemson's final three opponents (N.C. State, Florida State, and South Carolina ) currently ranked, Parker will have to take a major step forward to get his offense moving again, and if doesn't, the 4-4 Tigers could find themselves bowl-ineligible for the first time since 1997.
Posted on: September 18, 2010 8:53 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 11:30 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The highly-touted matchup between Clemson and Auburn has been something of a dud thus far -- and it's all Clemson so far. Clemson, buoyed by stifling defense on Cam Newton and a sensational touchdown by Jamie Harper, leads 17-3 at the break.
Harper has both Clemson touchdowns on the day. The first came on a nifty catch-and-run from 8 yards out on a shovel pass, and the second was a 24-yard score on an amazing diving catch from a wheel route.
Past that, Clemson's defense has swarmed the line of scrimmage, and Auburn QB Cam Newton has been disturbingly inaccurate on his throws. Only Newton's considerable rushing ability helped Clemson get a field goal out of the last drive of the half, but that's not a blueprint for success for Auburn.
Also of note is the way Clemson has used TE/H-Back Dwayne Allen. Allen has done a good job getting open in the flats after motioning into the backfield, to the point that it sure seems like the Clemson coaches noticed some tendencies by Auburn's linebackers. Allen has five catches for 64 yards so far, and he's been clutch at moving the chains for the Clemson offense.
If this score holds up, it would be a minor upset; Auburn is a ranked team playing at home, after all, and they were favored by about a touchdown coming into the game. But watching the game, it sure doesn't seem like Auburn's actually the better team of the two thus far.