Topic: A bit of perspective about the team (long)
Replies: 10   Last Post: Sep 15, 2019, 3:26 PM by: cornstock
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A bit of perspective about the team (long)

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Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 11:50 AM

Quozzel has a great post about our offense starting slowly, and I just want to add a couple of other things.

It's certainly true that our recent offenses have not been nearly as crisp in September as they have later in the year. That is true for all of the many reasons laid out by Quozzel. But as frustrating as all of the missed throws were for us fans, I do believe our expectations have gotten a bit oversized due to all of our recent success.

I know that some of you will say that since Maryland scored so many against Cuse the week before, that we should have scored that many or more. While I understand that argument, I don't think it's exactly a fair assessment. Put this game into perspective a bit. The past two years against Syracuse were very close and we were lucky to win at home last year (thank you Chase Brice). I am fully aware of the circumstances of those games with QB injuries and a weird Friday game in the Carrier Dome, but it's still an important comparison. Also, let's not be under any illusions that Syracuse wasn't treating this week's game against Clemson as their Super Bowl. I'm sure they have plenty of other goals as well, but this was their best chance to put their team on the map. Personally, I'm a bit suspicious that perhaps they were looking ahead to this week's game against us too much instead of worrying about a Maryland team that historically plays well early in September (at least in recent years).

Even if you don't buy the argument(s) that Syracuse was treating the Clemson game like their biggest game they've had in literally decades or that we should be happy with a big win given our recent history against the Orange, there are still other reasons to be optimistic. In a game where Trevor was admittedly off a bit with his accuracy on throws of 20+ yards (56.4 comp %), our offense still managed to put up 612 yards of total offense and 391 yards through the air. For those of you with short memories, we have already had two games of 600+ yards offense this year (GT, Cuse), and we have never had more than three in an entire season. I can't remember of hand (though I'm likely wrong) any 600 yard games against P5 opponents other than maybe Wake and Louisville, but none in September.

There's is a somewhat reasonable counter-argument to be made that the high yardage was a result of two plays in particular, Amari's 87 yard TD and Mellusi's 57 yard TD late in the game. Even without those long plays we still had nearly 500 yards of offense, and whose to say what would have happened on subsequent plays in those two drives even without the long TD plays. No matter how they are accumulated, 612 yards of offense is a good performance.

I am in no way trying to argue that the offense was crisp by any means. But given the large number of low percentage throws downfield as opposed to heavily relying on the running game, the success rate is bound to decline. I would have preferred it to be higher, but we were moving the ball and scoring points even with the incompletions.

For those of you that are complaining about playcalling I once again introduce you to the RPO. On a run-pass option the QB has the ability to get out of a run play based on what the defense is doing. When the Cuse defense shifts an extra defender into the box just before the snap, Trevor is making the right call by throwing outside to the single coverage. As much as I would love to see Etienne and Dixon get 30-35 combined carries per game, the smart play is always to take what the defense is giving.

Now onto the fun part: DEFENSE.

What else is there to be said other than WOW. Venables had these guns in late season form once again. We have yet to give up a first half TD this year on defense, and were able to avoid the last second TD that Jimbo and the Aggies managed on that last minute 4th down TD last week. While shutouts are the most exciting thing to happen on defense, holding the opponent out of the end zone is almost as impressive. Given the short field that the Syracuse offense had after the two interceptions by Trevor, it makes it all the more impressive.

Even though Tommy Devito is a far cry from Eric Dungey, holding a Dino Babers offense to only 187 total yards and 15 rush yards is an incredible performance. Outside of two great play calls by Babers on the swing passes to take advantage of our blitzing LBs, we limited them to around 120 yards for the rest of the game.

Also, I absolutely loved the defensive scheme and playcalling last night. Given the lack of experience in the front seven this year compared to last year, Venables has somehow turned it into an advantage by playing out of a dime defense with 3 DL and 2-3 LBs. The reason I say 2-3 is because while there are typically three guys playing at the second level of the defense, one of them is often a safety moved up into that position when Simmons moved back into a deeper safety role. The incredible versatility of Isaiah Simmons gives us a ton of options on defense. With apologies to the great Christian Wilkins and his time spent at safety in the spring, I'm not sure if we've ever had a defender with the versatility of Simmons. He could line up anywhere on defense outside of the NT and the 3-tech DT.

I watch a lot of Clemson football, including watching all the game at least two times during the week and then again a couple of times during the offseason. Even as a somewhat knowledgeable fan, I couldn't figure out what the heck we were doing on defense at times last night. I mean that in a good way of course (the last time I could make that statement was on that terrible cover-11 with no one blitzing the QB against VT back in 2016). Seeing Isaiah Simmons playing everywhere on the field instead of only his traditional SLB role and on the field at the same time as K'von Wallace, Tanner Muse, Nolan Turner, AJ Terrell, and Derion Kendrick/Rio Goodrich is an insane amount of speed and versatility on the field at the same time.

How about Nolan Turner this year guys. Outside of that one missed tackle against A&M last week, the kid has been absolutely lights out. Yet another example of Dabo and the coaching staff knowing what they are getting in a player that isn't as highly recruited as the other blue-chip recruits. Nolan Turner has been everywhere and nearly always seems to be in the right place.

It wouldn't be fair to single out Nolan Turner without also mentioning Simmons again. I'm not sure how to explain just how great and important he has been for us this year. He single-handedly prevented a Syracuse TD last night with his length and athleticism on that sprint right play from Tommy Devito on 3rd down at the goal line. Couple that with his 2 sacks, pressure on the QB, pass coverage, and run support and I don't think it would be wrong to say that he is not only the nation's top LB this year, but also the nation's top defender overall.

Finally, this post wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention Amari Rodgers. To come back from a torn ACL and surgery in late March to be back on the field warming up in late August against GT, playing a few snaps in early September against A&M, and playing a heck of a game in mid-Sept against Cuse (4 catches, 121 yards, 2 TDs) is something that I would have thought was impossible. I know medical treatment has come along way in the past couple decades, but coming back in less than 6 months would be impossible for nearly anyone else.

Recent evidence indicates that our offense will get better and more crisp as the season progresses. In the meantime, our defense is once again just about the nastiest in the country even after losing our top 5 guys on the defensive line. In case there was any doubt, it's time to stop doubting Brent Venables' ability to replace the guys we lose and recognize him as far and away the nation's top DC.

It's okay to want to team to be perfect in every aspect of the game, but let's not let our desire for perfection get in the way of our ability to appreciate just how amazing our team is performing overall. Winning isn't easy. Winning 18 straight is exceedingly difficult. Let's keep that in perspective.


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you know the guy that is three rows behind you at the game

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 11:52 AM

and stands up and ####### at every bad play and then gets quiet in the second half...He's on Tigernet and has a larger audience.

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Re: you know the guy that is three rows behind you at the game

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 11:57 AM

Sometimes I wonder if that guy is really a Carolina fan posing as a Clemson fan. The only time he stands up or makes any noise is when he gets to complain about play calling or missed tackles. He does seem to hate the officials too.

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 11:57 AM

I liked what we did generally. I think we went deep a lot trying to loosen them up for ETN to run. There are some times I'd like to see us make shorter throws to get first downs and keep their D on the field to tire them out. I also know we have to occasionally run the qb but I'm never a big fan of that. The way wemanaged that last night was very good though

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 1:32 PM

"Outside of that one missed tackle against A&M last week" ... that was a world class stiff arm, he made the right play at the right level he just got a full stiff arm to the forehead... great play by their back. No defense for that.

Offense needs a lot of work to play a top 5 team.

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 12:41 PM

Nice post. Syracuse has been a thorn in our side going back more than just the last few years. If we look back at the 2015 season, Syracuse kept the game closer than many expected. Check the box score. Deshaun was our QB, and our roster was stacked with talent. And Dungey was not their starting QB.


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Now that sums it up... Totally agree. This D is fun to watch

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 12:50 PM

The O is going to be just fine with a little tuning...

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 12:53 PM

Good post.

I will make the argument that part of the issues on offense stem from three things:

1 - Last year, we were setting records with Trevor, ETN, and company. But those blowouts did not start until the fifth game (I am not counting the Furman or Ga Southern as blowouts). People knew we were good but knowing we were good and being able to scheme against it were two different things.

This year, we are surprising no one. Everyone knows ETN's explosiveness. Everyone knows Trevor's ability to throw deep. Our wideouts no longer can simply outjump defenders. Defensive coaches are scheming to take away our "go-to" options...or, at the very least, minimize them. There is simply more film available. Coaches can see what other teams did, what worked and didn't work.

2 - I keep hearing about how ETN wants to be better at pass receiving and Trevor wants to be better at extending plays. My thoughts are that the coaches are trying to incorporate those changes into the play calling. I like the idea of helping them become better, more well-rounded players. But in doing so we have gotten away from what brought us to the dance, so to speak. ETN is not being used as he was last year. Trevor seems to be always going for the long ball instead of the short to intermediate passes.

3 - We are desperately missing a clutch short yardage receiver like Renfrow. It would be great to see someone step into that role to give Trevor a checkdown option, especially on third down.

All this being said, I think we were spoiled last year in how easy it was to blow past most opponents. We are still winning, just in a different way.


Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 1:55 PM

I think that is a good assessment. Second year players due often have at least a bit of a slump due to the fact that there is more film available on them.

Even though there is simply no way to replace a Hunter Renfrow completely, I think that Amari will end up doing more and more as that 3rd down go to receiver in the slot as the season progresses. I love Overton, but he's just more of a boundary or field receiver than a slot receiver.

Also, keep in mind that until this year, Amari has always played the field WR position. He only moved to slot WR after Renfrow graduated, and he wasn't able to get a lot of work there given his ACL tear in March. As he and Trevor get more accustomed to him being in the slot, I anticipate him becoming much more of a threat on short to intermediate 3rd down throws to move the chains.

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 3:09 PM

Excellent analysis !!!!!!!

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Re: A bit of perspective about the team (long)

Posted: Sep 15, 2019, 3:26 PM

Thanks Joe!

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