Precision and range: Clemson passing game keeping defenses off-balance

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd prepares to throw to Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during the fourth quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd prepares to throw to Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins during the fourth quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Clemson’s passing game has opposing defenses on their heels both on the short and long throws, ranking 10th nationally in yards per game (324.4), but they also have them going side-to-side like a pinball machine.

To the right side of the field, Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd has thrown for 1,055 yards – to the left? 1,053, per Seldom Used Reserve’s (SUR) numbers.

Boyd in zone, pushing for more

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And up the middle, Boyd is hitting his highest yards per pass average (9.9) with six touchdowns to two interceptions.

The yards reflect the pass attempts too – 111 to the right and 114 to left, with 10.1 attempts per touchdown to the right and 14.3 per touchdown on the left.

The junior gunslinger ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency (170.2), on track to break the school record and fourth in ACC history over his career (148.39).

Against Duke, Boyd stretched the field unlike any game this season, which contributed to a blowout in the six important stats we've tracked all year – 8-of-11 for 285 yards in throws of 21-plus yards, at 25.9 yards per attempt. (Just in the first quarter, the Tigers had seven explosive plays, four touchdowns and 296 yards in 25 plays against Duke, per SUR).

Those eight explosive-play throws make up 31 percent of their 21-plus yard passes on the season. Just in the last two games, both on the road, the Tigers have 16 passes of 20-plus yards, making up 41 percent of the total number on the year.

Category Clemson Duke
Yards Per Pass 18 10.7
Yards Per Play 8.9 4.4
Total Yards 718 342
Rushing Yards 339 85
Yards Per Rush 6.5 2.6
Rushes 52 33

Shuey making the most of increased playing time

Tuesday, our own Greg Wallace wrote about Spencer Shuey’s assuming middle linebacker by storm midseason, and the stats are reflective of his impact.

The junior saw his playing time jump from 21.3 snaps per in the first five games to 45 snaps per in the last four, while former Tiger starting middle linebacker Stephone Anthony went from 60.8 snaps to 26.5 in the same span.

Shuey taking advantage of opportunity

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With that extra playing time, Shuey averaged 11 tackles per game – 4.1 snaps per tackle. Overall, he's averaging 4.3 snaps per and a tackle for loss every 53 snaps.

Anthony averaged 9.2 tackles per in the first five as a starter, and stands at 6.4 snaps per tackle and for loss 117.1 per.

In comparison, Clemson leading-tackler Tig Willard, with 66, is hitting 6.6 snaps per tackle and 62.3 snaps per tackle for loss.

The basic summation is Shuey is making the most of more playing time, while Willard, with the most snaps of the linebacker corps, is putting up similarly impressive numbers.

Red zone numbers holding strong

Scoring all but twice, Clemson is No. 2 nationally in red zone offense, behind Louisville (38 scores in 39 drives).

Coverting red zone tries into touchdowns, Chad Morris’ offense is ninth overall, getting six 73.8 percent of the time with 31 touchdowns to nine field goals.

Oregon is the far and away leader in red zone touchdowns, with 46 in 55 trips (83.6), and they lead the way in points per possession (6.091) per SUR – followed by Louisville (5.949), Ohio State (5.909), Wyoming (5.900) and Clemson (5.786).

Clemson has the lone loss in that group with Oregon, Louisville and Ohio State (35-1), while Wyoming is the outlier, at 2-7.

Points-wise, Clemson has scored at least 37 in eight-straight, which only Oregon can claim, and they’ve scored at least 42 points per in nine games.

Misc.

* Clemson v. Clemson: After dipping with the Virginia Tech output, the ’12 Clemson offense is once again ahead of its’ ’11 numbers in every category we’re tracking, which you can see below:

Category '12 Clemson '11 Clemson
Scoring Offense 42.7 PPG 32.5 PPG
Total Yards 522.4 YPG 482.5 YPG
Cmp. Pct. (Tajh Boyd) 67.8 61.9
Yards Per Pass (Tajh Boyd) 9.5 8.6
Passing Efficiency (Tajh Boyd) 170.2 154.8
Plays per game 80.5 78.3
Runs of 10+/Passes of 20+ 13.4 9.3
3rd Down Pct. 54.2 48.5
Yards Per Carry 4.4 4.3
Yards Per Play 6.5 6.2

They're on pace to break school records in plays (80.6-78.8), total offense (522.4-440.8), points (42.7-37), touchdowns (5.4-4.8), third down conversions (54.2-51.6), first downs (25.7-23.5), completion percentage (67.7-65.8), pass efficiency (166.5-148.2), passing yards (325-283.6) and touchdown passes (2.78-2.36).

* Tigers make a move in FEI ranks: Clemson jumped 10 spots in the Football Outsiders’ FEI rankings, to 20th (offensive efficiency: 11th; defensive efficiency: 61st), with 2.3 FBS wins projected in their final three. The Tigers’ final three opponents are 15th (South Carolina – OE: 59; DE: 12), 53rd (NC State – OE 63; DE: 37) and 76th (Maryland – OE: 105th; DE: 44th).

* Home sweet home: It’s been mentioned a time or two this week, but Dabo Swinney has delivered in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium – against Maryland, going for a school-record 12th home win in a row. The Tigers have won 11-in-a-row two other times, 1989-1991 and 1937-1942. In the current run, Clemson has averaged 41.3 points and a 23.8 average margin of victory.

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