Standing in the middle linebacker's position, staring down the barrel of Clemson new 'Pistol,' what does an opposing player see?
Mostly Dalton Freeman and Tajh Boyd.
The invisibility of current national rushing leader Andre Ellington is just part of the beauty of an alignment formation that will likely be heavily incorporated into Chad Morris' offensive scheme over the course of the season.
Morris estimates that Clemson ran approximately 80 percent of its offensive plays out of the Pistol Saturday against Auburn.
Considering the results in the opener, and after hearing Dabo Swinney talk about it on Tuesday, there's no reason to believe that the Pistol won't become Clemson's mainstay - an aid not only to disguising Ellington, but in attacking the line of scrimmage with a power, no-nonsense running game.
When Swinney and other coaches talk about running 'downhill,' they're referring to a straight-ahead, vertical approach to running the football at an opposing defense. In the past, the approach was often described as 'running north-to-south' rather than 'east to west.'
A year ago, Morris was frustrated by Clemson's inability to satisfactorily implement a power running game, which he considers essential to his offensive scheme. Most of the Tigers' success in rushing the football last fall came using a more 'horizontal' approach, creating rushing lanes via illusion and deception.
Swinney described the Tigers' dilemma on Tuesday.
Without a straight-ahead, power running game, "everything in your offense is more lateral," he said. "That philosophy is more about trying to create distortion in your running lanes and hit space."
Clemson tinkered with the Pistol last season, and even the year before under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier.
The formation, which was developed by veteran coach Chris Ault at the University of Nevada, is, in effect, a sawed-off shotgun. The key element is the spacing of the running back, who lines up directly behind the quarterback, significantly closer than in a normal shotgun formation.
While the coaches found the formation to be a useful wrinkle, Swinney and Morris sensed that they were only scratching the surface of what the Pistol could do for Clemson's attack. So in the spring, Swinney arranged to take his offensive staff to Nevada to visit with Ault's staff, which annually puts one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks on the field.
"Sometimes when you go visit other staffs, you're just looking for a general sharing of ideas," said running backs coach Tony Elliott. "But when we went to Nevada, we were looking for specific things.
"What we did with it last year was kind of copy-cat, where we'd see it and study it on film and then try to implement it. After going out and visiting with those guys, we understood the intricate details."
Swinney said the Pistol is perfectly suited for Ellington's style of running.
"Andre is a great downhill runner, and what the Pistol does is allow us to set our double-teams," he explained. "It slows the backers down and slows the flow. When you're in the Pistol, what we've learned is that it helps you get downhill quicker.
"With a back like Andre, I think it's very beneficial for us. It's been a great addition."
Clemson's approach to implementing the Pistol incorporates significantly more 'man' blocking than the Tigers have used in recent seasons. Spacing and timing are critical in making the rushing game work, said Elliott.
"In talking and studying with the Nevada coaches, we could say 'these are the depths, these are the steps, these are the aiming points,'" Elliott said. "It was just a tremendous visit. Those guys opened up to us and we opened up to them, and I think we developed a relationship that's really going to help us as we go forward."
"We had fiddled around with it before, but there were things that we just didn't have enough answers for," Swinney said. "Nevada has been doing it for a long time, and if you're going to do something, you want to study with people who've been doing it and avoid some of the headaches, based on knowledge."