2013 In Review: Tiger offense takes small step back

Clemson's Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd smile in the closing minute of a 40-27 win over Maryland.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd smile in the closing minute of a 40-27 win over Maryland.

In the long summer, both me and O&W contributor Marty Coleman took a stab at what was next for the Clemson offense this season. We did projections that included the bowl season for total offense and individual players.

Here was our overall forecasts going into the season...

Brandon Rink

"1. Rushing offense continues upward trend – Last year, Clemson improved its rushing yards by almost 33 per game – much thanks to Boyd’s increased dual-threat. Losing Andre Ellington, the natural inclination is some struggles here, but that doesn’t really fall in line with Morris’ philosophy. He likes to run the ball and he’s been working on his o-line to get the offense where he can run a bunch. They can easily be a top-25 or top-30 rushing offense in 2013.

2. Passing offense down a bit – Boyd connected with DeAndre Hopkins downfield for 24 passes of 20-plus yards last season. Armed with Hopkins on one side and Sammy Watkins the majority of the season on the other, Boyd led the nation in 25-plus yard completions (48). As ESPN pointed out here last week, “Nuk” was very much the third-down (22 receptions versus 14 for Watkins) and fourth-quarter (18 receptions versus five for Watkins) option for the Clemson QB in 2012. His absence – combined with the running game trending up – leads to slightly lower averages across the board passing.

3. More balanced attack cracks top-10 nationally again – Averaging almost 513 yards a game last season, Clemson had an over 10 yards per game gap between their ninth-best rank in total offense and West Virginia in 10th (502). The Tigers did so with the No. 13 passing ‘O’ (321.6) and No. 36 rushing ‘O’ (191.08). Clemson should be right around those numbers facing a schedule that should be easier with two FCS programs and again a likely favorite in a double-digit number of games."

Marty Coleman, Seldom Used Reserve

"The 2013 version of the Clemson offense will be very good, perhaps even top 10ish good. However, replacing Hopkins, Ellington and Freeman leads me to believe this group takes an ever so slight step back in terms of numbers.

The real question comes with the red zone (5.69 points per possession in 2012) and short yardage efficiency (24 of 28 on 3rd and 1, including goal to go) that the 2012 team showed."

The Results (Through 12 games)

2011 Total Offense (averages): 75 plays/441 yards/5.8 yards per play/34 points per game

2012 Total Offense (averages): 82 plays/513 yards/6.3 yards per play/41 points per game

2013 Total Offense Projection (Rink, average): 81 plays/512 YPG/6.3 yards per play/4.6 TDs per game/38 PPG

2013 Total Offense Projection (Coleman, average): 78 plays/475.41 YPG/6.06 yards per play/4.67 TDs per game/37.15 PPG

2013 Total Offense Actual (average): 80 plays/502 YPG/6.3 yards per play/5.3 TDs per game/40.2 PPG

Analysis: The Tigers were just 6.5 yards per game from finishing the regular season with a top-10 offense, but not exactly the way I thought they would. As stated above, I had Clemson continuing its uptick in the running game, but a rash of injuries to running backs and a pass-happy philosophy tilted the numbers even more to the air.

I did nail the yards per play (6.3) and was just a play per game off, but the Tigers proved to more prolific in scoring.

In terms of Coleman's red zone points and third-and-one efficiency, they did drop with inside-the-20 efficiency (5.69 to 5.28) did convert 83.3 percent on third-and-one (a 2.4 percent drop).

Passing

2011 Passing Offense (averages): 37.5 attempts/282.3 yards/7.5 yards per attempt/33 TDs-12 INTs

2012 Passing Offense (13 games): 36.5 attempts/321.6 yards/8.8 yards per attempt/40 TDs-14 INTs

2013 Passing Offense Projection (average): 37 attempts/311 per game/8.37 yards per attempt/2.9 TDs

2013 Passing Offense Actual: 37.8 attempts/329.3 per game/8.7 yards per attempt/2.8 TDs

Analysis: Unless they throw six in the Orange Bowl (not out of the question), the touchdown pass numbers will be slightly down this year, currently averaging 2.8 TDs a game to last year's 3.1.

The yards and attempts are up, and a 8.7 team average per attempt is as stout as you'll see in the nation (13th-ranked currently).

Rushing

2011 Rushing Offense (averages): 37.8 carries/158.5 yards/4.2 yards per carry/22 TDs/65 10+ runs

2012 Rushing Offense (averages): 45 carries/191.1 yards/4.2 yards per carry/26 TDs/84 10+ runs

2013 Rushing Offense Projection: 44 attempts/201 per game/4.6 yards per carry/1.9 per game TDs

2013 Rushing Offense Actual: 42 attempts/173 per game/4.1 yards per carry/2.1 per game TDs

Analysis: They didn't come close to the top-30 or 25 forecast preseason, ranking 62nd in rush offense currently and 77th in yards per carry.

We'll get to the running backs individually, but safe to say, Rod McDowell has been everything we thought he was. The Tiger run game in other areas suffered, and some of that was due to injury.

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