Tiger offense struggling with basics

Clemson's Sammy Watkins takes a handoff from Tajh Boyd during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Sammy Watkins takes a handoff from Tajh Boyd during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

CLEMSON – Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris identified one standout from the effort Saturday night versus Florida State.

When pressed on who didn’t perform, Morris paused.

“Well, Brandon Thomas is playing really well,” he repeated.

And that’s the story of a season-low output – by almost 100 yards (326 total) – and only producing seven points from Tajh Boyd and first-team outfit in the 51-14 loss.

“There’s 10 other positions that are playing inconsistently,” Morris said. “They’re not playing well at all. It starts and ends at the quarterback. We all know that.”

Morris says Tigers will bounce back, fight

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Boyd’s 79.5 efficiency was by far his worst game in Memorial Stadium, accounting for more turnovers (3) than touchdowns (1) for only his second time as a starter (Georgia Tech 2011 the other).

“We wouldn’t be in the position we are today or where this program has been over the last two years without what Tajh Boyd has done for us,” Morris said. “We’ve all seen that. We’ve seen him play at his best, and we’ve seen him struggle at times and find his way and get out of it and get back on track. And that’s what you’ll see with him.”

“He’s a great competitor. He hurts as much as anybody, if not more than everybody. He knows it wasn’t his best performance, and unfortunately it was a big stage and just didn’t play well. It wasn’t just him though.”

The crux of Clemson’s problems? Seven games in, they can’t even get the basics down.

Technique, alignment, drops, errant throws – you name it, and the Tiger offense has probably struggled with it.

“Just simple mistakes that we’re making,” Morris said. “We’re about as simple as can be offensively right now. We’re unable to really push the envelope forward right now. For whatever reason, we’re not being consistent in the just the base offense.”

Also at a loss are the Tigers hitting the gridiron.

“I really couldn’t tell you,” Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas said. “They just give us the plays to run and it’s our job to execute. This past Saturday we didn’t.”

More confounding, Thomas says they haven’t had any issues in practice leading up to these games.

“We have good weeks of practice,” Thomas said. “We don’t see the mistakes during the week. Somehow it happened this past Saturday. We’ll get it fixed going to Maryland this Saturday.”

In the last two versus Boston College and Florida State, the Tigers have mustered only 10 first-half points, after posting 70 in the previous couple against Wake Forest and Syracuse. On third down, they were a mediocre 5-for-15, while only having three red zone opportunities – missing out on 1-of-3 on an off-the-mark field goal.

Going into the B.C. game, the Tigers had three offensive turnovers total. By the end of the first half Saturday night, Clemson had matched that – and added one more by the game’s closing minutes. They have five first-half turnovers over the last two games.

“Anytime you spot anybody just a free gimme on the first play of the game or a free walk-in touchdown – I don’t care who you’re playing (it hurts),” Morris said, “and definitely a team of that caliber. It’s hard to overcome those type of things. You spot them 14 points and give them those type of things, and still rallied back and had it 17-7 and go down on a 12-play drive.

“Then we get the ball in back-to-back possessions at midfield and we’re unable to do anything with it. At that point, you go up 17-14 and the crowd is back in it in the second quarter. I think it’s a totally different ballgame at that point.”

Maybe as big a problem as any is the Tigers’ third-year offensive coordinator can’t quite identify the root causes.

“There’s a lot of inconsistencies right now all over,” said Morris. “It’s hard to put a thumb on it and this is the reason why. Obviously it starts and ends with the quarterback. It filters to the offensive line and we’ve got to be able to catch the ball on the outside.

“We have scored this season, but just the last two weeks have been very disappointing.”

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Comments » 8

michtiger writes:

Maybe the struggle with basics has to do with playing time and focus. If I give Boyd benefit of doubt thinking about his rusty behavior at State BC and FSU might be playing time. He played entire Ga. game. Half of SCSt, open date, struggled at St, played less than 1 1/2 game in Syr. and Wake blow outs. Was rusty for BC. I live in Mi. and saw a lot of Boyd interviews and I can image how much more others saw locally. I love Dabo's playing a lot of players but maybe he has hurt Boyd and others by destroying rhythm and should keep the big boys in longer, especially a QB. Boyd last week had school, huge press time ( Dabo could control )and probably was not as focused as he should be. Look at struggles, State after only 1/2 game in two weeks, BC after two blow outs and limited time and FSU with too many distractions. Maybe there is a lesson.

KIMOSAMI writes:

With all due respect....I disagree. What...do you think Tajh forgets how to play if he doesn't play until 'take a knee time' vs. SCState, etc.?

If he misses practice time, that's another story. But he plays plenty in order to maintain consistency.

Lest we forget, this is a game. Played by a team of players. Every one of the QBs, and other position players, want to play. I think it speaks highly of Dabo to play as many men as possible....when possible...without sacrificing a win.

If I were a player on a team with your philosophy, I would be gone in a second if I didn't start the first game.

Further, what happens when Tajh,God forbid, goes down with injury? Then you will see rust...in your scheme.

We are blessed with really, really good talent at QB. Next year will be a battle royale.
And despite the poor showing Saturday, I think Tajh Boyd will be competing for playing time on a pro team.

KIMOSAMI writes:

Also with respect, michtiger, I think you are absolutely right to have concern for excessive press time by Boyd. I mean, what's up with all that? He apparently has a gig with ESPN. And where I live you can't turn on the TV without an interview by Boyd, it seems. That HAS to affect focus.

ericshippam writes:

Or maybe, just maybe, the excellent Cole Stout should sub more often when Boyd is in so long and has so much stress. Is that not what back ups are about. Every other position is benefited from substitution. Why not QB?

TigerNE writes:

in response to KIMOSAMI:

Also with respect, michtiger, I think you are absolutely right to have concern for excessive press time by Boyd. I mean, what's up with all that? He apparently has a gig with ESPN. And where I live you can't turn on the TV without an interview by Boyd, it seems. That HAS to affect focus.

What else does Boyd have to do? He's essentially graduated and I read that he is only taking on subject. Online. So, it's not like there is no time in his schedule. Unless you expect him to do nothing but practice, study films, read play books, etc. every waking moment.

You may be right it affects his focus. But I don't think a few minutes on a Wednesday is going to rack him for days. I'm not aware he talks to ESPN beyond that, but maybe he does. Does he?

clmtgr92 writes:

These are the same players from last years record setting offense. Morris made a point to go quicker and run more plays. Remember how he criticized Tahj after the Georgia game for slowing the tempo? I blame Morris for the offensive problems. He tinkers too much. Sometimes you have to leave things alone. With no real running game this year, I am not sure why he is trying to force runs or why he felt the team needed to run a quicker offense. Players seem to be too worried about tempo and no executing.

clemvol writes:

What comes now after the loss to Florida St.? One of two things, keep sulking or pound Maryland into the ground like you are suppose to if you are a top ten team. Choice is on the coaches,players, and fans. Either put up or shut up. Don't let up off the gas and drop as many points as you can on this next team. Choose, what is it going to be? Now that all the talk of a National Chanpion caliber and Conference Champion caliber is put to rest it's time to focus on the task at hand. Nothing short of running the table will be acceptable. This next game will indicate are you a pretender or a contender. Man up or get out of the way on who wants to bring it.

KIMOSAMI writes:

in response to TigerNE:

What else does Boyd have to do? He's essentially graduated and I read that he is only taking on subject. Online. So, it's not like there is no time in his schedule. Unless you expect him to do nothing but practice, study films, read play books, etc. every waking moment.

You may be right it affects his focus. But I don't think a few minutes on a Wednesday is going to rack him for days. I'm not aware he talks to ESPN beyond that, but maybe he does. Does he?

When you put it that way...I guess you're right. And I read on this site or somewhere today earlier that that was his only interview. So, no. I guess his media exposure is actually pretty limited. I should quit watching so much TV.

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