Dabo Swinney likes Tigers' rushing attack, says OL sometimes unfairly blamed

'We're 7-1, and you don't get to be 7-1 without some guys doing some good things in the trenches'

Clemson's Roderick McDowell claps near Clay Swinney, coach Dabo Swinney's son, as the marching band plays after beating Maryland 40-27 in College Park, Maryland. McDowell scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers pull away from the Terrapins.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Roderick McDowell claps near Clay Swinney, coach Dabo Swinney's son, as the marching band plays after beating Maryland 40-27 in College Park, Maryland. McDowell scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers pull away from the Terrapins.

Clemson's middle of the road standing in ACC and national rushing statistics is not an area of concern for Tiger coaches Dabo Swinney and Chad Morris.

Looking both at the way the rushing game fits into the overall offense, and the fact that Clemson counts many of its horizontal passes as rushing plays, Swinney said this week that he's been generally pleased with the week-to-week production of what he considers a core element of the offense.

Clemson goes into the Virginia game averaging 174 yards per game on the ground, which ranks seventh in the ACC and 58 among FBS teams.

"I don't have very much concern," Swinney said. "We just rushed the ball for 250 yards at the other team's place, where they were only giving up 120 yards game. I think we're running the ball pretty good.

"We're a little bit off from where we were last year, but not much. But our passing is up a little. We've been a little inconsistent at times. But we're 7-1, and you don't get to be 7-1 without some guys doing some good things in the trenches."

Swinney took issue with popular perception that the Tigers' offensive line isn't holding up its end of the bargain.

"I know people sometimes like to say certain things, but I know what we have on this football team, and I know what we've done, good and bad," Swinney said. "Our offensive line has not been great, but none of us has been great.

"You're not one of the best teams in the country offensively, which we are, without having some guys do some good things up front. I think a lot of times they get a little too much blame."

Swinney said he's seen season-long improvement by the players manning the positions up front.

"Ryan Norton didn't have his best game last week - he got a little banged up early and tried to fight through - but he's been very consistent," Swinney said. "Tyler Shatley has been tremendous all season. David Beasley has been on and off, as far as being hurt and coming up, but Kalon Davis has quietly done a lot of good things for us, and he was a guy, coming into the season, that we were a little disappointed in, and hopeful that he might emerge. So that's been a real positive. And Brandon Thomas has just been outstanding."

After his career-best 161-yard performance against Maryland last week, senior running back Rod McDowell is now averaging 75.9 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the ACC behind Boston College's Andre Williams (144.3), Miami's Duke Johnson (117.6), Florida State's Devonta Freeman (80.1) and Virginia's Kevin Parks (76.8).

Backups Zac Brooks, D.J. Howard and C.J. Davidson are averaging 63.7 yards per game, combined.

Tajh Boyd's contribution continues to be an essential element in Clemson's rushing attack. Taking away sack losses, he's rushing the ball about eight times per game and averaging nearly five yards per carry.

Boyd's ankle and knee injuries forced the Tigers to go away from the quarterback run for a large part of the Maryland game last week, and the offense regained its footing when Boyd began rushing the ball again in the fourth quarter.

"That's what we do," Swinney said. "That's our philosophy. That's why I went to what we do. When Tajh is gone, with whoever the next guy is, we're going to run the football.

"I believe a running quarterback gives us a distinct advantage. When you get into short yardage and goal-line situations and everybody loads the box, you gain an extra hat when you have a quarterback who can run the ball. It's just a numbers game, and a philosophy.

"One reason that we've won a bunch of ball games is that our quarterback is a weapon. If our quarterback can't run the football, it's sort of a moot point with our system."

Looking ahead, Swinney said Clemson will continue to aim for elite-level recruits to man the running back position.

"Our running backs are always going to lead us in rushing, and we're going to get back to the place where we have some All-America type running backs here," he said. "That's going to happen."

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Comments » 13

TigerFan95 writes:

Dabo seems to grow more delusional every week. Last week it was his "We would beat FSU 5 out 10 times" rant and this week he thinks his running game is great because they managed to put up 250 yards against a depleted Maryland D. Comments like his just further confirm to me that he is not the coach to get it done at Clemson. Under Dabo Clemson will never be more than what it is now, a 9 or 10 win team that always loses at least one game per year in embarassing fashion. And its days of dominating SC are over.

waran writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

Dabo seems to grow more delusional every week. Last week it was his "We would beat FSU 5 out 10 times" rant and this week he thinks his running game is great because they managed to put up 250 yards against a depleted Maryland D. Comments like his just further confirm to me that he is not the coach to get it done at Clemson. Under Dabo Clemson will never be more than what it is now, a 9 or 10 win team that always loses at least one game per year in embarassing fashion. And its days of dominating SC are over.

ditto

CUNo1Fan writes:

I understand Dabo saying this, no coach is going to tell the press or the public that the O line or any position for that point stinks. You simply don't do that to the young men that play for you and keep their respect. if he publicly said that,he would lose my respect as well.

Having said that, I don't think he believes that the O line or D line is where it needs to be (or at least I hope he doesn't). He said the only thing he can say.

Time will tell if he actually believes it or if he has seen that the trenches have to get better for us to complete with the top teams in the country. We will see it in the recruiting going forward. It is getting late in this recruiting cycle so i don;t expect to see much change in it. Going forward, hopefully he will put more emphasis on the trenches. If not then you guys are right, we will consistently be better than we were under Bowden but will not take the next step under him.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

Clemson is ranked in the top 10 and we are 7 and 1. We are averaging 37 points a game. We are averaging 496 total yards a game. Our winning margin is 15 points a game. We have Sammy Watkins on our team. So, we need to run the ball 50 times a game so we can get 300 yards rushing a game and the best pass catcher in college football can catch 2 passes a game. We can still win and we would have some really good numbers with our running game. Then everybody could complain about not throwing the ball to Sammy and all the good receivers. I love it. You can't make everybody happy and that's one of the truths of the world that will never change. And another truth is everybody has an opinion.

osplancaster writes:

in response to rsb8931#286014:

Clemson is ranked in the top 10 and we are 7 and 1. We are averaging 37 points a game. We are averaging 496 total yards a game. Our winning margin is 15 points a game. We have Sammy Watkins on our team. So, we need to run the ball 50 times a game so we can get 300 yards rushing a game and the best pass catcher in college football can catch 2 passes a game. We can still win and we would have some really good numbers with our running game. Then everybody could complain about not throwing the ball to Sammy and all the good receivers. I love it. You can't make everybody happy and that's one of the truths of the world that will never change. And another truth is everybody has an opinion.

The only delusional people are the ones above calling Dabo out. Best turnaround this program has seen in decades and you still aren't satisfied? Go pull for Winthrop - They're undefeated.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to osplancaster:

The only delusional people are the ones above calling Dabo out. Best turnaround this program has seen in decades and you still aren't satisfied? Go pull for Winthrop - They're undefeated.

I'll never be satisfied losing to usc. I guess this great turn around didn't include beating the chickens. Give credit where due, Dabo has done some good things, but improving our smash mouth ability isn't one of them. Strong defense and a strong running game win the games that count.

clawt writes:

I think the offensive philosophy of throwing all of these passes behind the line of scrimmage is part of the problem. I understand we have to get Sammy the ball but we have had success running right at good teams and the play calling does not sustain that success. Against Fl St. when we ran the ball right at them, we were very successful (5.5 yds per carry). But every time we would do it, then we'd go back to the trickery crap and Fla St's guys are just too quick for that. My biggest problem is with the offensive philosophy and the lack of wanting to go right at teams. Sometimes your guys just need to man up and beat the other guys and wear them down. Morris does not seem to have that philosophy. Instead he wants to trick someone on every play and beat them with the shear number of offensive plays. Doesn't work when you go three and out.

f8thwlk writes:

I think I agree with everyone...Dabo has done some good things but we still have a long way to go to satisfy those that remember the Danny Ford teams

f8thwlk writes:

In order to play smash mouth you have to breed it from day one. This is a spread offense...It is not designed from smash mouth and Clemson does not recruit for smash mouth. Our running backs are too small and our offensive lineman are primarily taught to buy time for Tajh and to open the occasional hole to keep the defense honest. Let's face it guys, Clemson had NO RUNNING GAME right now outside of the quarterback draw. We make half-hearted attemps to run the ball to keep the defense from pinning their ears back. When is the last time We marched the ball 80 yards scored a TD and didn't throw a pass or even two passes? This kind of offense is great but right now it is overly dependent upon the quarterback. That is why teams that are able to get to the QB will beat Clemson everytime i.e Florida State with all those athletes and SC with Clowney and Crew. Our offensive line is OK but it is no match for these guys. This kind of offense needs a power running game to make it work and unfortunately all the pieces are not in place yet. Give Dabo and Morris credit, they have made the best of limited resources. If we had the athletes that FSU has we will be playing Bama in the NC game every year.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to f8thwlk:

In order to play smash mouth you have to breed it from day one. This is a spread offense...It is not designed from smash mouth and Clemson does not recruit for smash mouth. Our running backs are too small and our offensive lineman are primarily taught to buy time for Tajh and to open the occasional hole to keep the defense honest. Let's face it guys, Clemson had NO RUNNING GAME right now outside of the quarterback draw. We make half-hearted attemps to run the ball to keep the defense from pinning their ears back. When is the last time We marched the ball 80 yards scored a TD and didn't throw a pass or even two passes? This kind of offense is great but right now it is overly dependent upon the quarterback. That is why teams that are able to get to the QB will beat Clemson everytime i.e Florida State with all those athletes and SC with Clowney and Crew. Our offensive line is OK but it is no match for these guys. This kind of offense needs a power running game to make it work and unfortunately all the pieces are not in place yet. Give Dabo and Morris credit, they have made the best of limited resources. If we had the athletes that FSU has we will be playing Bama in the NC game every year.

Dabo has had more time to recruit and build his team than Jimbo Fisher has, just saying.

KIMOSAMI writes:

in response to TRUETIGER1:

Dabo has had more time to recruit and build his team than Jimbo Fisher has, just saying.

Dabo took the baton from Tommy.

Jimbo took the baton from Bobby.....waaaaay down the track from Dabo.

waran writes:

I agree with most: Dabo has done a lot of good things and moved us forward from what Tommy left us. But for those us us who remember Danny, Dabo does not look capable of moving us forward, especially after the disappointment of the FSU defeat. It was not only the FSU game. The indications were there with SCSU, NCSU and others but we wanted to believe otherwise. We wanted to believe Dabo. Now all these interviews and everything he says appear to be a good marketing ploy to keep his job. Hallucinations: we can beat FSU 5 out of 10 times? OL is unfairly blamed? I sincerely doubt Dabo has the skills to help Clemson win a championship. I like Dabo, he is better than Tommy. But the question is are we happy with 10-2 seasons with a loss to USC?

Before you respond, please think would you be happy with a loss to USC for 5 years in a row? Even if we win this year, I don't believe Dabo can consistently beat USC.

33dtb writes:

...."Dabo Swinney likes Tigers' rushing attack, says OL sometimes unfairly blamed.".......

sometimes, but rarely.
more than 2.5 seconds for a pass would be helpful.

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