Inside Clemson football: Sluggish Tiger offense middle-of-the-road nationally

Clemson's Tajh Boyd bobbles a ball on a snap during the first quarter at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Tajh Boyd bobbles a ball on a snap during the first quarter at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Prior to the season I wrote about the importance of the metrics in the table below (with a slight change to the red zone metrics). I believe that these numbers provide insight into odds of success or failure of a team and can help identify issues that may haunt a team as the schedule gets tougher.

At the quarter season mark there’s an argument to be made that the numbers below are skewed one way or the other for one reason or another (strength of schedule, injuries and the like) and it’s for this reason I included the ACC averages and the average for the FBS teams as a whole. Some of the numbers below stand out and I don’t mean that in a good way.

In particular, it appears that the college football world (not necessarily defenses) may be catching up with Clemson’s offense. Two years ago 70 plays was the gold standard for offenses. Now the FBS as a whole averages almost 72 plays per team per game.

Make no mistake, the Tigers are still good with the ball, but it’s becoming more difficult to call the unit elite when they are ranked 45th in yards per game and a pedestrian 69th in yards per play.

Some of that can be attributed to the schedule – not Clemson’s schedule, but the schedule that has other teams playing 3 weeks of cupcakes while Clemson has played an SEC team and an ACC team in the first three weeks.

Some of it has to do with personnel. Three of the Tigers skill players from last year are in the NFL and it’s not an easy task to replace an All-American wide receiver like Nuk Hopkins.

Perhaps one of the biggest losses isn’t playing in the NFL – Brandon Ford. While the tight end by committee has done relatively well, there have been missed blocking assignments and a lack of explosiveness from this position that we’ve seen in the last several years with the trio of Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen and Ford.

And by now everyone, including his offensive coordinator, realizes that Tajh Boyd has been just a little bit “off” on some plays, missing easy passes and open receivers that were big gains or touchdowns last year.

Boyd left 2 or 3 completions on the field against N.C. State that could have turned a close game at into a route. It didn’t hurt the Tigers last Thursday, but that doesn’t mean it won’t haunt them down the road.

For all of these reasons this team has not shown the explosiveness of recent Clemson offenses. However, it’s still relatively early and Boyd and the Tigers offense still has time to make a mark in 2013.

The next three games should tell us a lot, especially with two of the three in the friendly confines of Clemson Memorial Stadium and Frank Howard Field and in Tuesday’s presser Boyd stated that when the Clemson offense finds its groove it will be “like a freight train”.

It’s certainly possible to make it to 6-0 with the schedule ahead and numbers similar to those above especially with an improved defense, but marked improvement in these categories heading into the Florida State game would give Tiger fans some comfort that the offensive train is picking up speed and headed in the right direction.

Check out more from Marty on national offensive efficiency ranks, Clemson receiver targets and Tajh Boyd's accuracy around the field.

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Comments » 11

BrandonRink writes:

One that sticks out is the opponent red zone TD percentage (last in the ACC), but since the Georgia game (4 TDs), there's only been two red zone scores and one touchdown, which came in garbage time versus State on that weird fourth-down driven possession.

TigerNE writes:

in response to BrandonRink:

One that sticks out is the opponent red zone TD percentage (last in the ACC), but since the Georgia game (4 TDs), there's only been two red zone scores and one touchdown, which came in garbage time versus State on that weird fourth-down driven possession.

Yeah. It seems Venables and the D squad really weren't concerned about whether NCSU scored as much as just eating up clock. Weird.

But at this point in the season it's hard to get excited either way about the stats. We barely have played a quarter of our games! And a lot of the D stats were built from non-starters (SC State) Let's look again just before FSU.

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

Yep, that's why I didn't read too much into it. Only 6 red zone trips in 3 games.

On the other hand, you know what that means? Long plays for touchdowns, see Gurley, Todd and the long plays vs. SC State and the 21 yard run by Thronton for N.C. State.

Improvement aside, big plays are still a problem for this defense. I'd almost rather it be 3rd and 2 instead of 3rd and 8. Almost.

lhaselden writes:

Only 6 red zone trips for the opponents this year.. I think that stat will even out. 3rd down conversion D is pretty good, but 4th down conversions D not as good. We have to fix that by the time we play GaT or we will never get their O off the field.
I like our Turnover ration as well.
this is a good site to see ACC stats compare schools and players ....
http://www.theacc.com/#!/stats?sport=m-footbl

waran writes:

Whether we like it or not we have not played well. We can find lots of excuses. I would like to see the stats for Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State. I think we can and we will play better and improve these stats before the end of the year. The question is will "it" happen in time for the FSU game and will "it" be there when we play USC?

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

The key for me is to attempt to identify areas for improvement BEFORE they become obvious (i.e. before Florida State). If you just looked at the scoreboard (38, 52 and 26 points) you'd think the Clemson offense was humming along just fine when even the coaches and players say it's not (at least to some degree).

I'm not saying the sky is falling, just pointing out that these numbers confirm what my eyes have seen - a less explosive offense that is also not as efficient.

lhaselden writes:

<<Whether we like it or not we have not played well>>
I think we have played great... please take notice that one of the teams we beat is back in the top 10 and one team that team beat is in the top 15.... We do not know yet how good NCState is... but we know that it is a hard place to play. In that stadium they have beated the last 2 division champs who went on to win the ACC.
I also think we have room for improvement.... how many years would we have been able to say that after a 3 - 0 start?

Xander5000 writes:

We all have a uniqueness....same goes for offenses and defenses. Though it may be the same offenses and defenses....personnel and coaching calls are different. On offense Alabama can drift you to sleep but yet they are consistent and can flat out dominate you play after play. Oregon I have to say is explosive and they can just make you look silly and it has showed according to who they have played. I think Clemson at this point is indeed right in the middle based on who we have played and our personnel. I would like to see some of these cutesy-type plays eliminated when they are not needed at certain times. That will also bring down stats if they don't work if you are a fan of impressive stats.

clemvol writes:

I believe that the Tigers need to open the play book and do it now. I believe we need to connect with all receivers in the game an d multiple pass patterns. I think we need to give opposing teams a lot to work on instead of lining up and coming after Boyd. I believe you need to keep the opposing team guessing. I believe you need to blitz and then blitz some more on defense. I believe this clogs up the running lanes and we need to put the pressure on the defensive backs. But after all this what do i know. Not much since i don't get paid and there are smarter folks coaching getting paid to do this for a living. Anyway, Go Tigers and eliminate the deacons like you are suppose to do.

TigerFan95 writes:

The answer is simple. We won’t be an elite offense until we have an elite offensive line. Ours is average at best which is really disappointing. I’ve thought this for the last couple years but I chalked it up to youth and inexperience. With two junior & two senior starters that excuse doesn’t work anymore. When we’re having to rely upon converted TE’s and DT’s to fill our two deep roster I think it’s pretty clear that we simply are not recruiting and developing offensive lineman like we should. And why did we only sign two O-lineman last year and why do we have only two commits so far this cycle? Unless Dabo addresses this issue Clemson will always have an inconsistent offense.

Bigboots writes:

We can boost the offense by keeping giff timothy off the field. Guaranteed improvement. Dude is really not good at all.

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