Anyone who’s watched Clemson’s offense this season has probably been scratching their head. Now everyone waits to see if their bye was enough to fix the issues.
As the Tigers now end their bye week and prepare for what is expected to be a very hostile crowd in the Carrier Dome this Friday night. Let’s take a minute to talk about a few things that could be a big help moving forward offensively.
The Injury Bug: Clemson has seen something rear it’s ugly head over the last two seasons that they have been able to avoid during their playoff appearances. That is the plague of major injuries. They are already missing some huge pieces on both sides of the ball. Bryan Bresee, Tyler Davis, and Lannden Zanders are out on the defensive side while Will Shipley and Will Taylor are out on the offensive side.
Braden Galloway, Justyn Ross, Frank Ladson Jr., and E.J. Williams also left the game against Boston College and it’s still a wait and see type deal as to whether they will be ready this weekend or not. Although, Ross is expected back. There are also pieces like Fred Davis and Joseph Charleston on defense and Will Putnam on the offensive line who have missed time this season. To say that this season has put the Tigers’ next man up mentality to the test would be an understatement.
Offensive Line: Clemson’s offensive line has been one of their weakest links this season. With that said, this group played their best all around game of the season against Boston College. Now, don’t misunderstand. This group is still not playing at the level that helped Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence win the Tigers second and third overall national championships but the truth is that many feel that there was improvement seen during the Boston College game.
Some feel that this started with Hunter Rayburn starting at center and Matt Bockhorst moving to guard. If the coaches decide to leave these two pieces in place then the next step could be figuring out who the best options are between Putnam, Paul Tchio, and Marcus Tate.
Reading the Same Book: To say that DJ Uiagalelei has not lived up to what was expected this season would be another huge understatement. Uiagalelei and the Clemson wide receivers have not only been on different pages but, at times, it would seem they aren’t even reading the same book. Uiagalelei has been inaccurate on a lot of his throws and he has not, to this point, shown the ability to step up into the pocket or throw when pressured. So far, making him scramble out of the pocket and throw on the run has worked to the opponents’ advantage.
The coaching staff has to work with him to get these issues fixed but there’s more than just those that they have to be concerned with. Another issue that has to be looked into is the chemistry, or lack there of, between Uiagalelei and his wide receivers. A struggling quarterback’s confidence isn’t helped out at all when even his good passes are dropped by his receivers. Especially the passes that should be hauled in easily. There have also been plays where receivers ran the completely wrong route and in the game against Georgia, according to head coach Dabo Swinney, not running a route correctly led to the pick six that was the difference.
Play calling and offensive scheme: One huge complaint has been what some have called the lack of creativity offensively by the Tigers. You can talk about what has caused this all day long but at the end of the day they just need to find a way to get it corrected.
Some things that could help Tony Elliott’s squad out would be trying to get their running game outside the hashmarks, more “window dressing” before the snap, and using the jet sweep with your receivers to help open things up. Not reinventing the wheel but giving the defense something else to think about while also at least making things a little easier for the offense to get going at the same time.
How About Those Tight Ends: Coming into the season many hoped that there would be improved play and more use of this position in the offensive game for Clemson but a lack of blocking and dropped passes have not helped to get that done at all. Galloway and Davis Allen have both been huge disappointments. One thing that gave Tiger fans reason for excitement during the Boston College game, though, was Sage Ennis coming in and making a strong case that he deserves to be in the mix going forward with quite possibly the best performance of any of tight end to this point in the season. And seeing as he only had one catch, that’s saying something.
Even before the injury, Galloway has been extremely disappointing. He’s never been a very good blocker but his strength is supposed to be as a threat in the passing game and well, that hasn’t been the case either to this point. So much so that he’s seen Allen pass him on the depth chart. Jaelyn Lay hasn’t done much to prove he should be seeing the field either. The Tigers could sure use anyone from this group to step up and help the offense out.