Clemson has been so good for so long, that many fans have forgotten what it feels like to be a fan of a team that isn’t elite.
Being a Clemson fan the last few years has been an incredibly easy thing to do. Blowing out most ACC opponents by multiple touchdowns, being a regular in the College Football Playoff, and obliterating South Carolina every year, has become the norm at Clemson. But not this year.
This year Clemson has started out very slow compared to those in years past. The Tigers dropped a couple of games early, both in the month of September. The last time that happened was back in 2014.
This Clemson team lost most of its offensive production from a year ago. This year shows that replacing superstar players at quarterback, wide receiver, and running back isn’t always as easy and seamless as Clemson has made it look in years past.
This team has struggled, and at all of the aforementioned positions. Tight end and offensive line play hasn’t been very good either. In fact, the entire offense has looked out of sync. Whether it’s been inaccurate passes, missed blocking assignments, drops by receivers, predictable play calling, or whatever else, the offense just hasn’t looked potent. In fact, they’ve just looked plain bad at times.
Folks want to look at one player or position to point a finger and say “Hey, that’s the problem.” But the solution really isn’t that simple. It seems a culmination of problems have mounted for this Clemson team. And it seems there really is no quick fix. Complacency is the enemy of success, and it does seem to have taken its toll on this team. That, along with possible recruiting misses, and injuries have plagued this team all year.
Not enough credit has been given to Brent Venables and that defense. These guys have played their hearts out, and met the challenge every single Saturday. They have been arguably the best defense in the nation when healthy, and that has taken a backseat to the offensive production.
Having to stay on the field most of the time has taken its toll on them, but they have persevered. The defense is the heart and soul of the team this year. Special teams should have a mention as well. BT Potter is on top of his kicking game this year. Will Spiers, once known as the punter who caused the entire stadium to gasp as he punted the ball away, has become Mr. Ever Reliable. The special teams unit has been solid all year long.
So it has been established that Clemson is seemingly in a down year this year. But honestly, so what? It happens. To every team. In fact, every single college football playoff team from last year has already lost a game through Week 5 of this year. After six straight playoff appearances, six straight ACC titles, six straight South Carolina beat downs, and two national titles, Clemson is entitled to have one down year.
College football is an incredible sport in which we love and cherish. In fact, it’s the best sport in the country for most of us. So there’s no doubt that the kind of love the sport generates can feel sour when things aren’t going well. Keep in mind these are young men, mostly 18 to 21 years old. When most of us were that age, there’s no telling what kind of foolishness we were up to. These guys are still gelling, still learning. Dabo Swinney and staff are well aware of the issues and are working diligently to get better.
For those of you yelling to start firing coaches, apparently you haven’t been paying attention for most of the last decade. These coaches have taken Clemson to the mountaintop, at levels never seen before inside the program. Now after one down year, or not even an entire year, you’re ready to fire them? You should challenge yourself to look around the country and see what’s going on at other schools. Look at LSU and Ed Orgeron. Oklahoma missed the playoff last year. Alabama missed it in 2019.
The point is that every single team has this happen every once in a while. Keep in mind these players generally only have 4 years of eligibility. That means every 4 to 5 years, every single face is new on the sidelines at Clemson. So every year is a challenge for the coaches and players to compete at the high level fans have been accustomed to at Clemson.
This team is very young at many key positions on the offensive side of the ball, and that has showed on the field. Just enjoy the season, and let it play out. You will see that Clemson will get better each and every week, and by the end of the season you should see what kind of team this will be going forward. No one ever said being a fan would be easy, but there’s just something special about those hills in Clemson.
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