Clemson Football: Midseason Thoughts as Tigers Get Set to Face Pitt

No one saw this kind of drop off coming.

At the halfway point of the season, Clemson sits at 4-2 overall, 3-1 in ACC play and unranked in the AP Poll. Not the kind of season most were anticipating. Most were expecting this team to compete for another national title, but unfortunately that was not the case.

Midseason Thoughts:

  • Who’d have guessed that replacing Cade Stewart would have been such an issue. And that isn’t a knock on Stewart, but the Tigers have already started three different centers in six games. That is a problem. How this team got caught without a center is mind boggling. The staff knew before the end of spring that Ryan Linthicum was going to need a redshirt season and Hunter Rayburn had far from locked up the job. In fact, he never did. He was beaten out by Matt Bockhorst. If there is one position that you have to have continuity at, it’s center, and this team just has not gotten it.
  • Another thing no one would have guessed is the receiver play being so inconsistent. Justyn Ross looks like a guy that missed an entire year and Joseph Ngata looks like a guys that has rarely played in his first two seasons. Frank Ladson Jr just can not catch a break from a health standpoint and Ajou Ajou looked nowhere near ready for primetime last week against Syracuse and E.J. Williams is hurt. With Ngata out this week, I am actually looking forward to what the Collins’ kids can do. All in all, this group has been a major disappointment. They aren’t getting any separation and the blocking on the perimeter has been terrible at times. Remember when the Clemson receivers used to take pride in their blocking?
  • Count 2021 as another season where the Tigers have gotten little to nothing from the tight ends. At least through the first six games. Braden Galloway just has not progressed and while Davis Allen looks solid at times, he is still lacking consistency and his blocking is less than stellar. He needs more performances like he had against Syracuse. Hopefully Jake Briningstool is ready to roll in 2022.
  • Now onto DJ Uiagalelei. The quarterback has struggled mightily in his first season as the full-time starter and everyone wants to know why. Unfortunately, I just do not believe there is an easy answer. I am of the unpopular opinion that Uiagalelei has looked better in the last two games, but he is still nowhere near the guy he was last year in two starts as a freshman. He’s also playing with a new crop of receivers and behind an offensive line that has struggled to protect him. Personally, I think he is still suffering from the beating he took in the opener against Georgia, and is still trying to find himself. He’s sorely lacking in confidence at the moment and it’s has a terrible impact on his mechanics. Either way, it’s far to early to give up on him. There is a reason every school in the country wanted this kid.
  • There have been some bright spots on offense. Most notably Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah. With injured back Will Shipley also in the mix, the future looks bright for the running back position.
  • Speaking of the future, it also looks bright for the offensive line. That group is full of underclassmen, most of which are all former blue chip guys, that just aren’t ready. If the play up front isn’t improved dramatically in 2022, then you know without question you have some development issues.
  • Just can’t say enough about that defense. It is championship caliber. It’s the only reason the Tigers have four of their five wins this season. Looking at next year, it should be more of the same, even with losing guys like James Skalski, Brannon Spector, Nolan Turner and possibly Andrew Booth Jr and Tyler Davis.
  • Yes, the play calling has gotten very watered down in recent years. After the loss to LSU in the 2019 national title game Tony Elliott said he needed to address some things with the offense, such as teams picking up on tendencies. Not sure that was ever done. However, what happened to all the pre-snap motion? The eye candy? Making opposing defenses think? Honestly, it appears the staff has started to rely heavily on talent rather than scheme and it isn’t working this year. Unlike many, I still have faith in Elliott. He has earned the opportunity to right the ship. There is a reason he’s been considered one of the brightest minds in college football. The next six games and 2022 will be big for the offensive coordinator. And yes, he will be back next season, unless takes a head coaching job. He is absolutely not getting fired, nor should he be.

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