This has certainly been a crazy year for Clemson.
The offense went from being a juggernaut last year to being one of the worst units since the inception of the College Football Playoff. That’s a dramatic change, even when you take into consideration losing the offensive stars from last year, given the amount of talent still on the Clemson roster.
Having said that, we must dive into the issues that have led to the offensive demise. Much has been said about the offensive line woes, and deservedly so. They were certainly horrible to begin the season, but have improved every game since. You can see it in the running game. Running backs actually have holes to run through now. They may not be the size of a Yukon yet, but they’re certainly not microscopic like before.
The wide receivers have had their fair share of drops, and been Charmin soft at run blocking. So have the tight ends. Like the offensive line, these position groups have improved over the course of the season. The running backs have had fewer issues, and these guys are now the workhorses and money makers on the offense.
Will Shipley gets vertical in a hurry, and looks more like an NFL back than collegiate. And this guy is a freshman. Phil Mafah is a “bad Mafah” like RG3 said and trucks through arm tackles like a hot knife through butter. The tight ends have had their fair share of issues, but Davis Allen has become a reliable pass catcher and Jake Briningstool is a star in the making. So what gives? Why are they still struggling?
The answer is simple; lack of quarterback consistency. DJ Uiagalelei has shown flashes of greatness. We heard all year about how he had no touch whatsoever on his passes. Well, go back and watch that touchdown pass to Davis Allen in the end zone and you will see that is fiction. We have seen him throw darts. Several in the FSU game alone. He is not fast but is a big, powerful guy. He has trucked through defenders and gained tough yards and first downs. But the problem is consistency, along with lack of moving through his progressions, bad mechanics, and just a downright lack of confidence.
Uiagalelei has all the tangibles that anyone could hope for in a quarterback; 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, rocket powered arm, experience in playing in the highest level of competition in high school, incredible strength, decent mobility for his size and a humble personality. He was recruited by nearly every major college program for a reason. Uiagalelei was a preseason Heisman favorite and heir apparent to the powerful, high flying Clemson offense. He was to take the college football world by storm, blow out measly ACC opponents, and absolutely light up scoreboards. Only, that’s not exactly what happened.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field because of all the responsibilities that come with the position. Leadership, anticipation, ability to adjust, adapt, read defenses, understand playbooks, protections, hot routes, formations, etc. are just some of the qualities that a great quarterback must possess. In other words, the intangibles are what separates the contenders from the pretenders. They are intangibles because these qualities can’t be measured by traditional means.
And these are the qualities which are preventing Clemson from greatness right now. Look at some of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL. There are many examples, but there is one that quickly comes to mind; Tom Brady. What makes this non athletic guy with a less than impressive draft stock billing so special? The answer is simple, and coincidentally, it’s the same thing that is preventing Uiagalelei from reaching his full potential, at least right now. It’s five inches; the distance from ear, to ear. And everything that lies between.
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