Clemson Needs Rebound Year In Every Aspect On Offensive Side of Football

Clemson football struggled mightily in 2021. That much is a fact, and not just when compared to previous years.

From a statistical standpoint, Clemson’s offense was among the worst in the ACC and all of college football. Fans want to know what happened, why one of the best, most exciting offenses in college football went stagnant over the course of just one season. Most look for a single player or position group to blame, but the truth isn’t quite that simple.

Most quickly point the finger at the quarterback position, as it is the most important on the field. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei certainly deserves some of the blame, as he went from preseason Heisman contender to a guy that the coaching staff didn’t trust enough to make a throw of more than 15 yards to end the season.

Uiagalelei struggled mightily to go through his reads, was highly inaccurate, and made poor decisions. It was the worst statistical performance from a starting Clemson quarterback in many years.

But the problem didn’t end there. In fact, that’s just where it began. The coaching staff has to carry their share of the blame as well, particularly, among the offensive line and wide receivers. When you reach the top, there is but one direction to go. It’s very easy to get comfortable after enjoying years of success.

Perhaps the coaching staff grew complacent in certain areas after tasting that success throughout the past several years. Several games, especially early in the year, players seemed as if they weren’t ready for the bright lights.

Getting back to the offensive line, they started the season looking like they were just outmatched. And not just against Georgia, but against everyone. They were bullied around, consistently missed assignments and left guys unblocked.

The offensive line played so poorly in the opener that many folks think Uiagalelei lost his confidence after the beating that he took against Georgia. At one point during the game the commentator compared him to a pretzel, being twisted and turned by that Georgia defense.

Clemson has produced so many elite wide receivers over the years that they are known to many as Wide Receiver U. That clearly wasn’t the case in 2021, as not only did none of them stand out as “the guy”, but their blocking was non-existent and they had about as many drops as catches. Clearly the best way to help a young struggling quarterback isn’t to have less help around him as in previous years.

Lastly, Clemson just failed to get creative with the play calling last year. The vast majority of plays were up the middle runs or bubble screens. They became very predictable for the fans, as well as opposing teams. In a nutshell, it became stale. Maybe a new offensive coordinator changes that.

Many fans like to point the finger at Dabo Swinney for not using the transfer portal, but you have to understand that Clemson hasn’t lost any impact players to the portal. None of the guys who left were starters, and they were simply out-played by other players on the team who earned the snaps.

Also, it’s very rare that impact players enter the portal to start with. Names like Joe Burrow and Justin Fields are quickly mentioned by fans of the portal, but these guys are the exceptions, not the rule. Take a quick look at the vast majority of players in the portal, and you will quickly realize that most are backups, who likely wouldn’t find much playing time at Clemson to begin with. The point is, it’s best to discuss what the problem actually was versus what we want it to be.

While it’s true that the offense fell off in 2021, it’s also very true that these items can be fixed. Uiagalelei will have much stiffer competition in 2022, so the quarterback position is in a much better place than a year ago.

There’s a new offensive line coach in Thomas Austin who will hopefully ingest new life into the program and do a better job at preparing the players for the start of the season.

If the wide receivers can stay healthy, it should help them build a better rapport with the quarterback and make explosive plays down the field. Any complacency in the coaching staff seems to have been replaced by some new energy and they will be looking to respond in a big way come the start of the 2022 season.

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