When you lose arguably the greatest and most accomplished quarterback-running back duo in league history, one should expect some drop off following their departure. Unless you’re Alabama. But Clemson’s offensive avalanche has endured far more than a little dip in production.
Through four games in 2021, it is clear that Clemson has some major issues–perhaps issues that can’t be resolved midseason. While the defense has proven its mettle and secured a seat around the table of the country’s elite, the offense has conversely been about as bad as you can get. Almost literally. Heck, It’s literal at this point.
Fans are angry and feel there is some sort of disconnect from reality or that somehow the staff has completely forgotten how to football.
Now look…..I know coaches have to tow the line during press conferences for a variety of reasons. But to me, there’s a difference in “coach speak”, protecting your coaches/players/program and just flat out insulting the intelligence of the media and fans alike.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney proclaimed weeks ago that the offense “didn’t stink”. Heck, Jeff Hafley’s Boston College Eagles visit Death Valley Saturday night and just this week Hafley told the media he’s watched the tape and Clemson is a mere “inches away” from the offense pulling it all together.
Inches, huh? I gotta tell ya, the math ain’t mathing.
It is understood you can’t just replace the production of guys like Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne with no drop off. Throw in the departure of veterans such as Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell along with having to rebuild the offensive line, growing pains were expected. That is just reality and common sense. It is clear those guys and a more experienced offensive line helped cover up some of the Tigers’ weaknesses throughout the regular season over the past few years. Notice I said during the regular season.
However, when you take a step away as far back as the loss to LSU in the National Championship, there were absolutely indications Clemson needed to make some adjustments to continue to compete at the highest level. Those correct adjustments have yet to be made and the result we see now is a 2-2 Clemson team that has fallen from No. 2 to No. 25 faster than Usain Bolt in a race. Playoffs? No way. I wish the narrative that the Tigers still have a shot would end. It’s not happening.
Maybe these issues are correctable but if that is the case, when does that happen? Saturday night is do or die time. Back at home under the lights of Death Valley with a 30-game home win streak on the line. What better time than the present? Another underwhelming offensive output and we might need to be taking a closer look at some staff adjustments. We can only rely on player execution for long without switching around the line up.
I’m not saying anyone needs to be fired. But as the old adage goes, nothing changes if nothing changes. Personnel wise, I said after the NC State game everything needs to be wide open. Too many mistakes and missed opportunists being left on the field right now and it quite literally led to some of the defensive injuries we saw last week. Clemson’s defense hardly left the field in Carter-Finley last weekend.
The Tigers have entirely too much talent and knowledge in that locker room to continue to struggle his intensely to move the ball. Fans were spoiled with that 40 points per game run and I think most are shell-shocked and just how bad this offense is right now. But let’s cut the crap. You don’t drop this far this quickly without indications plastered on the wall. Spoiled fans or not, they deserve better. The players deserve better. These coaches deserve better.
Clemson has no passing game this season and no real downfield threats for opposing teams to CONSISTENTLY respect. I think its unfair to put a heavy load on Justyn Ross all things considered. Put that blame where you want, the point remains the same. Not much utilization of the tight end in the passing game, no true slot WR which has been a trademark under Swinney’s offense, little use of the middle of the field. Truth be told at times it looks like we are watching a spring game of a middle of the pack ACC offense.
HOW? This wasn’t that long ago……
This isn’t your quick trip to the urgent care, it feels like we need to be admitted to a short-term rehabilitation facility. While I trust the experience and knowledge of this staff to right the ship it sure is a head scratcher that a top five program could fall this quickly–and yet not be hitting the panic button.
If what we’ve seen through this first month isn’t cause for alarm (again coach’s speak here) then I’m afraid to see what it would take for real panic to set in.
Sure, Clemson’s goal of returning to Charlotte is still technically on the table (until at least midnight Sunday)
But this team–in this moment– looks no where close to being ready to compete for a title of any kind. It is truly unfair for the defense but you win and lose as a team. You strive to play complimentary football and right now, the offense isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.
Neither are some of the fans. The last time I tried to call out fans the reactions were mixed but I had people coming at me hardcore. A hit dog will holler and I’ll say it again, some of the Clemson fans are absolutely insufferable. I’m not telling you how to live your life, but you look coo coo for cocoa puffs. I’ll leave that alone but it’s amazing how people think they know more about a particular subject than the professionals. Just like I tend to trust science and doctors who are well versed in research and medicine, I trust Swinney and Elliott more than “John Smith” who has had season tickets since 1987. Now to be fair, some of the comments coming out of Clemson’s media sessions don’t add up. But again, you have to take what coaches are saying in front of a mic on a Monday-Thursday with grain of salt.
However, there are a few things for certain. DJ Uiagalelei isn’t the same player he was last season….it’s not even close, honestly. Call it the pressure of being QB1, call it the pressure of just personal life happenings, call it not truly being 100 percent healthy (part of my theory) call it NIL money messing up his mental space. I don’t know. But his fundamentals are trash…..(coaches speak: inconsistent) and THAT is concerning.
Perhaps that is correctable midseason…..to a degree. But not having a true center or much experience or depth behind a first year “true” starter is a gateway to issues. Five OL recruits in two recruiting cycles? Yeah….that seems problematic. Hindsight is 20/20 but you’d expect better roster management from Clemson at this point. I think back to Swinney over the summer stating this could be his best team ever.
WHERE? Again I say, THE MATH AIN’T MATHING.
For a coach and program that prides itself on development, it’s alarming how badly they’ve neglected the need to not only recruit enough guys up front but also develop the ones on the team already. The next man up mentality is great but only if you’ve prepared your team properly throughout the offseason.
My biggest question is what is going in practice? Because what the media, fans and nation sees on Saturday is not it. I don’t know how you fix that on the fly and so far the coaches and players don’t either.
The ACC is still very much winnable in a general sense but the Tigers can’t afford any more key losses on the defensive side of the ball. We all know what needs to happen on offense. We’ll see what the Tigers can put together in primetime Saturday night.
Only time will tell but that clock is ticking and it’s a rollie.