After No. 2 Clemson defeated Auburn in the season opener at Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and some players met with the media on Monday to discuss what they learned from the matchup as well as what they are looking forward to in the upcoming home game.
Here is what we heard:
Although Clemson came away with a win, there were a lot of plays left unmade on the field from both sides of the ball. However, Clemson’s offense did not play to the standard that has been set for them, and Elliott said they will learn from that game.
“This is a humbling experience for our guys,” he said. “Our guys are definitely excited about the win, but we also knew that we didn’t feel like we played to our standard. It was a good learning and teaching opportunity for us, and any time you win a game, you have an opportunity to coach hard off of it.”
One main issue Elliott pointed out was the tempo of the offense on Saturday evening.
“We just have to understand we have to get off to a fast start like we always do. We cannot have self-inflicting wounds. We had some critical errors at critical times that, from a rhythm standpoint, threw us off.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson took full responsibility for not setting the tempo quick enough.
“We did a pretty good job, we just slipped up at times. The tempo could have been better, and that starts with me. I take responsibility for driving the offense and making sure everyone is getting set,” Watson said. “It starts with me encouraging the guys.”
Watson believed his best pass of the game was his touchdown throw to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. Elliott agreed that was one of his best plays, but he believed Watson’s best pass got left on the field.
“The best throw was one of the touchdowns that was dropped, going in toward their scoreboard on the left side (in the fourth quarter). I think it was a slant-and-go to Mike, and he dropped it in the bucket. That was probably his best throw, I thought,” Elliott said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Clemson shined. The versatility of the Tiger defense helped Clemson get the job done in a tough road game. Linebacker Jalen Williams said he will play wherever he is needed to stop the drive.
“I feel like I can do both, and coach doesn’t have to change the personnel completely,” Williams said. “I can guard the slot, or I can stay in there when it’s third and short and put my nose in the gap. “Coach (Brent Venables), he’s been coaching this game for a long time, so he knows what he wants his players at. Wherever he wants me at, that’s where I’m going to be.”
Williams was ecstatic to get to play a crucial role at Auburn, but he is even more excited to come back home to Death Valley to play for the loyal Clemson fans.
“I love it with our fan base, I can’t wait. I think we are like the best school in the nation. I love it. I love all our fans,” he said. “They support us and they travel. Everywhere we go it is like a home game, and I saw that last season. The ACC Championship was like a home game for us. The whole thing was orange, 3/4 of it was orange, if not more. So I just love playing here.”