Through two games, Clemson’s offense hasn’t met the standards it holds for itself, nor has it met the expectations of fans, media and others outside the program alike.
The offense that many predicted would be the best in the country — or perhaps even one of the best in college football history — has mustered only a mediocre 24.5 points and 406.5 yards per game thus far. The up-tempo, high-octane attack has been slowed by a lack of execution in the early going, including missed throws, dropped passes, inconsistent play along the offensive line and mental mistakes.
Despite the slow start offensively, Clemson’s coaching staff isn’t concerned about the unit and has confidence it will turn things around.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said all of the mistakes that have been made are correctable, and it’s only a matter of time before this year’s offense looks like the offense Clemson fans are accustomed to seeing.
Scott compared the offense’s production so far to the offense’s production during a small stretch at the beginning of last season against Louisville and Notre Dame, when Clemson averaged just 22 points before going on a run of 11 straight games with 500-plus yards of total offense.
“It’s more about how we’re doing some things than what we’re doing,” Scott said on Monday. “I kind of think back to last year when we got off to a slow start offensively, as well, and then all of a sudden we went out and played well against Georgia Tech, and went on a run with 11 games over 500 yards and never looked back.
“I feel like that time is coming. Our goal will be for this week to be that time, so we can get out there and play the way we know we’re capable of playing.”
Clemson’s offensive performance against Troy could have been much better. Scott said the Tigers left 178 yards on the field because of the eight drops the receivers had, not counting the yards that would have come after the catches.
Factor in Watson’s inaccuracy on a few passing attempts that had the potential to be touchdowns, and the game could have been much different.
“Obviously we’re not clicking on offense like we want to be right now,” Scott said. “Going back and watching the video, a lot of it is 10 guys doing the right thing, and one guy making a mistake. To be successful on offense, all 11 guys have to do their job, and that was kind of the story of the afternoon for us.”
One explanation for the struggles offensively is all of the moving parts Clemson had during the game. On a day when Clemson’s coaching staff made it a point to play a lot of the younger players, Clemson’s offense ended up playing 10 offensive lineman, eight receivers, five tight ends and four running backs.
A combination of the inexperienced players in the game, and a lack of continuity with the personnel in the game, made it more difficult for the offense to gain a rhythm.
“One of our goals going into the game was play a lot of those younger guys and not just wait until maybe we had the game under control,” Scott said. “We wanted to put those guys under live fire.”
Aside from that, Scott feels as though Watson and the offense have been pressing a little bit and playing too unsure of themselves at times in the first two games when things haven’t gone their way.
“Our message for Deshaun, and really our entire offense, is maybe we’re playing a little bit too tight, and trying not to make a mistake rather than being aggressive,” Scott said. “Going out, letting it loose and having fun is when we’re at our best, and so we’ll definitely look at that this week.”
Scott’s biggest takeaway from the game against Troy was the way Clemson’s offense finished, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal on its last three drives of the game.
In essence, that’s what the Tigers are trying to do moving forward — finish the season strong like a season ago.
The offense hasn’t played close to its capabilities in the first two weeks, but there is a positive vibe in the offensive meeting room as the group tries to right the ship on Saturday against S.C. State.
“I felt like we had really good meetings this morning,” Scott said. “I felt like the guys had good attitudes. They have a lot of pride and want to play better than we showed on Saturday. I have no doubt we’ll get back to that.”
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