After two weeks of providing less than spectacular performances, many are dumbfounded as to why Clemson’s potent offense has not put up big numbers.
As the co-offensive wizard that crafted the third-ranked Tigers’ smash-and-dash attack that took them all the way to the national championship last year, Jeff Scott looks to take the last two weeks and make it a learning experience for his players.
Scott addresses the struggles on offense, how they will prepare for this Saturday’s matchup against S.C. State and much more.
Q: Deshaun (Watson) just came in here and told us that he wasn’t having fun, there was negative body language and that he felt bogged down by all of this and the obligations he has. He said he is going to try and embrace the opportunity now. Have you noticed a different Deshaun?
Scott: “I think that anytime you’re a top player, like Deshaun, Wayne Gallman and Mike Williams, their bar is set very high and when you’re not reaching that bar, you’re very disappointed. It’s not a lot of fun because you know where your line of potential is and when you’re not hitting that, it gets frustrating. It gets frustrating for the players and it gets frustrating for the coaches. Our message to all of those guys is to leave the stuff outside of this building; when you come here go out and have fun, play the game and don’t put more pressure on yourself than is needed. Sometimes you have to be careful when you have such a talented group of guys, because there can be an attitude where they feel like they have to be perfect. Even though our goal is that we go down the field and score every time, that’s not a realistic, that’s not going to happen. They’re still going to make mistakes and it’s the attitude, the way you approach and come back the next series that’s going to dictate how the rest of the game goes. That’s the message for Deshaun and the message for our entire offense.”
Q: You brought back so many pieces this year, basically the same offense. That’s a lot of film for defenses to break down and figure out. These first two weeks, do you think that defenses have kind of figured how to rotate and put pressure on you?
Scott: “I really don’t think it’s what we’re doing, like I said those eight drops and 178 yards, not counting the overthrows that we had; it’s how we are doing it and what we are doing. I give Troy a lot of credit. They did a lot of things that they had not shown before and it was obvious they prepared for us in the offseason. Coach Vic (Koenning) did a great job and his guys played extremely hard. They did some different things and we had to change our game plan a little bit once we got into the game to make some adjustments. There’s no doubt about it, we’re going to be the target. People are going to have a new scheme each week. It’s going to be a hard job to figure out what their plan is each week and be able to adapt what we’re doing. It’s no different than any other year. It’s the early in the season and we’ve got a lot of games to go. We have stuff we want to do now and stuff we don’t want to do now. It’s more about us executing at a high level than tinkering with schemes.”
Q: Going into this week, do you want to play a lot of players again or put the starters together?
Scott: “We’ll talk about it more as a staff as we get ready, but I think we want to play some more guys again. We want to give them some opportunities. Diondre Overton played six plays and those plays were really big for him. Cornell Powell played 10 plays and those are very valuable snaps. I think it’s only going to make us better as the year goes on because there will be injuries throughout the year. I would hate to put out a new left guard or a new right tackle with his first time playing being at Georgia Tech. I’m pretty sure we will continue to play a lot of guys and get them some good experience in these next three weeks.”
Q: How do you address the receiving group after a game where they had a lot of drops?
Scott: “I think the biggest thing is talking about what leads to that, where it comes from and what we need to do to correct it. It’s more than just telling them to catch the ball. They know they need to catch the ball and that’s not going to get anything accomplished. We just need to find where the drops are coming from and focus on those areas in practice. There are a few things technically that they could do like not waiting on the ball and attacking the ball. At the same time you don’t want to make a huge deal about it. It’s kind of like a hitter in a slump. If you beat them over the head with it 24/7, it kind of creates a negative image and that’s not what we want to do. We need to get better in that area and the way they approach it, maybe a little more focus at practice, a little more intensity at practice, walk-throughs and meetings. Those little things add up. That will be what we focus on correcting.”
Q: From a coaching standpoint, how do you address the enthusiasm and getting that back up in practice? I know you’ve done unconventional things like play corn hole and stuff like that?
Scott: “Yeah I think the corn hole is probably over for a little while. The fun is in the winning and moving the ball and having success. Deon Cain catches that third down and we’re having fun. Third-and-thirteen and we’ve got a conversion and a first down. Deshaun hits Leggett there on for that first touchdown and we’re having a lot of fun that whole game. The biggest thing is just for those guys to know that we need to improve, we need to execute at a high level but at the same time, you don’t have to play with all of this pressure on your shoulders and this feeling that we have to be perfect. That’s just not reality. You can look at the best teams in the country in the NFL, and they have adversity. They’re not going to go down and score on every drive. I think that some of the build up on the outside was that it was going to go that way. As coaches we didn’t believe that because it’s a new year, we hadn’t played in eight months, we’ve got to go out there and develop that chemistry. This is how it happens. You go thru some adversity and all of a sudden guys get a little more focused and right back in the groove they belong.”