The Clemson Insider staff members Robert MacRae, Gavin Oliver, Kaila Burns-Heffner, Will Vandervort, Gabby Bates, Alex Turri, Kevin Shroat, and William Qualkinbush go Around the Horn to answer some of the questions surrounding Clemson athletics and college football.
Will we see an improved Clemson offense going forward?
Robert MacRae – We will see the return of Clemson’s high powered offense on Saturday. There was a different feeling from the players this week starting with Deshaun Watson’s press conference. This week I think we will see the Tigers out there having fun again. There will still be some mistakes at times, but it will only take a little spark to get the momentum and confidence going again for the offense. The SC State game couldn’t come at a better time. Clemson needs to gains some confident and get in rhythm before the ACC schedule begins Thursday night at Georgia Tech.
Will Vandervort: I think we will. Deshaun Watson opened up the week taking the blame for what has been happening and I think that will only inspire his teammates to work even harder. It was a great move by the team’s leader. I also think they will because Dabo Swinney has been coacing the receivers. I agree with Swinney that a lot of his offense’s issues are due to the fact the wide receivers can’t hang onto the football. Eight drops in one game. That is ridiculous. Swinney has spent extra time after each practice working on the fundamentals with this unit. There is no doubt it will pay off. Once the wide receivers get it going, the offense as a whole will get it going. I kind of feel sorry for S.C. State this week.
Gavin Oliver – I think it’s pretty safe to say Clemson’s offense this year probably isn’t going to be the best in college football history, as some players suggested it had the potential to be before the season. But don’t get me wrong — this offense is still going to be really, really good despite the slow start. There is simply too much talent and experience across the board for it not to be.
Clemson’s run to the national title last year clouds the fact that the Tigers got off to a slow start offensively last season, as well. If you look at Clemson’s offensive stats against its first two FBS opponents in 2015 and compare them to Clemson’s stats through the first two games this season (both against FBS opponents), and they’re almost identical. The biggest difference is the number of drops Clemson has had, and that, more than anything, is what is stalling the offense. Dabo Swinney said it on Tuesday — if the Tigers pitch and catch like they’re capable of, then the offense will get in rhythm and everything will be fine. Deshaun Watson hasn’t been sharp for the most part thus far, and the play along the offensive line has been inconsistent, but that is going to change. Like last season, this offense is going to get it in gear — in a big way.
Kevin Shroat – It’s now or never for Deshaun and the offense. There’s no question about it, Clemson’s offense has to show up this Saturday. We all know that a win is a win but if the Tiger’s don’t come out of this game with a blowout W, I don’t think they really have another opportunity to work out the kinks. Its simple; if the receivers hold on to the ball, it’s a big day for Clemson and they gain some confidence going down to Bobby Dodd stadium next Thursday.
Alex Turri – The only clear choice is Dexter Lawrence. With his body type, to go along with his athleticism. Lawrence is a complete force. Not only is he a force, he has the potential to become greater than just that. I believe playing at home in front of the Clemson crowd for his first home game, will spark something in him leading to a memorable performance.
Gabby Bates –Definitely! Going into the season, the bar was set the highest it has ever been in Clemson history. As obvious as it has been the past two games, the Tigers haven’t been able to reach that bar. Frustrated and disappointed in their recent performances, Clemson will make their come back this Saturday against SC State.
It seems that head coach Dabo Swinney hopes to see most of the improvements within the wide receiver unit. The Tigers have had 20 dropped passes within the last two games. Eight of those dropped passes were against Troy. Swinney mentioned that the mistakes were easily fixable and he promises an improved wide receiver core this Saturday.As far a Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, I’m not worried at all. We all know what this Heisman candidate is capable of. It’s just a matter of focus and execution. Knowing the talent that is there, it all comes down to the Tigers getting back into their rhythm. After a loom and gloomy two weekends behind their backs, Clemson will start to see the light this Saturday.
Kaila Burns-Heffner – I believe that improvement on offense will be seen on Saturday. The degree of improvement may vary, but after a noticeable shift in the mindset of Clemson’s main offensive leaders, a better performance should occur. Deshaun Watson showed extreme humility when addressing the media this week, and he said that he had a reality check with himself after the win over Troy. It seemed that he has a different level of focus and determination after the first two close wins than he did before. Offensive lineman Jay Guillermo said the same thing and said that the team had a more productive Monday practice than usual. With an uncharacteristic amount of drops coming from the wide receivers, especially at Troy, there is a ton of room for improvement. The good thing is that may prove to be a motivating factor for a unit that was often regarded in the off-season as one of the most talented on the team. Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott and head coach Dabo Swinney are addressing that issue heavily in practice this week and making sure that the unit goes back to practicing the fundamentals. Because the major issues with the offense are all problems that can be fixed, I think that the motivation to do better as well as the focus on the simple skills will help eliminate the number of mistakes the offense makes. Although I am concerned that Clemson lost Hunter Renfrow for a few weeks due to injury, Ray-Ray McCloud stepped up in a big way after being given the opportunity to redeem his lost touchdown. Clemson has the talented bodies to fill the void, but Renfrow has been one of the most reliable receivers so far this season. That being said, with the receivers focusing on fixing the mistakes made, I believe that the offensive rhythm will get going again this weekend.
William Qualkinbush – The issues with Clemson’s offense seem to be mental, not physical. Dropped balls, missed assignments, downtrodden body language–these things can all cause a team to feel out of whack. When Deshaun Watson admitted on Monday that he had taken some aspects of his role for granted and begun to treat them as burdens rather than blessings, it was a signal that he aims to change his outlook moving forward, to approach his craft with a different posture. The rest of the team will follow if he keeps his word, no doubt about it. If he is able to motivate his teammates to play free and loose–just like they did a season ago–the chains currently binding the Clemson offense will be broken. Also, since the opponent is South Carolina State, amassing yards and points won’t be a problem, whether these issues are fixed or not. It might take some time before we know for sure, but I have a hunch we’ll know this new and improved unit is for real when we see it in action.