All of sudden, Clemson has a turnover issue.
Yes, all of sudden it does. Earlier in the season, the third-ranked Tigers, for the most part, were taking care of the football.
In the first four games, they turned the football over just six times – not great, but not bad either. In those four games, the Tigers won the turnover margin twice—Auburn and S.C. State—and tied it in the other two games.
Actually, against S.C. State and Georgia Tech, Clemson had one turnover combined in back-to-back weeks. So before the Louisville game, turnovers did not seem to be a major issue.
However, things can change, and it did.
In the last three games, the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 ACC) turned the football over 10 times, including five against No. 7 Louisville and four against NC State this past weekend.
“We have to go back to work. We can state the obvious all we want, but if it was one thing or one guy that would be one thing, but we have had just a little bit of everything,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said on his weekly teleconference call with the media on Monday.
Currently the Tigers rank 122 out 128 FBS schools when it comes to lost turnovers, and the problem is most of the turnovers are coming at the worst possible times.
Against NC State, Clemson lost one fumble at the one-yard line when running back Tyshon Dye had the football taken out of his hand. In the other situation, wide receiver Mike Williams was fighting for extra yards when the defensive back stripped him of the football inside the five-yard line.
The Tigers lost two possible touchdowns in the red zone against Louisville as well on Oct. 1.
“We will go back and do some fundamental stuff that we teach from a ball security standpoint, as far as points of pressure and drill work that we do, that’s really all you can do,” Swinney said. “You just go play. It’s one of those cycles that we have been through.”
Clemson has to get it fixed before heading down to Tallahassee, Florida and playing No. 15 Florida State on Oct. 29. The Seminoles (5-2, 2-2 ACC) have been feeding off opponents miscues this season. The Seminoles rank 12th in turnover margin at plus-6, while ranking ninth in forced turnovers with 15.
Fortunately for Clemson, it has an off week to try and get things corrected.
“We cannot do anything about what is behind us, but we can coach the fundamentals on tape and point the things out when we do get balls in jeopardy in practice and things like that when we watch the tape,” Swinney said. “We have to make sure we emphasize things like that, which we always do. It is not like we have not been emphasizing that, we have just had a rash of funky things here that are disappointing. At the same time, there is a lot of good and it is unfortunate it is costing us some points because there are a lot of good things that are going on within the rhythm of the offense with some long drives and things like that.
“We just have to get back in the batter’s box, go back to work, work on the fundamentals and go from there.”
Could Baker play at FSU? It sounds like the Clemson cornerback will have an opportunity to. As you know, Adrian Baker tore his ACL in the spring and has missed the first seven games of the season.
“I don’t know. We will see,” Swinney. “I think he is ready to go. Now he has to go and get back in the competition and get back to work and see if you can earn some (playing) time. That’s really where he is at now.”
Baker had an interception against the Seminoles in last year’s win at Death Valley.
Other injury updates. Swinney said wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who was knocked out of the game late against NC State on Saturday, is fine and will practice this afternoon.
Safety Van Smith injured his butt, Swinney said that was the best way he could describe it, but is going to be okay and will practice.
As for running back Wayne Gallman, Swinney said the All-ACC running back is fine and seems to be doing well, but they will hold him out of practice this week as a precaution as part of the concussion protocol that is required after a head injury.
Players of the Game. Swinney says the players of the week, awarded by the Clemson coaches, from the NC State game are: Left tackle Mitch Hyatt (offense), defensive back Marcus Edmond and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (defense) and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (special teams).
FSU kickoff announced. The Clemson at FSU game, scheduled for Oct. 29, will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ABC in primetime. This is the second time Clemson has been a part of the ABC Game of the Week, and the third time that have been on ABC as part of a nationally televised game.
The FSU game will also mark the fifth straight game Clemson has been the nationally televised game on either ESPN or ABC, and the sixth time this season.