Tony Elliott was really pleased with the focus the Clemson offense came out with in Saturday’s win over Kent State.
The fifth-ranked Tigers scored the most points (56) in a season opener in 27 years and piled up the most yards (665) ever in an opening game. The performance was a far cry better than what Clemson did to open the 2016 season at Auburn.
“When you watched the Auburn game, obviously we came out with a win, but we did not play our best football,” Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator said. “We started the game with a procedure penalty, we had dropped balls and we were not consistent at running the ball at times as we wanted to be.”
Granted, the Tigers were playing Kent State this past Saturday and not Auburn, but it was the execution that had Elliott pleased with his unit’s overall performance.
“You saw a team that looked like it had been practicing for thirty practices so that was pleasing as a coach,” he said. “You always worry about an opener. You have first time players out there. You have a new quarterback, you have a new center and you have a lot of new pieces, but the communication was where it needed to be. The targeting was where it needed to be. The effort was there. So we’re very pleased with how these guys prepared and how focused they were going into that opener.”
But does that mean they will be ready for No. 12 Auburn on Saturday night in Death Valley. The SEC’s Tigers held Georgia Southern to just 78 total yards in its opening game victory.
“I think the confidence for our guys comes from who they practice against,” Elliott said. “Throughout the course of fall camp, they have been going against one of the best defenses in the country and now they are really going to be tested under the lights in the Valley versus the Auburn defense.
“I think the guys will be excited to play, obviously. I don’t feel like they will be overwhelmed but they are going to be challenged by the athleticism, how fundamentally sound they are, how they play … it is going to be a good challenge for us.”
Elliott says Auburn challenges Clemson athletically better than most teams they face. Auburn is led by a defensive line, despite losing defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive tackle Montravius Adams, that according to Elliott is deeper than anyone the Tigers have faced the last couple of years.
They also have back two starters in the secondary and all three linebackers from a defense that ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense in 2016. Last year, the SEC Tigers held Clemson to 399 total yards and 19 points, the lowest output in both categories for the Tigers all season.
“They can run with you at all positions,” Elliott said. “They are physical at the point of attack. I just think from a yardage standpoint, we did drop a bunch of balls. We dropped a couple of touchdowns. We had some big plays that we left out there.
“There is no matchup advantage we have that we feel like, as opposed to some of the other teams defensively.”