If there are some glaring issues on Clemson’s offense through the first seven games of the season, it’s the number of tackles behind the line of scrimmage or sacks it is allowing.
The blame, like most people like to think, does not just go on the offensive line. The blame can be spread to the quarterback for holding the ball too long, the running backs for not reading the defense or the wide receivers for not getting open down field or holding on to their blocks on screen plays.
“The biggest thing is you go look at them individually and how they happened,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
So far this year, the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) have allowed 36 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 18 sacks. Both numbers are alarming, especially the sacks, which per game average has almost doubled from last year.
In 2016, Clemson was one of the best teams in the country at protecting the quarterback. In 15 games, Deshaun Watson was sacked just 20 times for an average of 1.33 per game, which ranked 22nd nationally.
In seven games this year, the Tigers have already allowed 18 sacks for an average of 2.57 per game. Clemson currently ranks 101st nationally in sacks allowed per game.
“It really comes to one guy on each of those plays, I think,” Scott said. “There is one guy not doing his job and a missed assignment. So really, as coaches, it’s about just showing the guys that all it takes is one guy to not be where he is supposed to be.”
That was one of the big issues in the Tigers’ loss to Syracuse last week. The Orange sacked Clemson quarterbacks four times, the third time this season that has happened. Syracuse finished with five tackles behind the line of scrimmage overall.
“We had (break downs) several times,” Scott said. “Then, like I said, against a defense like that, that is very attacking, it’s hard to get behind the chains. So really we have to do a good job as coaches putting our guys in situations where they can execute.”
But the players also have to be able to execute the plays. Clemson has allowed 36 tackles for loss so far this season and is on pace to exceed last year’s mark in this category as well. In 2016, the Tigers allowed 5.0 tackles behind the line per game (20th nationally) and gave up 75 overall.
Through seven games this year, they are allowing 5.14 per game, 40th nationally.
“The guys have to do a good job of knowing their assignment and executing it,” Scott said. “There is a very fine line and you see that in that type of game. It was not like there were these ten or twelve mistakes, it really came down to about five or seven plays and that can be the difference in those types of games.”