By Staff Report.
TheClemsonInsider.com breaks down the keys to success for the 2012 offense. Offensive balance will be one of the keys to success for the Clemson offense this fall.
Being balanced on offense, it is what every offensive coordinator and head coach look for, and what every defensive coordinator fears. If a team can run and pass the ball equally effective, it places much more pressure on a defense. If the offense can keep a defense guessing and confused on what may be coming next, the offense definitely has the advantage.
For Clemson to have the best success possible in 2012, the offense must become more balanced. At times in 2011, Clemson struggled running the ball, which forced them to become more reliant on the pass. With opposing defenses focusing on the Clemson passing game, teams dropped more players into coverage, limiting the big play through the air, and at times forcing Tajh Boyd into mistakes. When opposing defenses were off balance and unable to focus on one aspect of the offense, Boyd often took advantage. Boyd hit on many big plays in the passing game, due to defenders being closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
In 2011, Clemson totaled 6171 yards of total offense in 14 games, which averaged to 440.8 yards per game. The Tigers ran 1055 plays, which is just over 75 per game. Clemson rushed the ball 530 times and passed it 525 times in 2011, which is very good balance. The rushing attack netted 2219 yards rushing while Tajh Boyd and the Clemson passing game totaled 3952 yards. The Tigers averaged 5.8 yards per play, 12.7 yards per completion, and 4.2 yards per carry. Clemson rushed for 22 touchdowns and passed for 33 touchdowns.
All of these numbers are very balanced, Clemson had success in 2011 by being balanced, but it was at the times that the offense lacked balance that the Tigers struggled and even lost games.
The key to Clemson’s balance in 2012 will be the ability to run the ball effectively against all opponents. In three of Clemson’s four losses the Tigers rushed for less than 100 yards per game, including a season low 34 yards against NC State. Yards lost on a sack also count against the total rush yards, so Clemson lost 38 yards on six sacks versus NC State. If you add those 38 yards back, Clemson actually rushed for 72 total yards in the game on 28 carries. That is an average of just over 2.5 yards per carry. If Clemson can run the ball effectively in 2012, it will open up space for the Clemson receivers, as well as take pressure off of Boyd. Teams will have to focus on stopping the run, so their pass rush will also suffer. With a balanced attack in 2012, Clemson has the ability to be even more explosive than in 2011. Team are likely to focus more on Watkins, and Hopkins after their big seasons in 2011, this will likely open up more lanes for a Clemson rushing attack that looks to implement new ways to run the ball effectively out of the spread.
The major key to being able to stay balanced for Clemson in 2012 will be playing with the lead, or staying close when losing during games. Often in 2011, when Clemson became the most unbalanced, was when they were forced to. If trailing big, you are forced to pass the ball more; this allows the defense to focus all its efforts toward stopping the pass. When Clemson trailed big early in games, they tended to go away from the run. It will be important to play with the lead or stay in a position where they can run the ball to keep defenses off balance.