By Heath Bradley.
TheClemsonInsider.com breaks down the keys to success for the 2012 offense. Ball security is one of the most important keys for the Tigers to make another championship run.
Ball security, it is one of the most important facets of the game of football. It is very hard to score if they do not hold onto the ball on offense. The best teams value the ball; they make it a priority to focus on ball security during the game. In 2011, Clemson started the season strong in terms of ball security; however, down the stretch the Tiger struggled. On the season Clemson turned the ball over a total of 24 times. For example, both teams who played in the BCS Championship game, LSU and Alabama, were 1st and 3rd respectively in total turnovers.
During Clemson’s 8 and 0 start in 2011, the Tigers only turned the ball over a total of eight times. Over the final six games, a stretch that saw the Tigers go 2 and 4, Clemson turned the ball over 16 times. Turnovers in key situations led to Clemson’s struggles down the stretch and often put the defense back on the field in tough situations. During that 8 and 0 start Boyd threw three interceptions, in the last six games, he threw nine. Clemson also fumbled the ball 23 times on the season, losing 12. Key fumbles plagued the Tigers versus Georgia Tech, when Clemson running backs playing in place of injured Andre Ellington fumbled twice. DJ Howard fumbled inside of Clemson territory and Mike Bellamy fumbled as the Tigers were driving, trying to come back in the second half. The one key fumble Tigers will always remember from 2011 is Andre Ellington in the Orange Bowl. Ellington was thought to have crossed the goal line to give the Tigers the lead early in the second quarter. West Virginia returned the fumbled ball at the goal line 99 yards for a touchdown and went on to force two more quick turnovers to take a commanding lead, one that they would never relinquish.
For Clemson to have another ACC Championship season, Boyd and the Clemson offense will have to be more careful with the ball. A number of Clemson’s turnovers came in situations that lead directly to points for the opponent, and in the end, cost the Tigers games. Fumbles and interceptions inside their own territory plagued the Tigers at times in 2011. These turnovers gave the opponents a short field, and almost always led to points. Clemson allowed 103 points off of turnovers in 2011, this averages to 4.29 points per turnover, or 7.36 points per game the Tigers allowed off turnovers. If Clemson looks to have success in 2012, they must turn the ball over less, and when they do turn it over, find a way to keep the opponent from scoring.
When Clemson had success was when they kept from turning the ball over. In Clemson’s four best performances of the year, Auburn, FSU, and the two games versus Virginia Tech, the Clemson offense only turned the ball over three times. With those three turnovers, the opponents only scored 13 points, seven of those coming on a Tajh Boyd fumble, which was returned for a touchdown versus FSU. Clemson also did a good job playing through turnovers at times in 2011, in games versus Maryland and Wake Forest, the Tigers turned it over 2 and 3 times respectively. The Clemson offense was able to bounce back and find a way to score 56 and 31 points in the two games, with the Tigers coming from behind to win each.
In our eyes, there are three keys to Clemson having success with ball security in 2012, the first being balance. If the offense can be balanced, they can keep the defense from guessing what is coming. This means the defense will not be able to drop multiple players into coverage cutting down the passing lanes for Boyd, possibly leading to interceptions. The second key will be for Clemson to be able to protect Boyd, many turnovers came when Boyd was forced into a quick decision, or under distress. If Clemson can give Boyd time to make decisions, he should be able to pick defenses apart. The third key is for Clemson to focus on ball security when running with the ball downfield. Most Clemson fumbles happened down the field when the ball was forced out from behind. If Clemson can keep from having the ball forced out when running down the field, the Tigers can have an even more successful season in 2012.