One of the most interesting statements from post-practice interviews on Saturday was Chad Morris’ assertion that he wants the Clemson offense to be even faster this season.
In an offense that was among the fastest and most efficient in the country last season, just imagine for a second an offense that is even more of those things.
Again I say, yikes.
Morris’ stated goal is to run between four and five more plays per game in 2013. I thought it would be fun to see how much more productive the Tigers would have been based on some metrics from last season if they had played at this desired rate.
In 2012, Clemson ran 1,062 plays, which was seventh-best in the country. This total breaks down into 81.7 plays per game, an astounding rate of play that is reflected in a rather modest average time of possession of 28:47.69. This means that on average, the Tigers ran one play every 21.15 seconds last season.
In terms of yardage, the Tigers were eighth in the nation in total offense with 6,665 yards and ninth in yards per game (512.7). The place where Clemson struggled—relatively speaking, of course—was in yards per play. Morris’ unit managed 6.28 yards per snap last season, a number ranked 24th in the country and situated behind conference foes Florida State, North Carolina, and Miami (FL).
Now let’s fast forward and, using some of these numbers as the baseline, attempt to project into the future. Of course, we’re supposing Morris reaches his goal of getting a few additional snaps per game this season.
In pursuit of a whole number, let’s assume a 4.3-play increase from last season—a number that is pretty fair and gives us 86 plays per game with which we can work. Over 13 games, this is a total increase of approximately 56 total plays for a grand total of 1,118 snaps on offense. If this number holds, it would have been second in the country last season.
The only team that ran more than 86 plays per game? Tulsa, Chad Morris’ old team.
When we take into account the 6.28 YPP stat—a figure that could very well increase this season—and apply the uptick in plays per contest, Clemson’s offense could find itself with an output of around 540 yards per game this season. This number would have ranked fifth in the country last year.
Picking up around 27 yards per game may not seem like much, but at some point, it could be the difference between a field goal and a touchdown. It could mean better overall field position when the punt team takes the field. It could mean moving into field goal range.
It’s impossible to know how this new yardage will be spread throughout sixty minutes of play. But we can speak to the extra time the Clemson defense will be off the field if Morris gets his way.
Based on the average time of possession from last season, an increase of 4.3 plays per game would equate to about 90 seconds of game time. This would get the Tigers on the plus side of the time of possession equation. Obviously a change in pace could alter these figures, so all of this is hypothetical.
The bottom line is that Morris wants to play faster and run more plays than last season. I would argue this could be the difference between winning and losing a close ball game, even if averages maintain their current levels.
Regardless, it gives us plenty to think about as opposing defenders get acclimated to oxygen masks.