By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
There was a time when Wake Forest set the standard in the Atlantic Coast Conference for offensive confusion and deception. During its heyday in the mid-2000s, Jim Grobe’s offense—led by coordinator Steed Lobotzke—was the epitome of both of those attributes in the ACC.
The inventive nature of the looks and versatility of the offense led to a ton of success in Winston-Salem for a number of years. Teams have begun to chip away at that distinction over the past few years.
First Chad Morris came to Clemson and took the nation by storm with his scheme that makes simple things look complicated. Dave Doeren has come into N.C. State and done the same.
Since the Tigers got an up-close-and-personal look at the Wolfpack a week ago, they now have a bit of a blueprint to follow in an attempt to stop the Wake attack in this game.
“It really forces you to play with discipline,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said of the pre-snap confusion. “You have to get through all the smoke and mirrors.”
The Demon Deacons will try to do things a bit differently than N.C. State did. Venables saw Wake Forest last season, and with a bunch of returners on the offensive side of the ball, he feels confident about what to expect.
“It’s a spread option team,” Venables said. “They like to run the football a lot of different ways. Anything that’s been successful against us this first few weeks, we’ll probably see it.”
The ability to do different things and show different looks used to set Wake Forest apart. Back when Riley Skinner was running the show on offense, deception was his forte. Now, with so many others running different variations of the same idea, the nuance is no longer there.
N.C. State showed Clemson a plethora of different looks last week that made defenders heads swim before the ball was even snapped. Morphing from one formation into a totally different one, putting six players to the right of the center on the line of scrimmage, and lining most of the offensive formation outside the left hash toward the sideline are just some of the ways the Wolfpack attempted to make the Tiger defense spontaneously combust.
“My eyes were floating in the back of my head midway through the first quarter just because they do so much stuff,” safety Travis Blanks said. “I think they motioned like four people on one play.”
It was tough for Tiger defenders to play well against the Wolfpack, but they did, and as a result, Clemson has a confident unit that feels prepared to face Wake Forest on Homecoming.
“Guys were disciplined,” Blanks said. “Guys read their keys and made plays. If we do that, then the result will be success.”
Venables hopes it translates. During Swinney’s tenure, the Demon Deacons have scored 20 or more points only once in four tries. Venables presided over one of those efforts last year.
After a stiff test last week, where the opposition tested the outer limits of formational integrity, things should feel a bit more comfortable this time around for the Tiger defense.