By William Qualkinbush.
Clemson’s football team is winning games on a weekly basis, but the bye week outlook could not be more different on the dueling sides of the ball.
On one hand, Clemson’s defense is playing lights out. Guys are flying around and making plays, and the Tigers have had the luxury of developing depth while maintaining a strong on-field product. There is a chance Clemson will go into November as the top-ranked total defense in the country. That unit has to be pleased.
On the other hand, Clemson’s offense has been wrecked by the first two-thirds of the 2014 season. The Tigers have had two different starting quarterbacks and are now back with the player who originally started the season. His replacement has been injured, along with a slew of offensive linemen, three running backs, and veterans at both wide receiver and tight end. Needless to say, the bye came at a great time for the Clemson offense.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris and defensive coordinator Brent Venables could not feel less alike about where their respective units stand at the moment. However, the two can agree on one thing: Both units need a few extra days of rest right now.
“Oh, absolutely, yeah. We definitely need a bye week right now,” Morris said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
“All of them need it,” Venables said. “Everything has its time, and there are a bunch of teams taking that break right now.”
A critical four-game stretch awaits the Tigers off of a 12-day hiatus, and the entire coaching staff understands the necessity of being at full strength once that final stretch of games arrives. Health and wellness is largely associated with physical maladies, but defensive tackle Grady Jarrett says being able to rest the mind is also beneficial for players during bye weeks.
“The mental break is just as big as the physical break,” he said. “When you prepare as hard and as detailed as we do, the mental break is needed. I think it’s going to be good for a lot of guys, including myself.”
While some players look to recover from injuries in anticipation of big games at Georgia Tech and against South Carolina, others are simply looking for some time to reflect. Robert Smith and Garry Peters both said the extra time between games would give them a chance to think back on their respective careers to gear up for big finishes. That kind of reflection is difficult to do during the grind of weekly game preparation.
One unique thing about this particular bye week is that it coincides with fall break on Clemson’s campus. Most students are home for the long weekend, so the players and coaches have a much quieter place to go to work as they self-evaluate and prepare for Wake Forest.
Defensive end Corey Crawford noticed the value of the extra rest immediately. He says he can tell his teammates are making the most of it.
“It’s been a good thing for the team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of injuries. We’ll get a lot of people back healthy and get physically ready for the game. It’s helping us.”