Look, I know Desmond Howard will forget more about football than I will ever know. However, I can write this with complete confidence. He knows nothing about the Clemson Football team, especially the 2018 Clemson Tigers.
I listened this morning to his guest appearance on the “PodcastOne Sports Now” with guest host Larry Lage from Tuesday. The host asked Howard to explain what he meant by calling Clemson a finesse running team during last week’s College GameDay Show on ESPN. Howard said he based his comments off the style of Clemson’s running game and not by any statistics.
“If you look at the way they run the ball they are more finesse than a power team,” he said. “Like when you look at Alabama, especially before Tua (Tagovailoa), Alabama is what you will call a power type of running offense. They run a lot of power plays. Stanford, with David Shaw, they run a lot of power plays. So, that is their style of running the ball. It’s power.
“Clemson usually has some fast backs, scatbacks, guys who are out in space, are very dangerous running jet sweeps. Don’t get me wrong, they will run between the tackles, but they are not lining up with the fullback a lot and double tight ends and just running smash mouth football. So, I said, they are more of a finesse running team.”
It’s obvious in those quotes that Howard does not watch much of Clemson football at all, especially since the Texas A&M game. Clemson’s offense is called a “power spread” attack which uses two and sometimes three tight ends in running situations.
Against Wake Forest last week, like they do a lot, the Tigers lineup with multiple tight ends and used Garrett Williams as a fullback/H-Back in a lot of situations. In fact, on the depth chart Garrett is no longer listed as a tight end, but as the H-Back instead.
On Travis Etienne’s first touchdown run, a 59-yard run, Clemson used a pulling guard, I believe it was right guard Sean Pollard and then had Williams leading the way for Etienne as they plowed open a hole big enough for him to run through and the rest was history.
Does that sound like finesse? It doesn’t to me.
Also, he said Clemson likes to run those “jet sweeps” and has those “scatbacks.” Clemson has not had a “scatback” since Andre Ellington, which was six years ago. If you watch Etienne run the ball, there is nothing finesse about him. The same can be said for Adam Choice, Tavien Feaster and Lyn-J Dixon.
When Clemson won the national championship in 2016, I don’t think I would describe Wayne Gallman as a “scatback.” He was far from it.
I don’t know the exact stat, but Etienne is actually one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to yards after contact. It is somewhere around 4.8 yards per carry after contact, almost 46 percent of his rushing yards come after contact. Does that sound finesse?
As for the “jet sweeps.” Clemson does not really run any “jet sweeps.” It runs the “pop pass” from time to time, but not nearly as much as it did back when Chad Morris was calling plays. Also, Clemson does not really run that play with its running backs. It almost always uses the field side receiver for those plays.
Granted, the Tigers will throw the screen passes, and I know those drive the fans nuts, but a lot of those are coming off RPOs and most of college football runs those off RPOs, including Alabama.
My point is this, Jeff Scott is right. Desmond Howard does need to get his facts straight, and its not just about the stats. He needs to watch more Clemson games before he goes on national television or national radio and says something that is no true.
I know Howard cannot watch every team in the America. It is not possible. However, if he is going to go highlight a certain team and then call out their toughness and style of play, then he needs to do a better job on his homework.