Clemson’s offense was among the most productive in the nation last season, when it ranked fourth nationally in scoring offense (43.9 points per game) and fifth in total offense (528.7 yards per game).
But while self-scouting this offseason, Clemson’s staff still found plenty of areas where the offense can improve and execute better in this upcoming season.
For example, one of the ways in which the Tigers want to get better is becoming more efficient in certain third-down situations. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was not happy with Clemson’s third-down conversion rate in the College Football Playoff games against Ohio State and LSU, when the offense went a combined 6-of-25 on third down (24 percent).
For the season, the unit was much better on third down with a 44.2-percent conversion rate that ranked just outside the top 25 nationally at No. 27.
“We weren’t very good those last two games on third down, in particular third-and-3,” Elliott said earlier this spring. “Overall, our percentage wasn’t there, and then when you dive down, third-and-3, we weren’t as good as we needed to be, third-and-5… We were really good on third-and-6, so that third and medium area.”
The Tigers also want to make sure they move the chains more in any short-yardage situation, something Elliott knows can be accomplished if they feed star running back Travis Etienne more in those spots.
“In short-yardage, we didn’t hit our goal of 75 percent,” Elliott said. “We were about 68 percent. And when we broke it down, we were really good running the football. Took some chances throwing the football, so we learned we probably need to hand the ball to Travis a little bit more in some of those short-yardage situations if we want to convert. But you want to mix it up. You don’t want to be one-dimensional. So again, just opportunities to improve there.”
As for red zone success, when Clemson got there last season, it was able to find paydirt most of the time with a 76.12 touchdown percentage that ranked ninth in the country. Still, Elliott knows there are things the Tigers can clean up when they get into scoring position.
“In the red zone, when you dial it back, our touchdown percentage in the red zone is really good,” he said. “But we had a turnover in the red zone, we missed a couple field goals and then we had a couple end-of-game situations where we didn’t convert when we went for it.”
Tempo and playing faster is another area the Tigers circled when self-scouting this offseason.
“Around here we’ve always tried to get 80 plays, but the last couple years we’ve been around 72,” Elliott said. “Now, we’re a lot more explosive than when we had those 80 plays. So we want to try and find that happy medium to where we can get that snap count up without jeopardizing our efficiency and our explosiveness.”
Elliott is pleased when he looks at the big picture of how the offense performed in 2019, but there is always room to improve and that is what the Tigers will try to do heading into next season.
“When you step back – and we didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish offensively – but when you step back and you look at it, we accomplished a lot of things,” he said. “But those are the areas we’re really going to hit hard.”
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