Last year, Clemson ran right at 72 plays a game on its way to playing for a national championship. For the most part, it worked out nicely as the Tigers averaged a school record 528.7 yards per game, while also averaging 43.9 points.
In the top-ranked Tigers’ opening game at Wake Forest this past Saturday, they racked up 561 total yards and ran 82 plays. The actually ran 50 plays in the first half.
The offense, which has playmakers everywhere, looked as if it returned more to its roots from the Chad Morris era of running plays … wearing opposing defenses down to help maximize its level of execution.
“The DNA and origin of this offense is tempo related,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said on Monday, who was Morris’ running backs coach for three years at Clemson. “So, really in the off-season our focus, even starting in the spring, was to get back to playing fast.”
Clemson has a goal from a snap-count standpoint that it wants to reach every game. Through the years, with having quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence running things, the philosophy might have changed just a little bit.
“We want to play fast, but at the same time we want to give the quarterback the ability to get us in a good situation,” Elliott said. “We always try to give them answers build into the concepts that we call and also giving him the ability, if he needs to take an extra look at it, he can take an extra look at it while trying to get into the right call.”
Lawrence had the offense moving in the Tigers’ 37-13 win over the Demon Deacons. Clemson ran 50 plays in the first half for 353 yards. Lawrence threw for 261 of his 351 yards in the opening half, while completing 18-of-23 passes. He finished the game 22-of-28, while accounting for three touchdowns, which all came in the first half.
“We are just trying to get these guys to play fast,” Elliott said. “It really stresses defenses and I think we were really able to see that in the game. When you play fast, especially when a team has a challenge from a depth standpoint, you can really put pressure on them.
“It forces the defense to play on its heels.”
The other thing, individually, is when the Tigers play with tempo, the faster they play and the faster they get lined up, the more a player can process before the ball is snapped.
“A lot of times what happens when you have guys with missed assignments or technique errors, a lot of times they are trying to think post snap,” Elliott said. “So, you want to get to a point in the game of football where you are just reacting post-snap because you have already processed all the information pre-snap. You know all the information, you quickly evaluated things post-snap and now you can play free.”
The Tigers will like to play even faster this Saturday when they host The Citadel in their home-opener at 4 p.m.
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