After amassing 49 points in the first half against The Citadel last Saturday, No. 1 Clemson’s offense was only able to muster 107 yards and three first downs while being shut out in the second half of its 49-0 victory at Death Valley.
Although a young second-team offensive line that features three true freshmen (Walker Parks, Paul Tchio and Mitchell Mayes) and a couple of redshirt freshmen (Hunter Rayburn and Tayquon Johnson) has certainly contributed to the backup unit’s issues through the first two games of the season, offensive coordinator Tony Elliott believes the reserve O-line is only a part of why the second-team offense struggled to move the ball against The Citadel.
“I don’t feel like it was all on the offensive line,” Elliott said after the game. “I think there were a lot of other positions that just didn’t execute at the right time, and that’s offensive football. Offensive football is 11 guys on the same page and having the sameness and oneness of mind to be able to go out and execute.”
According to Elliott, the defensive structure of the opponents Clemson has faced so far has presented more of a challenge to the second-team offensive line than getting a grasp of the Tigers’ own game plans because the unit has gotten exposed to those game plans in practices leading up to the game days.
“I think it’s more of a challenge from the defensive perspective in what they’re doing on defense,” Elliott said. “That makes it a little bit more difficult. They get the same reps in practice as the first unit with the game plan. So, you don’t change a whole lot – it’s just OK, what’s the variance of what they’re seeing defensively. Because again, when you go into a short week or a game week, you’ve only got four practices, and not everything is going to resemble what they saw back in camp and so there’s some things that they’re still learning on the run.”
The difficulties the second-team offensive line has experienced early in the season is simply a matter of “growing pains,” in Elliott’s opinion, and the fact the group just needs to gain more experience and learn to gel together.
“The good thing for the majority of the young offensive linemen and the young guys that came in the spring, we got nine practices in, so they got a good dose of the installation,” Elliott said. “I think it’s just growing pains, and what our message was to the guys in the locker room is that the game is different. The practice field, yes, your playing time is earned on the practice field. But there’s a different level of intensity and a different level of attention to detail and the speed of the game is a little bit different once you get to a game-type situation, and then you’ve got everything else going on – you’ve got the people in the stands, the music is loud.
“So, it’s a totally different environment that I think it’s more so growing pains than being attributed to not getting the practices. Because we actually got a lot more teaching opportunity with the film sessions that we got over the pandemic, and we got a lot of walk-throughs and a lot of things that we didn’t have in prior seasons. So, it’s more growing pains – those guys just have to get experience.”
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